Like you, I Get Caught Up In Its Waves
Like my editor always says, when it comes to the news cycle, certain events don’t change. Thanksgiving will come in November and Christmas will follow in December. We cannot escape these holidays from occurring just as much as we cannot escape the reality of death. Phew - just typing that word carries weight and it might have caused your instincts to react.
What wisdom I might have gained from my personal experience with death and grieving came during the loss of one of the most beloved characters in my life’s story: my grandmother, or whom we called Lola in my parent’s native language of Tagalog.
I witnessed how grief causes people to react and cope differently - especially within the intricate fabric of families. I saw it cause fury and division while at the same time I saw how it also bonded people together like glue.
Whatever your reaction was or whatever your reaction continues to be (because grief does not have a deadline) - I hope you come to know that this is perfectly ok. It’s like when your teacher gave you a pass to a question where there was no right or wrong answer - there is no right or wrong reaction.
Take comfort in these words from British author and poet Michael Rosen who confronted the dimensions of grief and traces of love when his 18-year-old son died suddenly of meningitis.
“With extraordinary emotional elegance, Rosen welcomes the layers of grief, each unmasking a different shade of sadness — sadness that sneaks up on you mid-stride in the street; sadness that lurks as a backdrop to the happiest of moments; sadness that wraps around you like a shawl you don’t take off even in the shower.
What emerges is a breathtaking bow before the central paradox of the human experience — the awareness that the heart’s enormous capacity for love is matched with an equal capacity for pain, and yet we love anyway and somehow find fragments of that love even amid the ruins of loss.”
A couple points stood out to me:
- sadness that lurks as a backdrop to the happiest of moments.
- the heart has the capacity for love that is matched with an equal capacity for pain, and yet we love anyway.
I could be in the middle of the most joyous of an occasion, filled with bright lights, amazing humans, laughter and love, and then BOOM out of nowhere - comes this empty feeling. It was as if a thief came and literally stole a piece of me without even asking (so rude!) And yet - this feeling is ok in the sense that we aren’t weak or lesser of a person because of it.
We accept the risk that comes with loving - whether it is unforeseen or whether it is planned, whether it is romantic or platonic, family or not - we say yes to love in exchange for a tab we have yet to close out. Heck, we may not even get to close it out ourselves. Sometimes our tab closes and we never understand why or we are never given the reason as to why it closed.
I try to be patient with myself when grief comes knocking and when I find myself riding on that wave. It makes sense because the people we love most sort of physically become a part of us, enclosed in memories hidden deep within our brain.
The last time the wave came was when I was at this emotional cross roads in my life, trying to configure my life’s direction amidst the disappointment and guilt lingering around my mind.
It was then when I wanted to wrap myself in the memory of how my Lola made me feel safe either when I was a little girl and she was teaching me how to pray or when she took the time to make eggs and spam before the school bus came. Or when she was alive and told me that the reason this person broke my heart was because he didn’t have God within him. Those words are never lost even though I am at a loss for words sometimes.
I’ll wrap this up by saying that every time I hear or see someone missing someone they lost, I will try to remember how that person at least had the courage to say yes to love and all the great moments that came with it.If that’s you right now, congrats, you are fully immersed in the human experience. My friend, you are fully alive.