Grief and Kindness

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.

Sometimes, you just need to have some friends flying by your side. Photo By: Elizabeth Preston
Sometimes, you just need to have some friends flying by your side or maybe even in front of you for a while.
Photo By: Elizabeth Preston

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.


14 thoughts on “Grief and Kindness

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  1. Wonderful post. It is hard to comment without sounding trite or cliché but I will anyway. I am so sorry for your loss. I read somewhere once that grief is like a sleeping dragon. You will think you are doing better and than it will wake up and scorch you to your very soul. I have found this to be true. It has been many years and the dragon stirs and rumbles now and then. Peace to you.

  2. Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. Plato (the old one…) (Though the author is hotly disputed.) Your point is well taken. Nice post.

  3. Elizabeth – I’m sure you will always miss your Grandmother. I’m also sure that you will always remember the experiences and cherish the memories you have of her. In time it will be comforting to have her pop into your thoughts. She will always be with you, watching over you, gently guiding you through your life. I believe you will do remarkable things with your life and Grandma will be there watching it all – smiling brightly and cheering you on just as before. You go girl. XOXO – Linda

  4. Thank you for your kind words and for reading. I definitely look forward to the day when the dragon stirs and rumbles instead of having conniption fits.

  5. Thank you for your kind words, Linda. You have been so supportive and have continually helped me with grieving from the very start. Who knew that antique oil lamps could have such benefits? Haha! I hope that you’re right. I would like to think that she’s nudging me in some direction or another every now and again, or maybe she can glance down and be happy with what she sees. Thank you for your vote of confidence. I hope that I can live a life that is worthy of who she was and live in such a way that would make her proud. Thanks again for your kindness and support. ❤

  6. I can tell you to do the grieving now. Don’t put it off thinking it will be easier later on. My father died when I was 16; my mother two years later. I put off thinking about it for 35 years. When I did decide I needed to get it out, it was like it happened that day. I carried it around all those years and there’s no telling how that influenced much of my life. I’m sure it wasn’t for the good.

  7. I’m so sorry, Rob. That’s terrible. Honestly, I’m not really sure how someone could even deal with such tragedy. The fact that you are where you are and that you’re extremely successful is a testament to your character.

  8. I know this is an older post but I stopped by your blog because I haven’t seen you show up in my reader in awhile. It’s really quite beautiful the way you express how grief creeps in and the friends that support you, knowingly and unknowingly. We all need people in our life and I’m glad you have some to help you through this difficult time. Hopefully the pain has eased a bit but as I’m sure you know it never really goes away. It does soften though with time and as the good memories of lost loved ones shine brighter. Hope things are ok with you. 🙂

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