Good Grief - Part II: Accomplishment
Good Grief - Part I: The Background gave you some insight into where my grief comes from (and some other information). Part II is all about how I got here - to a place where I can celebrate birthdays, celebrate the life of who I mourn, and think more holistically about the issues in this world which contributed in large to the death I mourn more than any other I’ve known.
I started going to grief counseling in November 2012. I was at a point in my life in which my grief, depression, and overall negative mental state was negatively affecting my relationships and my work. As I went to each weekly session, I was given a “nugget” to think about, to reflect on, to meditate on, and to hopefully help me reach a better, more positive place mentally and emotionally. A few months in to one of these sessions, my (Jewish) counselor explained to me that in the Jewish faith, the members have a Hebrew saying that roughly translates to “May his/her memory be a blessing”. My counselor suggested that I begin to focus on ways in which the memory of my sister and the memories we shared could be blessings in my life, thus shifting the mental and emotional state away from a negative focus on death. She also suggested finding small things to do to recognize her birthday and holidays which paid “tribute” to her life, and exemplified, even if only to me, that Rachel is not forgotten or missed on these days.
I was slow to implement this at first, but not for lack of effort; more for lack of knowing what it looked like and how to accomplish it. It took time and it took a LOT of mental awareness. Slowly, though, with a steadily climbing mental awareness of finding the path to happiness when those “forks in the road” approached, I reached it. I realized IT IS ALL A CHOICE. It was then and it still is now. We all CHOOSE how we view EVERYTHING in life. We choose, when a song comes on that reminds us of going to see Incubus together, to either take the left fork and cry, and wipe away tears while trying not go to into a complete hysterical bawling fest, OR to take the right fork and TURN THAT JAM UP! Car dance and scream those lyrics as if she’s in the passenger’s seat singing right along with me, and give exactly zero fucks at what anyone else thinks who might be observing this complete disservice to Brandon Boyd and Incubus.
Earlier on in the implementation of this “good grief” way of thinking and way of life, I made the decision to get the Hebrew saying tattooed on me, somewhere I could see it daily and be reminded of what it meant to see the loss not as a loss, but as a separation, and to think of one (or two or three) happy memories of Rachel. That was the beginning of a major shift for me, like the beginning of a new life in some ways.
Rachel’s birthday is June 13th. In past years, I’ve gone to one of her favorite restaurants, eaten a nice dinner, and enjoyed her favorite dessert (key lime cheesecake with strawberries). In 2015, I went on her birthday and got the Hebrew phrase “May her memory be a blessing” tattooed on my left arm, along with a branch of cherry blossoms which Rachel had tattooed on her back. It’s literally a part of her, on me, along with that reminder to see the positive, to take the happy path, and to smile.
Part of the “good grief”, for me, is also finding ways to combat and survive the anniversary of the day Rachel passed - September 24th. For a few years, I escaped to Houston to spend the day with one of my best friends, but that simply isn’t feasible every year. Another year, I went to my older sister’s for the weekend and spent the day with family. Whatever I’ve done, I’ve made a conscious decision to spend the day with people who understand the grief, who understand the pain and sadness, but also who know how to make me smile and put me back on the path to happiness while simultaneously letting the tears roll, allowing the healthy release of emotion, and THEN wiping away the tears.
We all have our struggles, our inner-demons, and we’re all grieving something, whether it’s a person who has passed, a pet no longer with us, a relationship we had high hopes for which never came to be, or a career we didn’t pursue. Whatever your grief is, I hope you consider finding positive, healthy ways to cope with it. If you’ve found positive, healthy ways to gain that “good grief”, I hope you’ll share (if you’re comfortable) in the comments below and provide as ideas for those who haven’t yet reached this place.
Some of you may have heard the song “Good Grief” by the band Bastille. That’s admittedly where the title for these posts originated. The lyrics also have a much shorter way of describing the state of good grief I described here and touched upon in Part I. Some other artists whose songs take me to that state of good grief - Sublime, Led Zeppelin, Incubus, Matisyahu, and Slightly Stoopid. These were some of my sister’s favorite bands. Their songs are attached to memories we made together. The songs these artists have crafted bring a smile to my face every time I hear them. What brings on the happy memories of loved ones who’ve passed for you? A song? A butterfly? A cardinal? A particular episode of a show? I’d love to hear where you derive your good grief from. Until next time, enjoy some good grief!