Running away from grief
-Melina Gerosa Bellows
I’m sad. And I don’t know what to do.
Crying helps. But between the tears I still have to deal with the sadness, and I’m at a total loss as to how.
No stranger to depression, I’ve devised a moody blues checklist. When I’m feeling out of sorts, I ask myself:
1. Are you overtired? (The usual culprit.)
2. When was the last time you had a mani-pedi? (Chipped red toenails are enough to turn any girl into Sylvia Plath.)
3. Got exercise? (The last thing I feel like doing, but…)
4. Is your hair dirty? (Where do you think the expression “bad hair day” came from, anyway?)
5. Have you laughed with your friends recently? (Always a good stress buster, reality check, lonely chaser, etc. – the ibuprofen for emotional pain.)
But I’m not just down, I’m sad, and this emotion is completely different from the blahs; the feeling is intense, persistent and unyielding, like a dog with a bone.
In fact, my sadness reminds me of a big, black Newfoundland, a gentle soul who keeps blocking my path.
I’m here, it says.
I’m trying to focus during a meeting but the sad keeps interrupting my thoughts.
Stop, it says, acknowledge me.
Or I’m trying to avoid the feeling by being productive and ticking things off my list. But no matter what I’m doing, the sad comes and plops itself before me, an obstacle I now have to go around.
Pay attention to me, it demands.
I wish I could, I tell it. I’d lie on the couch with you all day long and watch bad T.V. But with a job and two preschoolers, I have no such luxury. So I pull on the leash and the sad lumbers along with me from thing to thing to thing, being yet another thing I have to deal with.
It feels heavy, this sadness. Like the lead bib in the dentist’s office when they give you an x-ray. And I can see its effect on my face, as if the corners of my eyes and mouth are being tugged down with little pullies.
“What do I do?” I ask my friend Rebecca. Rebecca is a dog person, she rescues pit bulls. Maybe she will be able to help me with the enormous beast I am contending with.
“There is a faultiness to your logic, which is that sadness doesn’t require, and doesn’t do well with, doing,” she explains patiently.
Of course I’m doing sad all wrong, I tell myself. Figures.
“One has to surrender to sadness. It is a little like a riptide, you just have to let it take you out, trusting that when the tide turns it will bring you back to the beach. You are appropriately sad, and it’s a gift at this time in your life to mark it.”
She’s right of course, but I still don’t know what to do.
Then another friend names the big black dog shadowing me “Grief.” The name fits my companion so perfectly it clicks with recognition in my mind. I accept him for what he is.
I am mourning the life I used to have, the life I thought I had. The support and acceptance and unconditional love I counted on. But the filmy bubble of denial, which pitifully hung on as long as it could, finally tore.
I saw inside, and my perspective shifted.
The reality is my situation isn’t that different than it was last week, last year, or even 20 years ago. But the difference is that I now see it clearly, rather than through the distorted prism of constantly hoping for something else. The truth will set you free, but first it will break your heart.
While the sadness is painful, I trust it.
Stick with me, says Grief, leading the way over a bridge to a new place.
Loyally I follow, to the land of awareness, healing, and growth.
Read Melina’s last blog: Every Mom’s Dream, part 2