"Let us not be ashamed to speak what we shame not to think."
-Michel de Montaigne
-Michel de Montaigne
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Ways to Deal with Grief
It's been almost eight months since my father died. There are lengths of time where I'll wake up and be content to go about the minutiae of my day without blinking, without pausing to remember his booming laugh. But the other morning I found myself putting my makeup on in the car mirror (which is my haphazard commuting ritual), and I stopped in the midst of painting black liquid liner over my eyelid. His face. I'd seen a flash of it when I lowered my eyebrows in concentration: Lance's face in my face. And I began to sob in Atlanta traffic. It is these moments--small and unanticipated--that I have to learn to navigate, more so than missed holidays or birthdays. I've managed almost a year without him. So I offer a few suggestions for the left-behind:
1. Write really bad poetry: Write a letter you'll never send. Write anything, really. Grab a pen and rage and don't think while doing it. Don't worry about spelling, or phrasing, or logic, just metaphorically puke it up on the page.
2. Celebrate new life: Plant a garden, watch the sunrise, hold an infant, do something that literally or symbolically celebrates rebirth and regeneration.
3. Sun-worship: There is something restorative about sitting in the light. Go to the beach. Sit in a favorite window. Or grab a blanket, kick off your shoes, and revel in the grass like a bearded, Jerry Garcia-lovin hippie in Bolinas circa 1968 (without the psychotropic drugs, of course).
4. Pray: This sounds obvious, but it's grossly overlooked. Sometimes I howl "Save me, Save me, Save me God," and other times I just talk to God like he is my celestial guidance counselor. The point is to talk to God, honestly.
5. Have a (small) pity party for one: I think it's cathartic to feel sorry for yourself once in awhile. No, the world isn't fair. Yes, you were robbed. No, you can't change what happened. Yes, it's okay to be irritated that people expect you to be over grieving already, especially since your relationship wasn't great with your dad in the first place. Got it all out? Good. Pity party done.
6. Embrace Sleep: True grief looks a lot like narcolepsy. Grieving requires a lot metabolically, so it's perfectly acceptable to fall asleep in the middle of a crying fit. Take it as an opportunity to catch up on needed rest; somehow sleep is healing.
How do you navigate loss?