Good Grief

Yesterday I watched my wife grieve.

She found out that an older man that she knew from her work had passed away and throughout the demands of motherhood and daily life she processed her loss quietly.

I’ve never been good with knowing how to act around grief - my own or other people’s. It always feels like I’m watching the situation from a distance, as though I should be doing or saying certain things that normal people would. I think some might see me as callous or unaffected; but the truth is I just feel things later, on my own terms. I remember a while back when a puppy that my family had had for a relatively brief amount of time was hit by a car and died. My sister phoned to tell me while I was leading a youth retreat. A day later, in the privacy afforded by a morning shower, I cried over the absurdity of it all. Such a brief and pointless life, barely leaving an impact. Yet I cried anyway.

A few years ago I found out that my grandmother had suddenly died while I was at a friend’s wedding. Driving between the ceremony and the reception I had about 20 minutes or so to process it. Then I had to go DJ a big party party and celebrate the happiest day of my friend’s lives with them. It was a mixed bag.

It’s interesting to me the way that in other times and places people wore their grief. They put on certain clothes, shaved or covered their heads, set up shrines, sang ballads and told stories in public spheres. Maybe that’s because they knew better than we do that death is an inescapable part of life. You don’t get one without the other.

This awareness doesn’t minimize pain and loss, it normalizes it for everyone.