Grief, Relief and the Messy Middle Ground

There is nothing new that I can say about grieving. And others have spoken and written about it in much more profound ways than I ever could.

But we’ve all been there before. And I’m there now.

I recently found out that a dear friend of 24 years passed away unexpectedly. The last time I saw her was right before Thanksgiving of last year. We drank coffee and solved all the world’s problems.  She had fought cancer valiantly. Her gorgeous green eyes were bright, and her sense of snark was in fine form. She had plans to start hiking again and create more of her amazing handcrafted jewelry.

I try to focus on gratitude for the years we had together. But admittedly, I am selfishly sad that the number in my phone (which I can’t bring myself to delete) won’t be picked up by her anymore.

I know that she will always be in my heart. But right now, I would much rather have her sitting in my living room.

I find myself foraging for any physical thing that will bring her close to me. I’m wearing the beautiful silver bracelet she made me 24/7. I’ve pulled photos off of her Facebook page in case it is taken down at some point. I’ve destroyed my closet looking for old snapshots of us taken back in our massage therapy school days (she made a career of it, me…not so much).

I visited her favorite hiking trail where her ashes are scattered in a bold, beautifully defiant Z pattern.

I whispered words that weren’t nearly enough and prayed that somehow she would hear them.

When I left the trail, I felt some peace for having paid my respects. But I knew that this was only the beginning of a process that can’t be rushed. Serenity will be interrupted by sobbing. Memories will be alternately happy and heartbreaking.

The grief pendulum is in full swing.

And part of that (at least for me) is ping-ponging between caring about nothing…and then everything. One minute almost every single thing I do seems trivial and ridiculous. The next, I’m awash in appreciation for the fact that I can breathe and walk across the room without pain or issue.

I also find myself invoking the “Five by Five Rule” a lot more often.

If it’s not gonna matter in five years, don’t spend more than five minutes being upset by it.

It’s useless to incubate an ulcer over whether I underwhelmed someone with my prose or over-emojied in a work-related email. Because five years (more likely five minutes) down the road, no one will remember my supposedly egregious gaffes. I wish I’d known about this rule in my younger days, but I don’t think I’d have been able to apply it. Back then, every weird look or disapproving tone was fodder for obsession and self-critiquing for days on end.

Now I know there isn’t time for that sh*t. Literally.

And I’m thankful for that perspective, even as I miss my friend deeply.

I’m nowhere near the “relief” part of the equation. And my middle ground is a chaotic jumble of emotions.

But I know my sense of balance will return (it always does). Until then, I will use this period to reflect and recommit to the only thing that is truly eternal: the love we give and receive.

Corinne Marguerite (Geerling) Bixby
August 31, 1941 – March 29, 2018

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