Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Good Grief

Grief. Such a funny word. I used to love the comic strip Peanuts. I used to pretend I was Lucy and I would drive my brother batty by chanting "Good grief, Charlie Brown!" over and over again. (Primarily to annoy him. He had a hair-trigger temper and could beat the snot out of me with just one hand, so any leverage I could find, I used.) But not once, with all that chanting, did I understand what the word grief meant.

As I grew older and learned how to use a dictionary, I learned the meaning of grief. I even experienced it for the first real time when I was eleven and my grade six teacher, Mrs. Banks, died from lung cancer. Over the years, I have had many more opportunities to discover the definition of grief. My favorite cat, an uncle, even a best friend all passed away. I even had the temerity to grieve over a lost boyfriend, dumped for a fatter, younger woman. Don't worry George, I'm over it.

But through all of this grief, I never really understood what it meant to really grieve. I had a small insight when my husband's dad passed away from a long battle with Multiple Sclerosis. I was saddened, heart broke really, to watch my husband struggle through that loss. And last April, when my wonderful gramma lost her battle with cancer, I thought I understood what it meant to grieve.

Alas, I now, finally, understand what it means to grieve. It is not something to take lightly. Not something you quickly move on from. It is real, and heavy, like a wet wool blanket tossed over your soul. My best friend asked me what it felt like, having to shoulder this burden, this loss. She was not being naive. She wanted to help, to understand. And the best way to describe this grief is to imagine you are alone in a dark room. In front of you is a candle. All you can see, all you can feel is the light from this candle. This is grief. For many days, weeks and months, all you can see is the light from this candle. Until one day, the candle is a little farther from your face. The light is not so bright. You can still see the candle, but you can also see other things in this room. The candle is always present. And on good days, the candle is an arms length away. But some mornings, some moments, the candle comes right up to your face, blinding you with it's light, leaving you unable to see or feel any other thing. Except the damn candle. That is grief. It is always here, always present. And on good days you can see around the grief, but you never know when the grief is gonna get you. But it always sneaks back in. And you can't blow out the candle. Ever.

Good grief, Charlie Brown.