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January 3, 2015

Grief: The Gift Wrapped in a Thorny Bow.

stale h/Flickr

Grief is a fickle b*tch. There’s no getting around it.

She rolls in like a storm, hijacking conversations, whole afternoons and sometimes wrecks weeks at a time.

She can grab our throat and slowly squeeze as we tell a simple story—leaving us unable to finish without gasping for air.

The trouble with Grief is that she’s here to stay. She’s not going anywhere. Ever.

Sure, she may retire to her room for months on end. But we know she’ll eventually come out to sing her sordid song. There’s nothing we can do to put an eviction notice on her residence. Like an annoying pet that you have for the long haul, she grows familiar and even the tiniest bit comforting.

She is not a pet that we should hold onto, staring into her dark eyes for hours on end. No, the heart can’t take such a lethal dose of darkness and despair. At her best, grief is a companion that accompanies us on a journey to unknown lands.

At first she sits on our chest like a two ton heifer, constricting our ability to think clearly or even perform the simplest of tasks. She whispers in our ear that we’ll always be an impotent bystander as harmful events tear your life apart, and we’ll stay this way for all of eternity.

Then slowly but surely, we find a way to claw back to some semblance of “normal.” For some, this takes weeks, others require years to find their footing. One decision at a time we’re slowly and surely able to rebuild a foundation that was once rocked to the core.

This isn’t something that hasn’t happened before, and won’t happen ever again—grieving is a vital part of the human experience.

When we climb out of the pit we are building a new reality.

For me, it was one without my mom—for others it’s something entirely different. Grieving is about far more than dealing with death. We may grieve lost opportunities or even relationships that have failed.

Loss is loss, and our new reality must be be constructed without them. Seeking a mythical remote control that rewinds life back to normal is fools gold which leaves us feeling disappointed more than anything else. There is no normal.

Things can’t go back to how they were before our personal introduction to grief—they can’t.

But we can go on.

We will go on.

Eventually grief becomes an old friend with poor social skills. We feel her walking into the room and instead of shrinking back in fear—we welcome her icy embrace. She is the last connection to what was once lost.

One day all of us will taste the bitter sweet nectar of grief and feel more alive and more human than we ever could have before our loss. This is when we learn to have genuine compassion for those around us. Pain is just another four-lettered word that we don’t fully understand until we’ve walked a mile with grief.

I’m thankful for the years I’ve spent with grief. Fickle as she may be, she’s taught me more about myself and my community than any book, blog or self-help seminar.

She’s the gift that’s wrapped in a thorny bow.

At first she pricks our hand, but one day—that one day—we’ll see that she holds a roadmap to places within ourself that we could never have found otherwise.

For that, for her, I give thanks.


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Author: Andy Vaughn

Apprentice Editor: Aisling McAteer/ Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock

Photo: flickr

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