The Duality of Grief

Most of you have probably seen my Facebook posts on a recent horrible loss we had in my family. My cousin, Brad was more like a brother than a cousin. He and his sisters and me and my brother have always been very close. We have seen them at almost every cookout, and we get together around Christmas and Thanksgiving whenever possible. Brad was one of those people in my life that was just always there. Now that he's gone--a fact that is still sinking in, and not being very nice about it--I think the most difficult times will come from feeling his notable absence.

Whenever someone is taken from us unexpectedly, dealing with it is so hard. Yesterday at his funeral, I experienced a specific brand of epic, difficult, weighted sadness. The kind that hangs there and you can't unload it, so you haul it around with you. Yet at the same time, I experienced so much love from friends and family. We cried on each other's shoulders and said "I love you" over and over and over again. I got to thinking about grief and how it has two sides. Everyone has experienced this, right? The way you can cry in one moment and laugh in the next. The way you can lose someone who meant much to you that you have a hole in your chest, but at the same time, feel a special tie and connection to someone else because they lost him, too.

There is still laughter in tears and there is still joy while you experience grief. I think this is one of those tools God gave us so that we wouldn't be completely insane while we are mourning those who are gone. I'm not saying this transition has been easy. Grief has stages (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance) and none of us get out of going through them. We transition through, and sometimes back through, them. Sometimes quickly, sometimes for way too long.

My sister-in-law lost her husband in an accident several years ago. He was young and both their children were very young. Her loss was a big one, so when she offered her insight, I sat up and listened. She said the most profound thing: that everyone thinks grieving is an action, but it's not. Grief is a state of being you're in whether you're crying or smiling, sleeping or working. Hearing that helped me understand how you can be at once filled with joy and devastated.

Brad, my sweet cousin. I will miss you forever. I will miss your smiling face, and your silly antics, and I will miss the way you inhaled food like it was a sport. I'll miss you showing up and sharing a beer with John and me. I'll miss your hugs. I'll miss your dance moves. I will miss you at Christmas and at Easter and whenever there was a cookout at my mom's house. I'll just miss you, dammit. Everything about you. I love you. Jess

***Thank you for your prayers and love during this difficult time. It's so hard to express the gratitude for those of you who have lifted my family up, and some of you, I've never even met.