For long, you were withheld from me. I was prevented from welcoming you yet you hovered and impacted my life. Three times each year I became ill. By the the time I was 25, I had had strep 21 times, rheumatic fever, mononucleosis, countless bouts of bronchitis, conjunctivitis, tonsillitis, influenza, and a host of other infections. I wondered why I was so sickly. My therapist told me my body might be grieving. A close look at when illness came: before each Christmas, around the time of each birthday, and late May/early June, revealed that he was right. My illnesses came near the anniversaries of celebrations I had shared with my parents and at the time they sent me away to be safe. That was the time when absolute madness overwhelmed me and I was left a wounded and stunned, little foal fighting to survive. Once I understood what was happening, you and I, grief, began a new relationship and my health greatly improved.
At first, I didn’t want there to be reason to grieve. How passionately I begged my Friend to unmake the events that brought you to me. Had He done so, you would have been unnecessary or, at least, easier. But my Friend is a true friend and refused to exempt me from reality. So my family remains dead, my home lost, the abuses and assaults continued to be shredding, fracturing horrors. But then real horrors ought be acknowledged as such. So, reluctantly, I learned to accept you as a friend; you’re like warm water on frozen fingers.
Grief, you closed your hand about my heart and squeezed until memory, and rage, and excruciating pain gushed out. You laid bare the tiny pieces of my broken heart. You showed me my bleeding, desperate self. How I hated you and yet clung to you because truth had become more important than avoiding pain. And truth is what you gave me. Truth and tears. Once you pierced the tough rubbery membrane that had long prevented the well of pain in my heart from spilling over, more tears poured out than I ever imagined anyone could cry. And though there were many brief respites, always, there were even more tears. I’ve spent a small fortune on tissues.
But amidst the torrents of tears, there were misty-eyed moments when the sun began to shine brighter, the edges of leaves became distinct and clear, and the sky revealed itself to be a colour of blue I had never before seen. Music became sweeter, more piercing. The beauty of life began to suffuse me, to hold me in tranquility, in peace, in joy. Even a genuine, from-my-toes smile began to light up my face and sparkle in my eyes. Where once I had hungered for death, I found myself discovering that life is rich, and sweet, and worth living. As a child, I dreamt of happiness. The real thing is infinitely better than any fancy my mind conceived.
Thank you, grief. I’ll never seek you out; you’re not that kind of friend. But when next you come my way, I don’t think I’ll fear you either. You’re like debrasion after a horrible burn. You slough away the charred flesh so that healing can begin. The pain is unimaginable but the alternative is a living death of distraction in an attempt to fend off you and the pain. Now I know, when you come, it is because the loss is too important to be ignored. You come to bring difficult healing, healing that requires us to experience deep wounds that will continue to be but that must not define us. And wonder of wonders, by welcoming you, grief, those deep wounds become a source of joy and new life.