Grief Gab #1 - How Soon Is Too Soon?
I dunno if the title “Grief Gab” will hold. Maybe I’ll come up with something cleverer, but that’s what I’ll use for now. Another little tribute to my beloved Joni.
Earlier this month I write about the first First and phrases that will be hallmarks for me over the next several months...and probably forever. But my mind keeps going back to the question “how soon is too soon”. This question has applied to so many things for me - everything from cleaning out Joni’s clothes to cleaning out our medicine cabinet; from redoing our room (my room now, I suppose) to going through her jewelry.
While my sister-in-law Rebecca was still here following Joni’s passing, we went through her clothes, gave most of them away, and I boxed up the stuff that I just couldn’t bear to part with. That was within days of the Homecoming Party. My mother-in-law said she couldn’t believe that I was already doing that, not as a condemnation but more like amazement that I had the ability to do it.
My response to her was “Well, it’s either pain now or pain later. And pain later might actually be worse.” See, if we don’t deal with the pain and allow ourselves to feel it, it just gets worse. As I’m learning, pain demands to be felt. And if you just crumple that pain up and shove it down, it grows. Then the next time you feel it, it’s a little bigger. Then you crumple it up and shove it down again and the process repeats until the pain will not be party to any further ignoring and will be felt. And then it’s messy. Really messy. Not just tears and weeping, but sometimes debilitating anxiety, panic, or fear. Or how about explosive, violent anger? Yuck.
So how soon is to soon to begin moving forward following the loss of a loved one? Guess what - there’s no right answer. There’s no textbook or self-help book that can tell you the answer. For myself (and a few others I know), we’re fast movers. We process quickly and when we identify our needs, we move quickly to meet them. But that doesn’t mean we are in denial or avoiding our grief. I can’t stress that enough.
Just because I’ve replaced my bed, removed Joni’s clothes, and worked to donate her eye-wear, makeup, knitting projects, etc. doesn’t mean that I think I’m done grieving. Not by a long shot. This past week has been really tough for me. I’ve woken up multiple days either thinking or hoping that she’d be next to me then being a ball of tears as the realization set in. I also found Joni’s license and old passport and just collapsed.
But I can’t stay in that place. While not every one of Joni’s wishes were documented, I knew her well enough to know that she would want me and the family to process our grief in as healthy a fashion as possible and to move forward with our lives - not get stuck in a place of constant grieving and melancholy.
One of Joni’s dear friends asked: “What do you think our Joni would say about moving forward?” And with tears in my eyes, I said: “She would tell me to do so when I’m ready.” So I am choosing to feel the pain now. I am rejecting passivity and being proactive knowing that it will be more painful the longer I let it go. The pain will never fully go away. But in time, and with the support of my friends, family, church, and faith, it will decrease and be easier to deal with. And even then I will do my best to allow myself to feel it, process it, learn from it, and move forward.