No one prepares you for grief. You could know it’s coming and ready yourself for the impact, but until it is felt, you have no idea how ill equipped you are to handle it. Grief slaps you in the face leaving you stunned and then rears back and tackles you with the force of an NFL linebacker.
The wind is knocked from your lungs and as you struggle for breath, the world goes on as if no one knows yours is irreparably changed. Once you recover from the initial shock and arrangements are completed, tears are cried, and you resume your daily routine, minus the parts that included your loved one, you think you’ve got a handle on things.
You’ve learned to circumnavigate this world without your loved one in it. You’ve started building a scab over the gaping wound waiting for it to scar so it doesn’t hurt anymore. You have been a warrior powering through your new normal. Then it hits you.
That knee buckling, earth shaking emotion comes back. You have no choice but to succumb to the pain all over again. This time you’re not prepared. It’s been months, maybe years since you’ve heard their laugh, but today in the grocery store you saw a weirdly shaped pear and your mom would’ve loved that.
You listened to a laugh that was eerily familiar at the bank. You smelled jasmine while you drove into work. You may not even know what led to these fresh tears, but you know you can’t control them, so you allow them to wash over you, cleansing you of your pain.
Yesterday, I again had a thought of my dad not getting the chance to hold my youngest child. He never got to know him the way he had his other grandchildren and my heart broke all over again. My son would have loved his ‘Pap Pap’ just as much as his ‘Pap Pap’ loved him.
He won’t remember looking up at him from his hospital bassinet. He won’t remember seeing him proudly beam as I walked across the stage. He won’t remember seeing him pop into the camera when we FaceTimed my sister. He won’t remember, but we will never forget and we will do our best to make sure he knows what kind of person his ‘Pap Pap’ was.
As the anniversary of his death speeds uncomfortably close, I take solace in the fact that he lived a full and altruistic life. Always making sure others had, even when he had little to give. Always giving a smile and a helping hand while assuring everyone knew that things would work out. There was never a doubt on how deeply he loved his family, and that gives me comfort.
Grief has no expiration date. We all experience it differently, but we all feel it so deeply. If you have lost a loved one, and the tears sting the backs of your eyes as you do your best to relearn your place in this world without them here, know that you aren’t alone. Share a smile today and pay it forward. We don’t know the battles of those we encounter, so be kind, always.