Graduate level grief
I made a commitment to writing regularly in my blog. I really committed. I thought about what I would say each week over the months, how I would say it, what was meaningful to me, what would be meaningful to the people who read my blog. I made lists, plans, created visions. I was all set… except then I didn’t do it.
Yes, I’m very busy with my radio show, Good Grief, with my family and my work as a grief counselor. Yes, I’m still absolutely committed to time when I’m not working; to singing, creating, and just plain goofing off. But I didn’t think any of that explained why I wasn’t writing. All those things have failed to prevent me from doing many other things these past few months that I didn’t seem to have time for.
I lived with the question for a solid week or two. Why am I not writing my blog? What is in the way? Then I ticked off possible explanations. “I’m procrastinating.” Hmmm… Unlike many other periods in my life, procrastination hardly even qualifies as a part of my personality right now. “I’m uninspired.” Definitely not. I’m inspired beyond my wildest dreams by amazing people I get to meet and talk with every day, by the guests on the radio show and the meaningful conversations I get to have, and by my community and family. “I don’t want to write.” Wrong! I love to write and I’m writing other things all the time with great relish.
When the answer hit me over the head, I almost laughed out loud. I was not writing my grief blog because I was experiencing that time after a new loss when I just don’t want to share. I need time to absorb the new reality, to adjust to the changing picture of what I imagined the future to be. I need time to (wait for it) process.
I had not really written since I found out my mother has pancreatic cancer.
When it finally dawned on me that I was simply practicing what I preach and listening to what my own heart told me I needed, I relaxed. And then, respecting that my mother is busy adjusting too, I asked her if she would be ok with me writing about this newest wrinkle in the fabric of my life. “Everyone knows anyway,” she said, bestowing a blessing on whatever I might say about it. (Thanks mom).
So here’s what I want to say. Cancer stinks. I hate the endless doctors appointments and project management, getting all the pieces to work together. I hate waiting in endless waiting rooms with other people who also don’t have the energy to wait for anything. I hate anticipating losing my mother, who I love, in the very foreseeable future. I hate unexpectedly crying in public when there is nothing at all sad going on. I hate that I know how to do all this so well because I’ve done it before for years at a time without a prayer of changing the eventual outcome. I hate that no one has cured cancer yet, including my brilliant son-in-law, a cancer researcher who I honestly think has a chance of it.
But all of this is really so very small. What I love, even now, is so much bigger. I love my mother, who was clear right away that if they offer her 6 months of chemo for 6 months of time, it’s not worth it. I love the conversations we’re having in which we can share our love for one another in a way that is more immediate, and deeper than it was six months ago. I love that the doctors who are caring for my mother ask her about herself as a person before they talk about treatment and, when they run late for her appointment, apologize. (Thank you, Dr. Tempero and her staff). I love that I have all that experience to offer my mother, to ease her burden and help her feel supported and nourished. I love all the hearts on her Caring Bridge page. I love being so deeply in touch, every day, with my love for her and for everyone else in my life, knowing that having them at all is, at best, fleeting. I love pictures of her with my grandsons. I love that there is nothing in me that wants to shy away from the whole experience.
So, I guess we could call this Continuing Education, having taken what sometimes feels like the graduate level course in grief. Lifelong learning for the griever. Showing up for class. Taking notes. Putting one foot in front of the other and stepping into love, because even the hurt tells me how very much I love. How very very much.
Cheryl Jones has been working with people facing loss in their lives for thirty years. She is the host of Good Grief, a weekly radio show on the VoiceAmerica Health and Wellness Channel, about the transformative potential of our losses. You can learn more about her at her website, http://www.weatheringgrief.com.