When you have lived a few decades, you foolishly begin to believe you might have some things figured out. That has been my challenge this year and why you haven't heard from me since May. I thought I had things figured out, but I have a lot to learn!
Many of you know that I have been on a journey with my uncle, aunt, and cousins as my uncle fought cancer. His fight was a brave one and he refused to give up until his last breath, but in July, at the young age of 59, he parted this world and my life will never be the same. This is the man who stood up first and said, "You are always welcome in my life and in our home," when my dad and mom removed me from my family of origin. This man stepped into the father role in my life because of what he believed about family and togetherness and relationship.
I really thought because we had two and a half years to process the fact that my uncle might not win this battle with cancer that I would somehow be more prepared to say good-bye. I also thought somehow his loss would be easier since I was prepared. I have learned over the past few months that there are some things I wish someone had told me about grief and I think I know why they didn't.
One, grief is never the same. I have endured more than my share of hard and tragic losses and what no one told me is grief never follows the same path. It always looks different for each loss. I think no one told me this because they didn't know until they had experienced several losses as well. Every grief is different because of the relationship you had with the person, the person you are at the time of the loss, and where you are at in life.
Two, grief is so damn unpredictable!!! For all the teaching and coaching I do around emotional management and intelligence, I am pretty good at placing emotions where they are most appropriate. So, when I had an all out, ugly, full-meltdown crying episode at the auto repair shop a month ago, I was shocked. I think no one tells you about the unpredictability of grief because when the deep grieving period is over, it is all wrapped up together and it is often a blur. I have been embracing the unpredictability by repeating this phrase to myself, "There you are grief. I see you," and then I sink into it and allow the moment to flow and pass.
Three, grief cleanses and renews. Let's say upfront no one tells you about this because they feel guilty about this aspect of grief. I am fighting the urge to hide this part of grief out of guilt, yet God keeps showing me through my journaling, conversations with trusted friends and family, and how doors of creativity are opening that it is okay to be cleansed and renewed. In our family, we keep talking about the point when we will reach our new normal. I am pretty sure that new normal happens in spurts and shifts, not all at once. And what motivates me most to NOT cover up the cleansing, renewing aspect of grief is how every time I was with my uncle he asked me about how my life was continuing and growing. He didn't want my life to stagnate and become ineffective. He wanted me to make a difference and shine my unique gift as light into this world.
It is going to take many more months, possibly years, but one day I will arrive at the new normal and then another one I love will leave this life and the cycle of grief will begin all over again in its unique way with its unique pattern for that unique precious one I love. I wanted you to know however grief shows up for you is how it needs to be for you.