I've been pretty tuned in lately to the subject of grief being tackled on TV. Both "reality" shows and scripted television. Two instances in particular really resonated with me and I wanted to "talk" about them with someone, so I figured, why not here?
The first was a few weeks ago on Dancing with the Stars. I mentioned a small point briefly on my Facebook page, but there was so much more in the episode that struck me. The "stars" were dancing about their most memorable years. And for each dance there was a package presented where the celebrities discussed why their year was so significant. I was most struck by Nancy Kerrigan's story about her journey to motherhood. She was so candid in her interviews, explaining her desire for a large family, and how in getting there she experienced 6 miscarriages in 8 years. Her emotions were raw as she talked about feeling like a failure. Grieving each loss with the belief that she was failing. But hers wasn't the only story that touched me. Dance after dance the stars revealed intimate details about their lives. Their struggles. Life-threatening injuries. Life-changing decisions. Battles with illness. It should have been so depressing. But I watched each one and noticed a trend. None of these people were defeated by the turmoil, the struggles, the hardships. Each story had some kind of triumph. Maybe not a perfect, happy-ending. But they were all able to find some light and hold on to that.
I walked away from my TV that evening thinking about the human experience. I know there are some people fortunate enough to have never been touched by particularly rough roads. But for as many who haven't, there are those who have. But the thing about the human experience is that we can be beat down by life, but it's in those ways that we rise that there is so much beauty.
About a week later I was catching up on another guilty-pleasure show, Jane the Virgin.
The show is now taking place 3 years after Jane's husband, Michael, died suddenly of complications from a gun shot wound. Jane has been struggling with talking openly about her life and experiences with Michael, when her grandmother, who also survived the death of her own husband, gives her some advice. (Which I'll now paraphrase)...
She basically explains that the more Jane talks about Michael, the easier it'll be. Which will be hard in it's own way. She says that Jane is now in a long-term-relationship with grief.
YES! I nodded emphatically at my television that day.
Bear with me for a moment while I act like a fictional character is real. But for 3 years she's been working on things. Living her life -- fully, I might add. But always struggling with her great loss. And then to hear it described so perfectly. Sigh. It was perfect. A relief to see grief explained and explored in a way I feel I've been going through it.
Because here I am. Nearing 2 years, and definitely feeling on the other side of the true darkness. But then simultaneously feeling a whole new sense of hardship because of that. Yes, definitely a long-term relationship. Complicated. Yes. But I'm finally starting to understand it.
Who said TV is a bad thing? Sometimes seeing a semblance of your own experience reflected back at you from the television can give you a lot of clarity.
"You don't have to pretend like you're not frightened. Naming your fear is part of getting through it." - Levi Lusko
I recently came across this quote on a friend's blog and it jumped right out at me. Because lately I have been dealing with a fear of my own. A fear that comes from the realization that I'm really doing great. And fear of admitting that out loud.
I'm afraid of this feeling of "better-ness." This feeling like a whole person even though I'm not -- not really. (See, I won't even allow myself to admit to feeling whole). It feels like such a betrayal of you. And deep down, I'm afraid that if I can feel this good again, then to everyone else you must be such a distant memory.
It's times like this when I'm reminded how complicated grief is. How I can feel great and still miss you so terribly every day. How looking into your brother's eyes can fill me with the greatest joy and also the deepest longing all at once.
How I can feel relief in my happiness and also be so scared of it.
Every time another month passes, and I am a little bit further away from the raw despair of losing you, I feel lighter than I did all those months ago. And when I feel lighter, I start to worry. I don't want to forget the painful feelings because they're all tangled up in my memories of you. But don't misunderstand me. I am grateful to be able to walk through my life and see colours clearly, feel joy, see hope. It's how I know it should be. What's the cliche? You would want me to be happy.
And, my sweet boy, I am. I am honestly, happy. But there will always be an asterisk by that word. Because my happiness is wrapped up in complications and confusion. And this month, as I sit in silence and think about how I'm feeling, 19 months without you here, that complication is the fear that as we continue to move forward, our time with you falls further away. And I'm left scrambling -- trying to find new ways to carry you forward with us.
It's like I'm afraid of losing you all over again. We've already lost your physical presence, and I don't want your memory to get lost in this happiness we've found.
You are as much a part of me now as you've always been.
And I hope you know my happy face isn't meant to disguise my missing you.
I guess today I just really felt the need to shout that out loud.
Love you always, baby boy.