Grief is a strange creature. It rears its head when you least expect it, and it hangs around in ways that you could never have imagined. Its appearances can be logical, but they don’t always have to be. Sometimes grief only pokes its head out to greet you, and then other times it feels like its lying on your chest trying to smother you.
I hate it.
Last week was my first time teaching my own college class. I’ve guest lectured and I’ve worked with high school, elementary school, and preschool students, but college is a different animal. Overall, I think that it went very well—most of the students seemed to be engaged, and I had quite a few really get into the topics. I’m ecstatic that my teaching wasn’t an utter disaster. But there’s that bit of grief that hangs in the back of my head reminding me that I can’t tell my grandmother how my classes went and that she didn’t live to see me have a college classroom of my own, and that’s a kick in the gut.
Time has helped to dull the sharp edges of missing her, but I still think about her every day. Maybe I always will. Honestly, I don’t want to not think about her. I like hearing her laugh in my mind when I see something that I know she would find funny. I like imagining her sarcastic commentaries when I hear, or utter, a stupid comment. I like saying something and then stopping and thinking that she would say the exact same thing. I like remembering her.
But remembering doesn’t always feel so great. Her recent birthday was perhaps one of the hardest days as of late. There were no presents to wrap, no flowers to buy, no special cake to bake. Plus, I had to go to an orientation for work when all I wanted to do was stay home and wait for the day to end. Luckily, I had friends, who were unaware of the day’s import, who kept my mind occupied and who always had an errand to run and let me tag along, and that helped.
I guess that that’s one of the few (and I mean very few) upsides to losing someone you love—finding out how great friends can be. Some know that they’re helping you. I’ve had friends who have explicitly talked to me about the grieving process and who have comforted me. Others may be unaware of their kindnesses’ effects. Our culture emphasizes “passing it on” and the idea of feeling good by helping someone even if that other person doesn’t know your name, which is wonderful. However, just because you don’t know that you’re helping someone does not lessen an act’s impact. My friends didn’t know that they were helping me that day of orientation. Still, I have to believe that that kindness gives them as much good karma than if I were to flat out tell them that I was having a rough day and ask for their support.
This post is not meant to be depressing. I write this firstly because I know that there are others who have lost loved ones who feel like I do, and maybe they would like to know that they are not alone in their feelings. I know that it helped me when friends told me that I was not alone. Also, as the school year starts there will be new experiences that pop up. When they do, sometimes there will be an involuntary feeling of wanting to tell our loved ones about that experience. Yet, we can’t tell them, and, for me, my heart feels at least a twinge of grief and sadness each time this happens. So, if someone acts a little funny, seems a little down, or is quieter than usual, then maybe they’re feeling that painful twinge as well.
Lastly, I write this post as a reminder that sometimes kindness has more power than you know. So, while my message of “be nice to people” seems simplistic, it is, nevertheless, an important one. Your kindness, whether you are aware of it or not, can impact someone who you didn’t even know was dealing with sadness and hurt.