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November 1, 2021

Caretakers of Grief

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.

I daydreamed today, while caretaking for my own grief, and it is that daydream I share with you, dear reader.

Picture this.  It is the here and now; today.  You are wandering through the aisles of Target, feeling somewhat aimless yet quite content, because well, it’s Target!  As you admire the assorted shelves and push your empty cart along, you hear something odd yet intriguing over the intercom.  You’ve missed it, yet you know that it was something you were meant to hear.  Luckily a moment later, the message is repeated.  The now clear voice is inviting all customers who are grieving in some way to gather in the back corner of the store, which is currently empty, awaiting next season’s arrivals.

This space you find yourself led to feels so very confusing, comforting and vulnerable, all at the same time. You feel part of something potentially meaningful because as you look around, you clearly see that you are not alone.  You also find yourself wanting to run away as you nervously wonder who will stay in this agonizing silence with you.  Eyes are landing on each other, only for brief moments; anything longer than that would be unbearable.  Many are retreating already.  Onlookers, who have not answered the call glance over, unsure of what to think of this scene.  They stop to look but they seem to understand less than even you do; their nervous gestures tell me so.  Many give a compassionate smile as they carry on with their shopping.  You feel acknowledged yet there is something more that you desire, more that you need. You find yourself wanting to stay, in hopes it turns out to be the healing you seek, yet you also want to flee, never looking back because this moment of standing within this group has been one of the loneliest experiences of your life.

I suppose I had this daydream today because at times, this is what I have witnessed the grieving process to feel like.  I have been blessed with a few amazing caretakers and also at times, I have felt connected yet lonely.  Hopeful yet disappointed.  Witnessed yet unseen.

And yet, as I reflect upon the year and a half of grieving that I have undergone and continue to move through, I now more clearly see where we are falling short in being the caretakers of grief, both for ourselves and each other.  While there is much to be changed in how we approach grieving as a collective, perhaps the biggest piece of advice I would give myself and others is simply (not easily but simply) this.

Be willing and courageous enough to break the silence and ask for what you need, while you grieve.  Equally, be willing and courageous enough to ask the person who is grieving what they need.  From this space the real healing and power of true collective resilience can begin; for you, for me, for us.

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