I’ve been pondering grief.
I’m writing this the day after my best friend Sandy’s birthday. This is the fourth one since she died and I figured the birthdays would get easier. They haven’t.
Sandy and I were “you’re the only one I can talk to about this” close. Her passing felt like someone was tearing me in half. She had cancer for years before she died but neither of us ever thought it would reallykill her. We were sure that she would be one of the lucky ones who would ultimately end up NED – no evidence of disease. So even though she had cancer, her death was a shock.
As her birthday approached, I didn’t consciously think, “Sandy’s birthday is coming up and it’s another reminder of how sad I am she’s gone.” I feel the sad pangs on a regular basis but I did notice that that week was different from others.
Things that didn’t normally frustrate me seemed like monumental tasks. I’m usually a pretty optimistic person but this week, I found myself falling into what she and I used to call “the vortex of pathetic” where things seem way worse than they actually are.
We always had each other to pull ourselves out of the vortex. Now I have to find other ways out. The good news is that I have my family and my friends to help fill the void. I’m so grateful for their support, but it’s different. No one would listen to and analyze the minutia of my life like she would.
So yeah, grief can be the all-encompassing pain that brings you to your knees. And it can also be a nagging simmer that bubbles in the background. And it can wax and wane as life goes on. I’m thinking that we need to respect that fact and during those emotional days, be kinder to ourselves. We don’t need to tell ourselves “buck up” or “move on” or “I should be over this by now.” I think that we need to give ourselves permission to treat ourselves with the loving kindness we would give to a dear friend. Do whatever gives us peace and stop apologizing for taking some time for ourselves.
Anderson Cooper lost his father when he was 10, his brother when he was 21 and his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt in 2019. He has a podcast to talk about grief called, "All There Is." He interviews people such as Stephen Colbert about how they deal with their own grief. One of the main themes is that grief is a common experience that ALL of us share.
My friend Nick Belperio wrote an incredible piece on the grief he experienced with the illness of his mother. I encourage you to read it. I think he’s a brilliant writer.