If social security is the third rail of politics, grief is the third rail of life. Few want to talk about it and no one wins this battle in the end. It dims, changes, and morphs, but never leaves. I will not pretend to have the corner market on grief, because every person has their own story. Whether you have lost a parent, a child, a sister, a dog, a friend; grief changes you. It scrapes away the facade, and what is left is often startling and raw.
I have a sweet picture of my son being held by his Grandpa. Shortly after the picture was taken, he lost the last vestiges of memory. He forgot where he lived and who we were. Every loss is unique, debilitating and, usually, devastating. Death is death. This is not a contest. Who wants to scoop up on the prize of greatest loss? Um, yeah, no one, that’s who.
I was once at a dinner where Rudy Giuliani spoke. I remember little of what he discussed other than the number of funerals he attended around the clock after 9/11. The one quote that stuck with me is this, “Weddings are optional, but showing up in times of grief? Absolutely necessary.” So true. It’s incredibly easy to be a part of the events where joy abounds: a wedding, a baptism, a graduation. To show up at a funeral, and embrace the awkward silences and tears? Those are the people you remember. “Grief forces you see: who matters, who never did, who won’t anymore, and who always will.”
I think grief is the 3rd rail because even though it’s always there, it’s something that we tend to want to smooth over quickly, to move past as fast as possible. I’ve decided recently though that there is something really beautiful in taking time to talk to someone, to listen, to see their eyes fill with tears, while tears well up in your own. It’s real, it’s raw, and it resonates.
Embracing someone in their sadness is often a forced pursuit. It doesn’t come naturally to most, and it’s actively avoided by many. In one of my first jobs I was placed in situations to sit at the bedside of others that were dying and didn’t have anyone to be with them. This remains, to this day, some of the most heartbreaking memories of mine. To be at the end of your life and have a stranger placed at your bedside to hold your hand? I’ve worked hard to establish and maintain relationships to avoid this very scenario, not dying, that will come for all of us, but to die alone or with a paid stranger? Please, no, no, no. If you want a reality check on the life you’re living, take a moment now to imagine yourself in your final moments. Who is there and who isn’t? If you need to get to work on some things, here’s your nudge of encouragement.
It’s been a sad week for some lovely people for a myriad of reasons. Perhaps you fall into this mix. You know the difference between the rushing “how are you” and “no, really, pause, pause, pause, eye contact, how are you?”. It such a gift to be listened to, isn’t it? I just don’t think there’s a replacement for it. So here’s my challenge for all of you, dear readers, grieve and let others be grieve with you. To allow someone in, really in, when you’re broken to down to basics and rubbed raw, is a gift, and such a compliment. That they would share this honest moment with you? Yes.
Be real and allow others be real, too. Be charitable when grief gets ugly, because sometimes it can be very, very ugly and angry. Look people in the eye and share their sadness. Grief is awkward, halting, consuming, and distancing. Cards are nice, e-mails are thoughtful, but showing up is priceless. Show up for the hard stuff. Even with your awkward silence, side hugs, and sweaty hands, show up for the hard stuff.
Keep sharing moxie.