Sometimes it’s pretty cool how grief can unify people. This past week has been an especially social one, and grief played a part in each and every situation that came up. Between all the busyness of life, neither Mike nor I have made much time for hanging out with friends since I moved almost a year ago. With many of his friends not local, and mine all very far away, and us trying to settle into a new normal, social time has been on the back burner.
Somehow though, this past week, there was a bit of a burst of social time that came up unexpectedly. We went out last weekend with a few of Mike’s backpacking buddies for some camping. I had a meeting with a few wonderful women at a local hospice center about doing a presentation on creativity and grief for them. We had dinner and drinks with one of Mike’s old coworkers and wife. And tonight, we had an impromptu visit from my late-fiance’s aunt who was driving through on her way back to Texas.
Grief and loss played an integral role in each of these experiences...
One of Mike’s backpacking buddies is also a widower, and so of course there were discussions about grief and stories shared about our persons and how they died. It was my first time meeting these folks, and we’re sitting around the campfire talking about death and coping with it all.
The meeting at the hospice center came about from meeting their director at an arts event at the local hospital a few weeks ago. I shared some of my story, and about my e-course on grief and creativity, and she asked me to come in to talk about ideas for a presentation. So a week later, there I was spouting off all the deaths in my life like credentials. A PhD in grieving. It was quite surreal. And beautiful in an odd way - because it felt like my parents and fiance were all part of it… that their stories are still living because I’ve been given opportunities like this to share what I’ve learned from them through their deaths.
I was nervous the other night as we waited for Mike’s old co-worker and wife to arrive. I knew that there was a chance the guy’s wife and I wouldn’t click, and it might be awkward. And though we started out a bit slow, eventually we found the one topic that we could go on and on about…. Grief. She had lost her mother just a few years before, to illness. I’m certain we spent a good half the night just talking about all the many commonalities of grief. The stupid things people tell you. The hardest parts of dealing with their death. The triggers that pop up out of nowhere. How on earth could two people actually be having fun talking about that? I’m sure someone at a nearby table was thinking just that. But hey, grief is an awfully quick way to bond with people I’ve learned. From there we went on to talk about all kinds of things from our jobs and kids and family memories. It was wonderful, and I honestly think without that unifier of grief we wouldn’t have felt comfortable enough to share so much with each other so quickly.
And tonight, as I was leaving work, I got a message from my late-fiance’s aunt. She lives back in Texas, but was on her way back from delivering her daughter to college in New Jersey. We ended up meeting up for a few hours at the bookstore, and she was able to meet Mike and Shelby. This was such a surreal and totally beautiful experience for me… for her to be excited to meet them. For another piece of his family to connect with a piece of my new life. And for it to all work so beautifully.
I spent a few hours on the phone with a close widowed friend this week too... and of course, so much of our conversation was about things that grief has brought into our lives - the good, the bad, the crazy and chaotic. I would never have even met this friend if it wasn't for grief, and she's become such an incredible support not only in all things widowed, but in so many other parts of life.
For every table I have sat at this week... everyone phone call and every campfire chat... grief has been the thread tying us together in some way. Our various losses have been there, lending a depth to the experience that only grief can.
I think it made me appreciate my grief in a way that I haven’t in quite some time. It can be easy to get frustrated with grief. To not want it there. To fight it, ignore it, and shove it away. To see it only as pain, only as a problem, only as something to have to deal with. It’s easy to forget just how meaningful grief can be. Especially when life gets busy and stressed and suddenly we don’t have time for our grief. I am grateful for my grief this week. I’m grateful for the people it brought into my life, and for the way it allowed us to open our hearts and share our stories with each other so much more fully. Here’s to grief... I'm sure I'll hate you again next week, but right now, I'm actually pretty glad you're a part of my life.