Grief reminds me a bit of spring in Switzerland. At the start of spring, when the sun shines, and the warmth comes, there is a part of me that is very excited to enjoy. There is also another part that is cautious “when will it shift back?”. Then the sun and warmth lingers longer – I leave the house without that extra protective layer for warmth, or in the case of this year, rain. I am suddenly caught unprepared – the rain or the cold hits me – unexpectedly and hard. I catch myself in my head – saying “you know this happens every spring, why are you upset or unprepared!?” When I step back, I can understand and be kinder to myself. Of course, the wet, cold and grey days are not as surprising and disorienting in winter, than in spring, when we’ve shifted to the hope of sunnier days.
Likewise, I thought I would be prepared this year when the grief anniversaries showed up again. But when the pain and memories came – the tears followed quickly and more intensely than I expected. I was taken a bit off guard and a bit disoriented, so I gave it curiosity and space. I realized that expectations played a huge role, mine and others. I realized others, who had more distance, were also surprised by my displays of grief. Just because the loss is now more than 2 years instead of 1, doesn’t mean the grief is not there. The world has moved on, mine too, but my feelings regarding these losses did not. I will still be sad that these loved one’s are not here with me, will not witness the things and one’s they love – this does not become less. If anything, it becomes more – more things they missed, more things I wish I could share that I can’t. Yes, it is not new, but the longing and loss is still real. The distance and disconnect from my experience and the world moving on is greater.
At a recent grief anniversary gathering, I felt so strange. I stood there on the edge of tears, others shared food. The last time I saw these people, we were right in the moment of the loss, the grief was raw, the tears and touches were understood and allowed. Now a year later, it feels different. Each person is connected to a different context and approach in their life – and the loss does not show up in the same way. I almost felt as if my reaction did not fit because other’s had different frames and responses. When I dared in a quiet side space, to name this with someone who I shared this journey more closely – I saw the relief in them – and the naming of “yes this feels harder somehow”. I felt the tears and relief wash together, and am glad I am not alone in that. So, now I can be gentler with myself and clearer to others about the mismatch and how it makes it harder. Since doing so, I have been gifted with other moments, ways and depths of connection, for which I am thankful.
So, although, I am more prepared now for the fits and starts of spring in Switzerland – bringing an extra layer – being patient with the feelings of disappointment when the cold snap comes again – I am still translating this to my grief journey. I know I am not the only one, so please be kind and patient with someone when they may, in your view, be unexpectedly sad. Their grief, it is not new, nor unexpected, but therefore at times, all the more difficult to share.