Grief is exhausting.
It’s hard work–really hard work–processing an unimaginable loss and trying to find a new normal. And that doesn’t even include trying to live something that resembles a “normal” everyday life–getting up, getting dressed and ready, going to work, grabbing coffee, doing laundry, grocery shopping, and so on. Some days, it literally feels like my body is on autopilot doing all of these “normal” things while my mind and heart are on another planet, trying so hard to keep up, but using every ounce of energy to process and just stay above water.
I can see how it would be easy to try to numb this. Some days it’s tempting. There are so many things that could help me to just mentally check out of life, even just for a little while. Sometimes it’s spending hours scrolling endlessly through social media feeds. Sometimes it’s excessive eating or drinking or snacking or indulging (can I get an amen for some Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked just to make everything feel better?). Sometimes it’s staying in bed all day long. It could be ignoring the text from a friend that says “how are you doing?” because you know that if you answer it you’re going to have to visit the pain and the hurt. There are so many things that feel like they could, at least for a little while, numb the pain and make it go away.
And you know what? Some days, I try those things. Some days I throw my hands in the air and shout “why the hell not?” Then I eat the ice cream, and I drink the glass (or two) of wine, and I climb back into my own little hole of grief.
But here’s the reality: There is no easy button for this wrestling and rumbling. The pain is still there when I climb back out of that hole.
A friend of mine over on the Facebook, RW, recently left me with this image of courageous and healthy grief. He said this:
“Instead of running west toward the dying light of the setting sun, you have courageously turned around and are headed east, straight into the darkness and pain, to be the first to meet the sun rise.”
So, while it’s certainly not perfect every day–because, trust me, some days I just want to curl up on the couch with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s or whatever else might make this pain feel numb for a little while–I’ve made the commitment to also do the hard things. To run straight into the darkness in hopes of reaching the sunrise.
To text a friend and saying, “this is really hard today.”
To have long, hard, and deep conversations with people to process and be vulnerable.
To embrace the safe people and allow others to walk alongside through the darkest valleys of life.
To stay out past my bedtime if it means having a life-giving conversation with a new friend.
To accept the invitation to just be in the presence of friends instead of being alone, even if that means almost falling asleep on their couch watching football.
To journal and blog and invite others into this grief.
To be intentional about drinking water and eating healthy foods and taking walks and getting enough sleep.
To sit still in the pain, feeling all the feels, and to be okay with where I’m at.
To just do the next right thing, whether that is getting out of bed and brushing my teeth, or getting in my car and driving to work, or calling or texting that friend, or cleaning the house, or changing the laundry. One thing at a time.
All of these things are hard work. All of them require great effort and so. much. energy.
I wish more than anything that I was exhausted from being up all night with a crying infant. Instead, even though I slept for nine hours last night, I woke up exhausted from the hard work of grief. The exhaustion is just as real. But if it means I’m taking forward steps and (most days) avoiding those easy buttons to numb the pain and check out, then I’ll take the exhaustion.
So, if you run into me and I look exhausted, it’s because I am doing this hard work of grief. If I am standing in front of you but it seems like my mind is somewhere else, it might be because it is. Help me to check back in. Just walk with me through this long night’s journey to the sunrise.