Today is my best friend’s birthday. And this past summer, I lost her to cancer and the great beyond, at the same time that my new husband left me because eight months after getting married, he told me he was “done trying” and he could “never be the person” he thinks I “wanted him to be.”
Neither of these things make any sense to me at all. And the grief I am feeling is bewildering and harsh.
This grief is totally different from any other sadness or depression I have felt before. I don’t know if it’s the combination of the two things at once, or if it is simply that the death of a person so close to me is uniquely intense.
The end of the marriage is ridiculous and embarrassing and I am simply trying to get as far away from the act of giving this man everything I had, as possible. My sense is that he was never “all in” at all. So, I just practice self-care, and coach my kids and myself at the same time, about endings and how we keep going still, and about knowing our own value, and about sorrow for ideas that never come to fruition.
Sadness about the loss of something you never really had to begin with, is very different from sadness about the loss of something that was like a rock in your life. Everything else swirled around it, because it was solid. And now it’s gone. And there is nothing else to take its place.
Carrie was my best friend since the summer I turned 18 years old, and we were supposed to do so many things together, in the future, that we will never do now. She was a constant source of true companionship, and real love. We talked about how we felt like sisters, and about how much we shared, and trusted each other, over the years. I never ended a conversation with her without saying I loved her, for the last 30 years of my life.
She was the person I called and talked to about every little thing. She knew me better than anyone else in the world. And at the same time, she was the life of the party, the best dancer, the best listener, and the most sensitive person in conversation, to every little nuance. She really was my rock. There will never be another Carrie for me. I get up thinking about her, and talking with her, in my heart. And I go to bed thinking about her, and talking with her in my heart. But I don’t know how to make this grief get lighter. It can’t be this heavy all the time. I need to find a way to make it lighter, in my life.
So, that is where this garden idea comes in. Carrie had a garden that she loved. And I have never been a gardener, but I love the idea. My neighbor and friend, Susan, makes “Memorial Gardens.” They are for people who are traveling through the loss of a loved one. And my neighbor is making one for me to have a place to feel the sadness. A place to sit and be “in grief.” A place to remember the joy of being friends with Carrie, and the great gift it really was, to the first half of my life. I am so thankful that I had her in my life. I was so lucky. Anyone who knew her was lucky.
I am learning about grief, and how to let is flow around me, and how to try to sit quietly with it, and to not be too demanding that this thing called grief, do what I want it to do. It will travel, and flow, and I can sit quietly in my little Zen garden, where the rocks and the sand and the tree parts all make a meandering gentle place to be still, and I can remember and slowly feel the waves of sadness, and see how it will become lighter, over time. And it will not be something that feels like a terrible secret that I am carrying forever.
I think partly, grief from the loss of a loved one is hard because as a society we don’t have a lot of place for it. Either physical or temporally. You have the funeral or the memorial event, and then you are supposed to be done and get on with your life. But I am not done. That was only four months ago and I am not nearly done. I am basically just getting started.
With my grief garden now, I have a place where every day, I can come out and sit for a little bit and know that it is okay to be sad, and to miss her. And I can think about how I was so lucky to have her as a friend.
I share this with you, on her birthday, hoping that anyone else who might be traveling the path of grief, will know that someone else understands how difficult this kind of grief can be, and I am sharing it to give hope. Hope that you might also find a quiet place to sit regularly, so that you have a place to put your heavy load down for a bit and notice and appreciate the goodness that is at the root of this grief. Because, it truly would not feel so heavy, if it wasn’t deeply rooted in true relationship that mattered, and now still does matter, just in a different way.