I’ve begun to attend a grief share group. It meets weekly at a local church. I’ve met some wonderful people who are each experiencing the roller coaster of grief, just like me. I’m grateful for the chance to speak candidly about my sadness, my worry, my loss. The big difference with these folks compared to you is that they didn’t know Pete.
As a result, we talk more about the feelings and circumstances of grief rather than the specifics of the people we are grieving.
A couple weeks ago we were encouraged to write a “grief letter.” A grief letter is meant to communicate with your loved ones, your coworkers, your friends, what they can expect from my grief and what I may need from them.
In just a few days, Pete will be gone six months. For me (since grief is so very different for everyone), I am feeling the effects of not seeing him for six long months. 180 days without sharing a cup of coffee. 180 days without talking to him face to face. 180 days without hearing about what he is reading or learning. 180 days without telling him about my day. His absence feels different these days, more real perhaps, like his absence itself is a tangible thing.
Yes, I am sad. I cry several times each day. Usually just a few tears leak out while my jaw clenches. I usually try to take a deep breath to calm myself. But my breath gets caught in the middle of my chest, right where my heart is. But with a second try, I am able to take a deep breath. With this breathing, I am not trying not to stifle my tears. I’m just trying to conserve my energy. Big snotty crying is exhausting.
But at least once each week I have what I call a “full body meltdown.” While it’s happening, I am questioning things like, “how did this happen?” How did my life change so fast? Or I am wondering what kind of life will I build now. And then I go back to how did this happen? How am I having to build a life at 46? I already built a life. And it was a good one. It is a good one. It is… it still is a very good life! It’s just missing one very important person.
And all of those questions, all of that crying and even those meltdowns are happening while I’m going to work. It’s all happening while I text back and forth with friends and family. It’s happening while I read the news and pray for the world and worry about healthcare. It’s all happening while I lead a congregation who is about to break ground on a new sanctuary. It’s all happening while I study and prepare sermons for weekly worship. We are remarkable creatures really, our capacity to keep living is stunning.
That's what you can expect from my grief these days.
But a grief letter is also meant to ask for what I might need from you. This is really hard. To ask for what we need is vulnerable and hard and I’d rather not do it. I’d rather you read my mind… isn’t that true for most of us?!
But here it is, I wish people would talk about Pete more. Or when you think about him or are reminded of him, that you might mention it specifically.
Yesterday my grandson, Mateo came into my room and asked, “Was that PopPop’s birthday?” He was looking at a picture I have in my room and at one point he must have asked what the picture was from. And it was from a birthday party a couple years ago. Many of his friends met us at a hot dog stand. It was almost rainy if I remember correctly. We ate and laughed around picnic tables. Mateo remembered and he asked me about it. I turned around and said, “Yes, the picture is from PopPop’s birthday a couple years ago.” He said, “PopPop is in heaven.” I said, “yes.” And then he went about playing with his fire truck.
I was grateful for him just saying Pete’s name, which of course to him was Poppop. It made me happy. And it reminded me that I am not the only one thinking about him.
So if something reminds you of Pete, would you please tell me.
It may make me tear up. It may not. Our memories are precious. And I am grateful that you are sharing this roller coaster ride of grief with me.