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  • Kathleen Gordon Yeo

Grief Doesn't Have To Be the Childhood Monster Under the Bed

I am sitting in my bedroom closet on the floor crying.

I feel the black hole of grief coming. The sensation of overtakes my body, hot tears flowing down my cheeks; it gets caught in my throat as I try to stop it, but at times it’s stronger and I know it won’t be stopped this time.

I know I need to get up but I sit here allowing the wave to wash over me, pull me under, and toss me around. Grief needs its moment, I say to myself, it must be honored or it will get buried. Therapy teaches me that it’s important to honor my grief and when I do, I can make friends with it. Because as anyone who has ever experienced loss knows, grief lives in you.

Today didn’t start out as a special day to make my grief over my late husband explode as it did. I had some work to do and wanted to clean out my junk room. You know that one room (or some of you may have closets) where you put everything that doesn’t have a place, and say to yourself you will get to it one day. Today was that day!

I found old pictures in a box, cards he gave me and saw his handwriting, which was a cross between printing and cursive. The moment I found these items I knew immediately I would be triggered and like the classic masochist, I kept looking for all the old mementos of our life.

To bring me back in time. To remember.

Grief showed up then and didn’t give me a time frame of its departure.

Can I help grief move along? Can I make grief leave quicker?

Maybe put on an empowering song, watch something funny, or go for a walk?

I could do all those things. They sound healthier than what I am doing right now. I don’t think looking at old mementos, remembering a life I no longer live is helping.

There are days I feel like I am forgetting him.

How he smiled —How he would call me babe —His voice when he said my name — How he would wink at me.

I don’t want to forget him or that life. Why would anyone want to forget something so wonderful? It’s part of my soul.

I don’t think you should shove grief under the bed, like that childhood monster you were afraid of. I used to think of grief as this looming cloud coming towards me to take me down. Maybe, just maybe, grief is that friend that comes to sit with you while you are in a mourning state. It comes to help you through the tough journey of creating a new life. Grief knows it’s going to be hard.

Could that be why it stays with you and becomes part of you?

If we always look at grief like that childhood monster we feared under our bed, something to be afraid of, to push down, to keep at bay, or keep you from becoming everything you can – that’s exactly what will keep you in the stuck space between an old life and the new life being created. It doesn’t have to be that vast black hole you will never get out of.

Only when we can make friends with grief, is when the magic can happen. I know my husband is cheering me on. I know he doesn’t want me sitting on the closet floor right now with swollen eyes sobbing tears of sadness.

At this moment it’s what I need and I need to honor that for myself. We shouldn’t allow grief to make us feel weak, even when we are at our weakest. When we allow our grief through, in the end it is exactly what will make us stronger.

I have learned it’s ok to miss our loved ones who are no longer with us, it’s ok to be sad, it’s ok to cry when we need to. There’s no shame in that.

I will sit here and wait until I can finally get my footing back and allow the waves to settle into calm water where I can feel my feet on the floor again. I will thank the grief for sitting with me and go back to my day knowing when I need that friend again, it will show up to hold my hand.

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