I think when people here the 'g word' in reference to specific people, a lot of expectations come up in their minds. When you think of a grieving person you think of someone sitting around crying all the time. You think of tissues, and wearing black, and long faces. You think of people not going out, loud emotional outbursts, the person constantly talking about their loss.
I think sometimes grief doesn't look like that.
I don't meet many of those expectations. I don't think many grieving people do because people grieve in so many different ways. I think in the face of a different sort of loss my grief would look even more different.
When I'm in public, I think I look pretty normal. Truth is, I am pretty normal. I'm still me. I just happen to be in the midst of a process that is bigger than me. But I don't wear that process on my shirtsleeve.
I don't sit around crying all the time. Especially in public. Sure... when I'm driving or sitting somewhere sometimes I *will* be suddenly gripped with tears, but they subside rather quickly and I'm back to business.
I don't talk about my circumstances much. I don't like to be pinned into talking about it when I don't want to, and I get skittish when other people bring it up. That's not to say that I don't need and want people to let me know it is ok to talk if I want or need to, I just don't find myself able to much. If I do talk about it, I don't say much. Being vague works for me. And no, I don't think I fit the typical stereotype of, "Women talk about their feeilngs more." I process mentally a lot. I think about what I am thinking and feeling often, but these days most of that goes on behind the scenes of my words. It's there. It's mine. I'm comfortable with it that way.
I think because grieving folk don't meet the expectations of people, we are often misunderstood. Some people might think we didn't feel our loss deeply. Some people might assume we have 'gotten over it' and thus expect us to be chipper and 'back to normal.'
It is stressful sometimes to feel that people are sort of peering in on your life watching how you are reacting. Wondering about the way you are showing your emotions. It is strange to have even less of a clue than I did before about how to answer the question, "How are you?" and to know that once I do answer, that person is likely thinking to themselves, "But how are you really?"
Actually, that's not true. I do still know how to answer that question. It is, "I'm ok." And yes, I really DO mean it. I hurt and am sad sometimes. My current situation is bizarre and difficult some days. But I am ok. I've just come to believe that okness = I am not spinning off the edge of the world out of control, physically, emotionally, or spiritually. I know God is there. And I know that whether I feel like it or not somehow it is true that, "All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well... No matter what."
But it throws people when I say I'm ok in the context of grieving. It doesn't reconcile with that expected picture of grief. My okness is bigger than grief. Grief is something that happens. It just does. It doesn't make me not ok. It just is something that I have to be in right now.
I can't say that I know how I want other people to interact with me, and I am still negotiating how I interact with the world. I related to the words of a journal about grief by Nick Turnbull (http://nickturnbull.blogs.com/journal_through_grief/), when he mentioned that he got angry at just about every reaction people have to him and his situation when his little boy died. The people who made comments made him mad, the people who said nothing made him mad, the people who inquired after him often made him mad. There was just no winning. I feel that way too. It's terribly unfair to everyone in my life, but I can't seem to help myself.
It's awkward. It's confusing. It's exhausting.
No... I probably don't look like I'm grieving... But I still am.