My mail piles up, unopened. Appointments are missed. I don’t cook, knit, exercise or practice Polish. Frequent naps are the order of the day. The television drones on as background noise.
I am grieving.
If someone had asked me five years ago, “How do you grieve?” I would not have known the answer. Now, unfortunately, I do. I recognize the signs—the unopened mail, disruptions to my routines, the lethargy. “You forget to eat when you grieve,” a friend said the other day. She is right. Food has little appeal.
My memories sustain me these days and I can spend hours lost in the past, reliving the joyful moments of a friendship that helped shape my life.
I let my tears flow, even if at inopportune times. I don’t want to stifle my grief, because I know what happens if I deny expression to this sadness—it will not be stopped but will manifest itself in other ways, upset stomach, anxiety, restless nights. No, I have learned that it is far better to let my emotions have their way, certain that they will not overwhelm me completely, that I will survive this ache, this loss.
I am blessed, really, to have loved so deeply that I hurt so deeply.
That is what I remind myself when I show up for a meeting on the wrong day or find that hours have passed and I have accomplished nothing. “Be gentle with yourself,” friends advise. That is probably one of the greatest gifts grief has given me—the capacity to be gentle with myself, to accept myself in the vulnerable state. I cut myself slack and explain my loss when I miss a deadline or am at the wrong place at the wrong time. People are kind and compassionate; they honor my pain.
We begin Lent next week, walking with Jesus to his death, and I think I will be in a good place for Lent this year, this latest loss so recent. Mary Magdalene will be my companion, and the words of scripture my consolation. “She did what she could,” Jesus says (Mark 14:8) as much about Mary as about me. I did what I could to be a good friend and loving companion.
And then at Easter, I hope to rejoice as Mary Magdalene rejoiced, to be ready for a new life with a deeper appreciation for what has been and a greater hope for what will be.