It was a Monday morning.
Kyle got up at that always ungodly, yet somehow familiar hour in the morning to get ready for work.
Through hazy, sleep filled eyes, we kissed goodbye.
I lazily turned on the shower and just as I was getting ready to step my tired body under the finally warm water, Kyle came back through our front door.
There is no handbook on how to grieve.
There is no sequel handbook on how to help people you love grieve.
From what I’ve learned this week, grief is so multifaceted, so colorful, so complex.
“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep swallowing.
At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting.” – C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed
We left Monday morning and rushed to be home with Kyle’s family.
There was a lot of crying.
There was a lot of hugging.
And somehow, there was a lot of joy.
We traveled back and forth during the week from the city to Kyle’s hometown.
Each time we pulled into that small, almost innocent small hometown, we were greeted by another family member that had made their way in for the funeral.
Smiles, hugs, and even a little laughter was exchanged.
This family was hurting so much, and yet everyone somehow found a little joy in it all.
My experiences with grief are small and few.
I’ve been to maybe three funerals in my life (I only remember 2 of them).
From what I’ve experienced, grief is suffocating and torturous.
This was my first experience where I greeted grief and was met with healing.
Funerals bring about lots of thoughts of our customs and traditions.
Visitations of the body of the deceased.
Lines and lines of people in a funeral home, waiting to hug the family and to see the body.
To pay their respects.
Early mornings in the cold, standing around a gravesite.
Hoping for closure.
Yet somehow out of these difficult traditions, blooms beautiful ones.
The Smart family has a tradition of roses and memories.
Each grandchild gets a rose and they write out a favorite memory they have with the deceased.
They display the roses during the visitation and funeral and then they each place the roses on top of the casket before the burial.
Kyle’s sister Kara took care of this project and it was so perfect.
That girl works so hard and is always there when her family needs it.
We could call Kara at 3am, telling her we’d need her and that child would be wherever we needed without any questions.
This simple little tradition was so heart warming. So beautiful. So special.
It brought smiles and small giggles to tear soaked faces.
The petals, despite the thorns.
Although I didn’t know Kyle’s grandfather that well, I cried a lot.
I cried when I saw their 50th Anniversary pictures.
I cried when the family first stepped into the room for the visitation.
I cried when they read Paul Harvey’s ‘God Made a Farmer’ speech at the funeral.
I cried when we were driving home, holding hands, trying to breathe through the loss.
If there is one thing I have learned, it’s that grief is exhausting.
Even when it’s not really yours to carry.
It’s hard to see people you love so much rub their red eyes, sob, and gasp for breath.
It’s hard to know what to say, or do.
Grief has taught me many lessons.
I’ve learned that you don’t always have to have the perfect answer when in the thick of grief.
Sometimes silence is what is best understood between two hearts.
I’ve learned that with grief comes gratefulness.
When you step out of the funeral home and into your car, you’re going to notice just how blue the winter sky is..
How you’ve never really seen it that way before.
You’re going to notice how big a life can be, how many hearts it can touch, how many connections it makes.
And for a moment you’re going to feel a little small and so overwhelmingly grateful that your life is going to be just as big.
I’ve learned that pets can literally make any situation better.
The Smart home was packed with four dogs for a while during this whole process.
They made us laugh with their barking, playing, and occasional pooping accidents.
They comforted us after the funeral by piling on top of our laps and falling asleep in the late January afternoon sun.
They greeted us at the door when we got home and melted onto our chests as we sighed, exhausted from the weight of grief we had carried.
They somehow brought along a beautiful and simple comfort that everyone needed.
Throughout this week, I’ve found comfort in new ways.
I’ve spent a little time with C.S. Lewis’ words and have found new ways of describing and understanding grief.
I was supposed to read this book in Undergrad, but I didn’t. I guess it needed to find me at just the right time.
I’ve leaned on comforting scents, like my essential oil necklace.
Peppermint calms my nerves and anxiety.
It sounds silly, but it truly helps.
You just pour a few drops of whatever oil you need onto the little felt circle and pop it into the necklace.
Again, it sounds kind of ridiculous, but scents can be so helpful when you’re stressed.
Any simple comfort you can find, take it and use it.
I’ve found that celebrating the simplest of joys, lifts my heart and lightens the air.
Simple joys like the colors of produce at the local market.
I’ve seen my partner in new ways this week.
I’ve discovered new strengths, beauty, and tenderness in Kyle.
I’ve realized just how goddamn lucky I am to be joining a family like the Smart family.
I’m overwhelmed with how loving they can be.
I’ve found an immeasurable comfort in knowing that even though Kyle and I will have more funerals to attend in the future, we have each other.
We can carry each other’s grief.
We can lean on one another.
And somehow, knowing that makes the battle with grief seem so small.
OOf. 2018 has been off to a bit of a rough start y’all.
But we’re going to keep going, keep loving, keep breathing, and keep trying our best.