Grief is not something that you carry around in a backpack on your back. Though I love dear Kelly Corrigan and find myself frequently “hell yeah-ing” everything she says, this comment from her podcast discussion with Cecily Strong (on Big Love & Big Loss) made me super prickly. I am most certain she did not intend to imply that Grief can be neatly boxed up and tucked away, zipped up, perhaps even buckled tightly, but when I thought of the idea of packing away our grief, I was super uncomfortable. It sends a message that Grief can be picked up or put down on a whim, or at your choosing. Maybe Kelly has some super power of compartmentalization? But for me – no way.
Grief is this nebulous something… sometimes like glue, or cement, or mud – with just the right amount it can be sticky yet also can keep oozing. It walks to its own sense of time and space. It shows up unannounced and jumps onto your back, sometimes invited in when you’re “doing the work.” Grief jumps out from behind the cereal boxes on aisle 5 at 11 am and drops down from the sky on a beautiful spring afternoon. Grief rears its ugly head in a moment of joy and connection. It softly whispers to me when I see your smirk coming through her expression, leaving me in awe of how she picked that up when she’s never met you or seen you in person before?
No, Grief most certainly does not fold up and get tucked into a 30 m³ pack. Its weight can sometimes be suffocating and sometimes light as a feather. And mostly Grief isn’t out there. Grief is in the nooks and crannies of my joints, circulating rhythmically around my cells, pumping methodically through my veins, pulsing against the lining of my heart.
So dear Kelly, no backpack here. Just years of work learning how to integrate the power of Grief into my being without it making me sick or becoming debilitating. Sweating out the parts of it that are not serving in endless hot yoga classes, shedding drops or sometimes buckets of tears, soaking in as much kindness and compassion as possible to cushion the harsh energy of loneliness, sadness and hopelessness. And the result of my journey with grief? I am a big advocate of integration, being with, leaning into… and not a fan of the pack it away approach.