Rounding the corner on grief

Grief is like no other journey I have ever taken. It’s a bit like going from Minneapolis to New Orleans by way of San Francisco, New York and Florida. It is not a straight-line, north-south trip.

I am also convinced that during the trip it is mighty difficult to assess your location but I am going to make a stab at it. I think, believe, sense, suppose, postulate, assume, understand and any other speculative synonym you can conceive that I have turned a corner on grief. I can’t tell you when I turned that corner. I am convinced the grief journey seems clearer in reflection, but I can tell you five things about why I believe I have rounded that corner and what it is like.

1. Rounding the corner on grief is not a place. There is not a mile marker or a sign that tells you that you are done and have completed the journey. I certainly have not. I still grieve often. Just ask my close friend Bob Brown who held my shoulders as I sobbed in church on All Souls Day or that driver on the highway the other day who stared at me as I cried. I suspect I will cry over the loss of my wife Jean for the rest of my days but those tears are now punctuated with a sense of genuine celebration over what we had.

2. It is not forgetting. I still find many things that cause me to think fondly of Jean and even a few things that tick me off. And then I wonder why I let something so small tick me off. Then I grieve again. Remembering Jean fondly and respectfully is, in my mind, a crucial part of my journey.

3. Rounding the corner on grief is realizing I am not feeling consumed with overwhelming sadness. The pit in my stomach, or perhaps it was a hole in my heart, that I felt from the moment Jean died has grown dramatically smaller. It even goes away for hours at a time.

4. I realized I had rounded the corner on my grief when I started finding great joy in other people. For a time most people just pissed me off. Happy people, sad people, well-intentioned people, mean-spirited people, innocent bystanders, and especially happy couples, they all just really honked me off. That’s gone now and people usually make me happy. I let some people make me happier than others. I have even started thinking about and making plans for the future. Several weeks ago the future was an abyss that I needed to avoid thinking about at all costs.

5. I have become comfortable with the fact that my grief is ever-present. But it has softened over time. It no longer over shadows my every moment. I have recaptured vitality and joy when teaching, watching a college football game or having coffee with friends. I don’t think there is a set time-frame for grieving. No calendar pin points the arrival of acceptance and hopefulness for a future without the one I loved most in the world. I believe the time spent in deep grief is as unique to each individual as DNA. For me, being sad, angry and hopeless are suits that just don’t fit.

I still grieve Jean. If she wants to come back I would welcome her. But she’s not coming back and grief will not consume my soul. Instead Jean is a celebratory memory for whom I will still cry, but I know Jean would want me to be happy so I am off to do her will.

4 thoughts on “Rounding the corner on grief

  1. “The sky is blue again” is how I saw it when I woke up a couple of months after my mother died. I looked out from driving into work and noticed the sky. Am glad for you for today’s posting and knowing you are experiencing more of the best of life. Hugs

    Pamela B. Fine Knight Chair and Professor of Journalism University of Kansas Phone: 785 840-7936 Sent from my iPhone

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  2. Great post! I especially think your word “softened” captures much of my experience of grief. Present, gentler, an experience that opens you to gratitude and appreciation as well as sadness and loss.

    The BLOG is gutsy, honest, vulnerable and hope-filled.

    Thanks!

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  3. Loved this……It was true of my grief journey…..and then I found I rounded more corners and while never gone completely, the grief became mostly a memory and no longer an ever present reality, but that took a very long time.

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  4. My husband Gary & I lost our beautiful daughter, Tracey eleven years ago after seeing her suffer for 12 years from debilitating brain surgery. The grief we shared was unbelievable. I can relate to everything Tim said. We have “rounded the corner on grief” & are now able to enjoy & appreciate all the good parts of our life, and we have many. I describe the pain of our loss as always there, but somehow we’ve “gotten used to it”. Our faith has brought us through this & we know we’ll see all our lost loved ones again in heaven!

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