One of Bob’s recent phrases keeps echoing in my head – “Grief has no rules.” A simple statement, but something that resonates at my very core. Sadly, grief is no stranger to me – an old friend rearing its poisonous head with venomous tentacles seeping into my system like an uninvited ghost.
Loss has always happened in my life when least expected. In my early 20’s, I lost my mom in an instant, followed closely by a stream of other close family members. Frankly, the amount of unexpected loss was more than any of us could have anticipated.
Thankfully, as time has gone by, I’ve spent significant time navigating through my grief. Regardless, loss has a cruel way of creeping back in when you least expect it. In many ways, it opens up old wounds and creates new damage you never saw coming.
Death is inevitable, but loss is something that often feels nearly impossible to overcome.
Grief Has No Hierarchy
This past week has been agonizing. On Monday, I received a call that a friend had passed. I’m incredibly grateful for the person who made the call and went out of her way to communicate the unfathomable news. She also asked me to spread the word in the blogging/agency community to ensure anyone who wanted to be at the funeral or aware of the news would receive the info.
After careful consideration, I posted the news on Instagram. To be transparent, every part of me didn’t want to post. First, because it was a horrific reminder of the nightmare of losing her. Also, what words could possibly embody this incredible woman? What a loss. What a life.
Moreover, I wasn’t managing the news well.
It paralyzed me. At work, I kept crying and couldn’t focus on a single task. I lost my appetite and found myself not wanting to talk to anyone about anything. Through it all, one question kept running through my mind – “who am I to react and respond like this when she has so many closer friends, a loving family, and countless people who had more years of experience and memories with her?”
In essence, I kept questioning my “hierarchy” of grief. How was my pain relevant when other people’s sorrow and suffering is so much more significant? It sent me spiraling even more thinking and questioning why I was feeling this loss so heavily.
Listen, no one has sole ownership over grief. In the end, there shouldn’t be a hierarchy of grief. Everyone’s pain and reaction matters, and we all have the right to respond to loss in disparate ways. The loss of a parent, the loss of a child, or the loss of a partner differs from the loss of a friend or acquaintance. No matter the circumstance, grief affects us differently and at unanticipated times. And that is ok.
We’re all just doing the best we can, and every person’s journey is important – no matter the relationship.
Grief Has No Timeline
One thing I know for sure is grief’s gonna track you down, step by step, from town to town.
As life flies by, I’m shocked at how loss meets me in every era. For example, there was a significant period of time in my life after losing family when I couldn’t even pick up the phone. Every single call and voicemail had bad news. To this day, whenever I see a family member or close friend calling, I freeze instantly.
Additionally (and this has taken a lot of self-reflection), I tend to keep people and friends at an arm’s length. Privacy is one of my most valued aspects of life. However, if you peel back the layers of why this is the case (and has been for a very, very long time), loss is the main culprit. It’s not an excuse, and me doing so isn’t okay. After losing SO many people I hold so dear, I struggle with building deep trust and connections with family and friends. To really let people in, because I fear losing them in any capacity.
When you experience grief, you never want to do so again for all the reasons listed above (and beyond). Even in my adult years, I’d prefer to avoid deep, meaningful relationships in order to save me from grieving any loss in the end.
Grief greets me in every chapter. Grace, kindness, and forgiveness is imperative for making strides to move forward (and faith – especially faith).
Grief Has No Rules
Above all, grief changes people – and everyone addresses it in various manners. There truly are no rules with grief.
When my mom passed, every family member coped with it differently. At the time, grief felt like the ocean – wave after wave hitting in sequential order. Now, I’m clear it was more like Novocain – that dental drug that numbs you but slowly wears off over time.
In the end, grief met me in this moment and opened new wounds that I never anticipated. I’m reminded that even in the midst of a dark chapter, the goal is to celebrate the person’s journey, legacy, and life. With faith at the core of my life, I have solace and full confidence we’ll meet again.
But for now, the loss still hurts. The grief weighs heavy, it has no rules, no hierarchy, and no timeline.
One step at a time.
For professional resources on grief and loss, please visit the American Counseling Association and/or seek professional guidance and support near you.