"They carried all the emotional baggage of men who might die. Grief, terror, love, longing--these were intangibles, but the intangibles had their own mass and specific gravity, they had tangible weight.
I think the most unexpected thing about grief: it never ends.
When I was 5, I lost my little orange teddy bear as it fell out of my Holly Hobby handbag from the 3rd floor of the Willow Grove Mall. I cried myself to sleep for months. It was one of my first grief experiences and once I realized that things could really be replaced, I let go of my hysteria and moved forward onto the brown teddy bear who had been languishing on my shelf. But I still remember. And now with Lily and Chloe, I have an eagle eye on their favorite things--just to protect them from the fate of my orange bear.
I know I am still grieving over lots of others things: deaths of grandparents, pets, aunts and uncles. Deaths of dreams--perfect pregnancies, career dreams and even friendships. Instant grief over harsh words spoken to a stranger that can never be taken back. And of course, I will always grieve the death of my own easy motherhood--stolen the moment Lily was diagnosed with a brain tumor.
Grief is sticky. There are so many things we loose along the way. Of course in loosing we gain. We gain understanding, we gain space for something new, we gain appreciation for life and we gain strength in thick loads.
One of my favorite books is "The Things They Carried" by Tim O'Brien. A collection of short stories taking place during the Vietnam war this book centers around the stuff soldiers carried--from weapons to photos to good luck charms and all those things we can't quite see, exactly. Things like fear, shame and grief.
I realize as I age, I will always carry my grief. And that is okay. We are all walking wounded--and for me, at least, accepting that I can be whole and happy, even with grief in my back pocket is a revelation. My grief is insight. It is strength. It is not a weakness. It is not negativity or pessimism--it is one of the truths of this human existance. We love. We loose. We grieve. We love again. We loose again. We grieve again. Grief does not stop us in our tracks. It might pause us--caution us to slow down and reflect. But, we pick up again.
Because we never grieve over something we did not love.
It is meaningful knowledge to know that my grief does not ever have to expire--it will fade, it will change, but it will always be one of the things I carried.