Not Today

I’ll be OK,  just not today.

This is a great quote to sum up how many people feel after the have lost a loved one. Grief is not an illness. It is not a weakness. It is not something that needs to be fixed or contained. It is simply the price we pay for love.

Anyone who has ever lost a loved one, knows the steep price that is paid for deep love… it is a debt that cannot be paid down quickly.  Nothing about grief is quick or easy, and despite the urban myth that it occurs in neat succinct stages, nothing could be further from the truth.

Grief is messy and uncomfortable- and we live in a society that does not tolerate messy and uncomfortable very well. A 2009 study on human resource trends in the U.S., showed that the average amount of time-off given to workers after a loss was three days. Three days and then we have to tuck it in and get back to work.

This general intolerance is the whole reason this thing called ‘grief therapy’ exists- a term I have used for years- although I am the first to admit the name itself is a misnomer. There is no ‘therapy’ for grief; it can’t be fixed with a slick technique or dumbed down with a pharmaceutical elixir. When someone comes to my office for ‘grief therapy’ the most potent medicine I can offer, is simply to be present with them in the storm.  I know that doesn’t sound like much- but you might be surprised at how much this offers to one sitting amidst the remnants of what used to be their future. Picture two children sprawled out on the floor with a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle spread haphazardly between them. If there is a visual for how I see grief therapy this would be it. Sometimes my job is no more complex than simply offering my opinion as to whether one of those thousand pieces might be a corner or a middle piece. Sifting through all those pieces can take a very long time… and all the while the world at large keeps right on spinning.

And although it may not be quick, and it certainly is never easy, eventually the puzzle gets re-assembled and the grieving one will emerge and rejoin this impatient world, who despite itself, wants nothing more than just to see a smile…

When the storm of grief has weakened, and we finally see that smile- it is a quiet acknowledgment, that one more among us has re-emerged from the depths- after having paid the price of love.