What is Grief?

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops borders around a banyan tree with hugging, intertwining branches.After life, as I knew it, got shot to the stars, grief charred me from the inside out. There were good days and bad days. I sometimes forgot my sadness. Briefly. Other times, for days, I’d be cranky and complain, “I can’t do this. I hate this. This is too hard.”

“Can we talk in terms of solutions rather than problems?” a wise friend asked, when she saw me struggling on a bad day. Then she said, “Keep coming back to what you love,” and I almost cried. Because to me, that meant coming back to my daughter who died. Everyone else was telling me, “It’s time to move on.” If grief was something to “get over” or “get through,” I was failing miserably. So to hear that I could come back, was to understand that there is no time limit on mourning the loss of a loved one. It allowed me to slowly get used to my shaken world. It allowed that my grieving might never be completely done.

Can we think of grief as something more than pain and suffering? It’s been more gently defined as love’s unwillingness to let go, the price of love, or love with nowhere to go. Holding tight to our loved one’s memory and spirit, when we grieve we are expressing our love.

Grief is also the slow redefining of our relationship with the one we love who died. It is the effort to rebuild around the giant hole they leave in our lives. We can choose to weave the emotional bond, the memory, their values and voice into a new way of carrying them with us.

And maybe grief is, now and forever, a part of your story. A part of who you are. One more layer in the trillions of layers that shape you. Maybe it’s a small spark of transformation and growth. For all that has happened, for all the heartache of my loss, I am a better person now.

 

How has grieving changed you? Or is recent grief still scorching you from the inside out?

Share Button

11 thoughts on “What is Grief?

  1. Elaine Mansfield

    Oh, Robin. I’d do anything to have the lousier version of me back, just as I imagine you would, but we don’t get a choice. In the end it’s either turn this tornado into love and transformation or close up my heart. My blog this coming week (or soon, if I decide on something else) is about the continuity of my relationship with Vic. I had no idea he would up in thoughts, dreams, writing, on walks, all over the place. He doesn’t get in the way of living. Instead, he reminds me of how precious love and life are. Thank you.

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      I totally agree, Elaine. We don’t let them stop our living. We let them remind us to love living. I’m going out to rake the pond algae in the rain. And then I’m gonna drink cocoa. Because I can. Cheers!

      Reply
  2. Gladys Botie

    Grief after losing a loved one continues through life in different stages. At first there is the pain of sorrow. The tears and the thoughts of being unable to manage life without the presence of that someone who lovingly filled your days and nights —your being. Then there’s the anger. The unfairness of the loss — both the personal one — to be deprived of the loved ones presence — and in the case of a child’s demise — the lost one, so early deprived the ability to grow and develop and cherish the gift of life. It takes time to get through those fazes of grief— a long time — until it becomes a host of memories — good ones and bad. The bad ones — like the times before the end — when you both struggled to get through the progression of the illness and the medical treatment meant to deliver a miracle. Those are the ones you have to work to forget because that’s not the way you want to remember your loved one. After a long time — as your own life progresses — the good ones come to mind and each day you see things that will remind you of that person and how it was when he or she was there with you — and you will be gratified that you had those moments to remember. I’m fortunate that I did not lose a child. I think that’s the hardest to get through — to outlive your child. I’m an old lady now and my parents were very dear to me in my lifetime. Their loss was very sad for me when they passed. To this day, hardly a day goes by when I don’t have memories of them — the things they said or told me — their joys and stories in their lives that still relate to my own experiences and remain in my life and in my mind. I’m not grieving anymore. I am remembering.

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      I haven’t considered enough the difference between grieving and remembering. Maybe grieving is simply remembering. Remembering A LOT. Spending a ton more time remembering and remembering and trying to hang onto those memories that, in the early days after the loss, drive you to tear through tissue boxes to sop up endless torrents of tears. Does it eventually come to filtering the memories, the good from the bad? Or does the cascade of memories slow down, maybe dry up? Does the intensity of those memories evaporate somewhat? Does the hole in your heart, in your physical life, get darned smaller with time or distraction? I don’t know. Yes, I agree that grief continues and changes. And I’ve noticed I’m not running to Wegmans for tissues like before. But I love my grief. It’s a part of me now. It makes my time, my life, and all the life around me sweeter. I’m an old lady too, now. (I know that must make you wince.) And I think I shall sing and dance with my grief for the rest of my time. But I won’t let it stop me from seeking and basking in joy. Living is like eating sweet-and-sour Chinese food. The sweet and sour complement each other in a grand whole dish. Thank you, Mom. I love you. Lots.

      Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Thank you, Lynne. Because courage and clarity are the two major things I strive for, believing I’ve suffered a deficit of these almost all of my life. Sometimes I read over what I write (not to mention what others write that I need to read over a million times for clarity), and churn and chew and baste and batter it, all in an effort to clarify. And still find it lacking. In clarity. And then I’m terrified to put it out in public. Well – thank you for recognizing my courage and clarity. Today I will wear your words like they’re an award. Cheers!

      Reply
  3. Monica

    Come back to what you love. That is great advice. Redefining our relationship with the one we love has been really helpful in the loss of my daughter although I will need to do some thing on how I would actually describe the relationship now. I don’t think I am a better person now however. Changed but not necessarily better. Thanks for a great post!

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Just think of what you are doing now, Monica. The things you might not have been doing or considering before Lena died. The way you’ve taken your daughter’s dreams and wishes, and spread them into a world where others could find beauty and peace in them. The way you’ve reached out and offered support to strangers. Was your heart always open to this? Could you have understood pain in the same way before Lena, and been able to comfort another in the same way, coming from a place of knowing and having been there? I don’t know, Monica. But I get the feeling that, unless we are totally insensitive to what life throws at us, we grow better and better at being people. Just thinking. Cheers!

      Reply
  4. SusanB

    It’s true. The grief will never end. Grief is our expression of loving someone who is no longer of this world. Well done Robin. Truly one of the best pieces I’ve read regarding this interminable pain in my soul.

    Reply
  5. Suzanne

    This is very lovely, Robin, and shows how thoughtful and brave you are. Thank you for giving voice to so much that we bereaved parents are feeling every day. And keep on writing.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *