I went to lunch with a good friend the other day, and we got to talking about grief. She lost her mother in June, and that loss just bubbles up all the time, triggered by things tiny and obvious alike. She kept saying, "as you know," which made me uncomfortable until I said, "Well, but my losses were for people that didn't get to be, not people who existed tangibly in my life." (Of course with the exception of my grandmother.) And then she told me that she thought I absolutely was an expert in grief. Maybe not the same kind of loss, but I have some authority in the grief department.
Which was interesting to me, because I felt like I was doing that comparative thing again where we say one love is more than another or one kind of loss is more than another, and it was me feeling like I can't begin to comprehend a loss so great as my friend had sustained, and yet here she was, raw from the loss of her mother, telling me that I am sort of a grief guru.
I guess I have had lots of opportunities to cycle through the messiness of grief, and I am in a constant state of underlying grief, so that's true in a way. It's not an expertise I really wanted, but I guess I have to make the most of it. I don't think we deal well with grief as a whole in this country, it's always pushed down and expected to be over instead of something that lurks beneath the surface, ready to bubble up and take over like sad boiling lava at any given time.
I thought about how I collect quotes that stand out to me from books I read and keep them in a readily-accessible list on my phone, and how most of them deal with...you guessed it...grief.
Here are a few of my favorites. If I'm a so-called expert, I feel I can share some of this collected wisdom with you:
"And endings are always the beginnings of something else." - Holly Goldberg Sloan, Counting by Sevens
"All reality, I decide, is a blender where hopes and dreams are mixed with grief and despair. Only in cartoons and fairy tales and greeting cards do endings have glitter." - Holly Goldberg Sloan, Counting by Sevens
"Maybe that happens when you've been through a lot. All your edges are worn off, like sea glass. Either that, or you shatter." - Holly Goldberg Sloan, Counting by Sevens (Seriously, if you haven't read Counting by Sevens, go get a copy. It's amazing.)
"Happy was my adopted country, not my native land. I was still bracing to be expelled without warning." - Kimberly McCreigh, Where They Found Her
"Sorrow and loss are constant, but if we had to go through our whole lives carrying them the whole time, we wouldn't be able to stand it. The sadness would paralyze us. So in the end we just pack it into bags and find somewhere to leave it." - Fredrik Backman, My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry (This is another book to get your hands on if you can. Just so special.)
"Hope is a horrible thing, you know. I don't know who decided to package hope as a virtue because it's not. It's a plague. Hope is like walking around with a fishhook in your mouth and someone just keeps pulling it and pulling it." -- Ann Patchett, State of Wonder
You may disagree with me on that last one, but I have very complicated feelings about hope. So it goes in this category, because when you deal with grief on a regular basis it seems (to me) that hope is more of a plague than a virtue.
I swear I don't only read books about tragedies or loss or sadness, but those are the quotes that stand out to me. There were a scant handful of others not similarly themed, but mostly I seek things that validate my feelings on the hand I've been dealt. Maybe these quotes could be helpful to others, too, going through any other kind of grieving process.