Our culture likes to paint pictures of what things are supposed to look like when someone experiences a sudden loss of a loved one.
Should we all be puffy-eyed carrying around boxes of Puffs w/ Lotion? Should there be a genuine sadness lingering around us like a palpable cloud of depression?
Sometimes grief doesn’t look like that. It can take on many, many forms.
Sometimes grief looks like a big, deep breath in the middle of a crowded room.
Sometimes it’s a lonely bottle of beer in your backyard.
It’s a tear in your left eye in the middle of a restaurant when that same song comes on again for the 20th time in two months.
It’s an invitation addressed only to you.
It’s a hard to reach zipper on a dress that never used to be a challenge to wear.
It’s a leather couch on an opposite side of a professionally trained listener.
Sometimes it’s as simple as a kind stranger with the same name.
Grief can also be joyful. It can sound like laughter.
Sometimes it’s playing a favorite song and loudly singing along.
It’s cooking a big batch of tomato basil soup just because you know it was his favorite thing you made him.
It’s laughing at an old memory with a friend.
It’s planning trips you know you need to take.
It’s all grief. All very different, but all grief nonetheless.
Grief isn’t always a trashcan full of used Puffs w/ Lotion. It doesn’t always have to be a sad song in an epsom salt bath. It isn’t only the visible, obvious images that our culture comes to know and expect from the grief-stricken.
Grief doesn’t have one face. It doesn’t have one timeline.
You can’t psycho-analyze what’s “supposed” to happen on someone’s journey with incredible grief.
There are no magical markers of time that will make that person feel any better.
Because here’s the thing:
Grief doesn’t have a timeline, and it isn’t fair to try and create one for your grieving friend.
It’s okay if they’re sobbing one minute and ready to buy a new car the next.
It’s perfectly acceptable for the widow to never marry again or start dating a few months after the fact.
It’s very much fine for the mother who lost her child to plaster pictures all over her walls for years or immediately take down every last one because they’re too painful to see.
Grief timelines do not exist. They don’t.
What matters most is that the grieving person’s journey is continuously validated and free of judgments.
This road is not easy. It’s dark and lonely, and it’s bright and calm. It’s a maze and a straight path all at once. It will never make sense.
What does grief look like?
Whatever it needs to in that very moment. No more. No less.