For the second time this year I find myself grieving another loss. This is much worse, an unfamiliar experience. Unfair, I am used to saying goodbye, anticipating grief. I find comfort that the pain and suffering are gone after a long illness in my sister in law, as in David. But this time- I experience the grief of sudden loss. Unexpected, unfair, unplanned. If you read my book Legacies From the Living Room: A Love Grief Equation, you know Matt. You know the General, the grandson who is just like his grandfather. Fun, the life of the party, competitive and passionate.
Not my usual loss
Matt Oliver, 24 years young, had pain we could not see and made the worse decision of his life as he chose to take his life. No warning, no signs, only a decision that could not be undone, leaving hundreds of people in pain warning, with no answers.
Remembering the Love-Grief Equation
My husband used the term Love-Grief equation. He would tell the kids to “Focus on the Love side of the equation” Honestly I did not understand.
One day I was reading an old journal he had written about a ski trip with his sons. In that journal he wrote about a woman my age- who had lost her husband and was really struggling. Tears in her eyes she talked about his death. David asked about her favorite memory. She began telling him about a trip they had taken together and something funny they had done. Soon she was laughing.
David wrote that this was what it meant to focus on the love- and every time you will smile.
I was sitting with my grandaughter- she was crying and so very sad. I reminded her of David’s saying. I asked her to share a funny memory about her brother- and she went from crying to laughing. I stopped her and I said- “that is what grandpa meant.”
Two Sides Same Coin
Love and Grief come from the same coin- just different sides. And the more you love of course the more you grieve. The tears are the love pouring from your heart. I assure you- it still pours out 4 years later- especially as they pour out for my grandson.
Two Pieces of Advice
Two of the most helpful things anyone said to me, early on. First: Breathe- just breathe when things are rough- you’d be surprised how much it helps- and how much we hold our breath when we are grieving.
Second, watch for signs of your loved one. They will appear, not always when you want them to, but always when you need them. And you will know.
An example. Dandelions were our thing. Don’t know why people call them weeds. We called them flowers- and we loved them, especially when they were puffy and blowing all over. My husband wrote a book, Exit Strategy: Denying Death of Its Strangeness and a dandelion is on the cover. After he died I saw them everywhere, strange unusual places. Girls dresses, conference room signs, all the time.
Recently I thought it odd- I had not had not had a sign in along time. I wanted one this dark dreary winter- but nowhere.
Last week, I was sitting at Matts funeral. A small child, member of the family, asked my granddaughter if he could put a handful of flowers he picked up front for Matt. She walked with him up to the table with Matt’s photos, and what flowers do you think they were- dandelions.