Grief is sneaky and remarkably patient. She is without a doubt a master of disguises and often shows up dressed in her finest threads and calls herself anger. Bitter, hurtful anger, the kind that makes you want to break shit but you know you are not supposed to so you stuff it down and lie to yourself that you’ve got a handle on it. Not so fast she says with a smirk, I’ll be here ALL day and night and day and night and so on until you pay attention to me! The grief from years past that sits in waiting, refusing to budge from the present. The grief that will continue to show up because of, well, life. The grief that most people do not know how to talk about because we have been conditioned to think that silence is the medicine we need to swallow in order to heal our pain. And that is how the cycle continues and gets passed down from generation to generation.
When my mom died I realized how tragically unprepared I was to sit down and have a conversation with my grief, so I did what I had been taught to do, and pretended I was ok. I’m good, we are good, I got this, and so on. I spoke at my mom’s memorial and while I don’t really remember the experience I do remember talking about the children’s book, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt. The premise is that as a family embarks on a bear hunt they stumble upon all sorts of things that they can’t go over, can’t go under, so they are left with no choice but to go through the obstacles. And that is the same with grief. When we try to avoid connecting with our grief by either going around, under or over it, we channel that energy into something else, for many people grief shows up as anger. That was me and I wore the anger mask quite well if I do say so myself. I am comfortable with anger. I know when I feel it, how to communicate about it and express it in healthy ways, and get annoyed when other people don’t know how to manage their anger, so it makes perfect sense that the grief in my life from years past and present morphed into anger. So onward and upward, dragging my grief behind me, pretending it wasn’t a burden, and charging forward wearing my anger mask with pride.
Grief is sneaky and remarkably patient. I remember the exact moment when my ex asked for a divorce. The shock of it was one thing but what is so fascinating is that I never mourned the loss of the relationship. How could I when I was so ANGRY at my ex for wanting to end our relationship? The grief turned into anger and that felt right. I took comfort in expressing my rage and never once sat down and sobbed for the loss of what was and what would never be. Fast forward to my mom dying. Oh wow was that a kick in the grief pants. I assumed that I had met and made friends with my grief because after all, I had to be ok for my dad, my siblings, my kids, etc., so I thought if I carry it around while pretending it isn’t causing me so much harm it will eventually go away. Nope, not even close. If you carry your grief for too long it becomes so unbelievably heavy that it eventually drops onto the ground and rolls into full view for everyone to see! It’s not a cute, roll across the floor, as would happen if you dropped a gum-ball, but instead, it’s like you dropped a heavy safe onto the floor, narrowly missing your foot, yet cracking the wood below and causing you and everyone around you to feel off balance. That was me and I made no effort to change things because I didn’t see it as a problem until it was a problem. I know grief is patient and she was waiting for me to finish my dance with anger before she pulled me toward the dance floor. She waited years until I finally said, FINE I will dance with you but it will be to the music I choose. And that is when she threw her head back and laughed and laughed and then grabbed me by the waist and off we went. It wasn’t beautiful or graceful like a waltz or a tango, it was awkward and jarring and off rhythm, basically, it was what I look like when I dance which is why I don’t dance in public. It was painful and confusing and I screwed up every two steps and fell and bruised my knees and my heart, and then got back up, danced some more, and declared, ok I got it, thanks for the dance and goodbye. NOT SO FAST she snarled. The dance with grief never ends it just morphs into something that feels less painful than when you were being dragged across the floor by a force much stronger than you. The dance becomes fluid and while I will never say graceful, it becomes tolerable, dare I say manageable. It is now four years after my mom’s death and I am still dancing with grief. Sometimes I feel in sync with the rhythm of mourning but often I don’t and I still feel as if I’m stepping on toes or bumping into lamps and watching them teeter before recovering and remaining upright. And sometimes that is the best we can hope for. To remain upright as we twirl around the room with grief as our dance partner.
About Debbie Scheer
Debbie Scheer is a humorist speaker in Denver and she is also an event emcee in Denver as well as across the country. She is also a professional speaker, humorist, emcee and auctioneer whose mix of heart and humor brings inviting energy to every event she hosts. Her magnetic presence draws in audiences and makes a room come alive with purpose, connection, and laughter. If you are interested in hiring Debbie, please contact her today!