Grief leaches the color from daily life. Grief is monochromatic. A Seattle-gray day. The sameness can feel endless. Wake up, be smacked by the reality of your grief, crawl through the day, go to sleep, start over. Same ol’, same ol’. You are missing your baby. Yes. Yes, you are. And you will tomorrow, too. And next week and next year. People around you are just getting on with it, damn them. Grief works so hard to convince you that nothing will ever change. Except you. You have been changed forever.
Having cared for grieving people for 20 years, I will share a secret with you that you cannot know until you are in it: life moves from black and white to color. Really. You don’t have to believe me. That’s okay. It’s mysterious.
There is a whisper of a truth that will sneak up on you one day. There is a moment when it does not feel like an elephant has parked on your chest. Your body is not folded in on itself. You can breathe just a wee bit deeper and it doesn’t hurt like hell. You notice the color of a flower or a stranger’s clothing or the sky. It may only be a brief moment. You may not even know until later that something different got your attention.
There will come a day when you find yourself laughing. It will feel strange and even wrong. You will feel disloyal to your baby. You are not. You may feel guilty for living your life. You may blame yourself for having a time-out in your grief for a brief second. That is the nature of life. Time keeps moving, even when you feel like you are on an endless loop of grief. You can hold grief and another emotion, like happiness or curiosity, in the same moment. They can both be there. Because you are human. It will just feel confusing at times.
In her book, On Death and Dying (1969), Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross theorized that grief moves through a set of five stages, each with a distinct beginning and end: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I think that she got a lot right, but reality seems to show us that we don’t really finish the stages. Grief, like life, is more fluid than that. It’s not so black and white. We revisit stages on a daily basis and at random moments. There is the flush of anger when you see an adult mistreat a child. Or the wave of grief that just comes over you because it is Tuesday. Grief does not just stop, as in when people ask you, “Aren’t you over that yet?” No. You are not over it and you never will be. Thank you for knowing that. The stages of grief will reappear over the course of your life.
Little by little some color will return to your life. You cannot prevent it. It will just happen. What I ask of you is just to recognize those moments. They remind you that along with a lifetime of grief also comes healing. And those moments will grow and build in a subconscious way. Even today, right now, look back to this day a month ago. What if anything is different for you? Look back to a year ago. What if anything is different for you? All that I ask of you is to notice. To observe. It’s okay if nothing is different. And it’s okay if there is. And, if you can, let yourself dream in color, for just a moment, in this new normal you are forced to live in. Remember somewhere in your beautiful mind, heart and spirit that a rainbow has many colors, and that peace does come after storm and devastation. At some point. Even for you.