We were slammed by grief….but it was another family’s Tuesday.
We were wrestling with the diagnosis of a chronic heart condition and pending open heart surgery…..and others were standing in line at Starbucks.
We were spending the nights in a rocking chair in the NICU…..and others were complaining about traffic jams on their morning commute.
We were learning how to walk with a prosthetic leg….and others were cheering on their favorite sports teams on Sundays.
We were going on a Disney cruise in the event our daughter didn’t make it through her upcoming open heart surgery–desperately trying to squeeze in as many memories as we could….and others were going grocery shopping.
We were drowning in millions of dollars of medical debt….and others were worried about not being able to get their nails done that week.
We were going through cancer treatments……and others were trying to figure out what movie they were going to see that weekend.
We were kissing our daughter goodbye as they wheeled her back to her second open heart surgery…..and others were on going to work that day.
I would battle with myself wondering how we could be grieving or going through so many hard things……and others were just going about their day. Untouched. Unphased. It would make me want to scream. How could they just be living their lives….when ours was falling apart? How could they be worried about something so trivial when my daughter was battling for her life? How could they be worried about such small insignificant things when we were trying to find our footing? Could they not see that the small sad spot in their day was a huge gaping hole in our lives? Our life had been repeatedly turned on it’s axis….and the rest of the world just kept on turning.
It took me a very long time to not be angry about that. In fact, if I’m being completely honest, I still have to work through this. It’s a work in progress. I still find myself mentally thinking “Really????” when someone shares a concern with me. I have to actively work through reminding myself that I can’t compare our struggles. That each of us are on a different journey. Something completely manageable to our family that we wouldn’t skip a beat over–might be a huge mountain for someone to climb. Something that we’ve done many times before might be a first step for another family. It’s the reminder that the comparison game goes both ways–the good stuff in life and the challenges.
It’s the acknowledgement that personal grief is like living a double life. One where you just go about your day like everything is fine….while your heart is silently breaking into a million pieces. We don’t know what others are experiencing and its a reminder to always respond with kindness. Its the reminder that although I am try to be transparent with our struggles, other people might be quietly sitting in sadness. It’s a reminder that when you deal with loss, a tragedy so large you aren’t sure how you will ever recover, that the world keeps going. The seconds pass, the days change, and the month still progresses.
Grief doesn’t have any rules or time lines. It can last forever–just like the hope or the love you experienced. It might come in giant waves–and you might have days where you are drowning. Or it might quietly lap at your feet, a quiet reminder of the things that you have been through. But you have to keep your head above the water. You have to wave to the shore when you need someone to come tow you in. You have to look for the undercurrents and know how to avoid those. You have to use a life vest when it gets too deep and your toes can’t touch the sand any longer. You have to learn……….. to swim.