Four and a half years ago, all I wanted were two things: the chance to have my Dad back (he died very suddenly, due to a massive heart attack) and a book or a magazine article or even something written on a napkin that said “I understand your grief. I’ve been where you are. I know you’re not crazy. You can get through this. You will get through this.”
And I went looking for that book: the manual or guidebook that was going to, at the very least, tell me what pitfalls to avoid on the days when I couldn’t stop crying, or what to do to “make my grief go away.” I needed something that could make me laugh. I needed somebody who could relate to my grief, and who wouldn’t judge me for the hot mess I had become in the months after my Dad’s passing.
And so I went to one of my favorite bookstores looking for some version of “The Crazy Person’s Guide to Grief: How To Resume the Normal Life You Used To Have.”
So I went to one of my favorite chain bookstores. (I really like independent bookstores, but this particular chain has a piece of my heart as I once worked there.)
And I proceeded to open one book after another on grief, thumbing through the pages. Looking for something that would make me laugh. Or that would help me feel less alone. Or that wouldn’t lecture me on how I should feel about grief. And I didn’t find what I was looking for.
So I began to toss aside the books that didn’t “make the cut” (mostly on the floor – don’t worry librarians and bookstore aficionados, I set them gently on the floor: I would never throw a book.) But what started as a pile of one or two books on the floor very quickly became a rather large pile of cast aside books on grief. Enough that three bookstore shelves were emptied. And then, from out of nowhere, the sweet little old lady who clearly worked at the bookstore came around the corner and caught me rather carelessly un-shelving her obviously very carefully shelved books.
I can’t replicate the look of horror mixed with terror and confusion on her face. But I’m positive she was about to call security.
“I used to work at (name of this bookstore chain.) I absolutely promise you that I am not crazy.” (Under the circumstances, I’m not at all convinced that she believed me, or that she thought I was in a good position to make that call for myself.) ”I absolutely promise you that in ten minutes, I will have all of these books back on the shelf, in perfect order. Please don’t call security. I know it must seem like I’m crazy. I promise you I’m not crazy. I know what I’m looking for. I’m not crazy.”
(Writer’s Note: If you have to assure someone three or more times in a row that you are not crazy, you may – in fact – be crazy. But, if you are not wallpapering your house with post it notes or pictures of cat memes or postage stamps or licking your own arms, you might still be at the point of “crazy yet salvageable.”)
I kept my promise, and the books were re-shelved.
But I left the bookstore empty handed.
Empty handed and empty.
And then a friend suggested that if I couldn’t find a good example of a book on what not to do while grieving, (because it makes other people nervous and uncomfortable, and it makes you feel like you’re crazy and all alone) perhaps I was the perfect candidate to write that manual. In retrospect, I’m not at all certain that having someone tell you that you are – in fact – just “crazy enough” to write a book on grief that could help others is a compliment. You be the judge.
And so – what I set out to read was what I ultimately wrote.
I didn’t want to feel crazy or unstable or tearful or fearful or all alone in my grief anymore. So I decided to share my story. So maybe – at the very least – someone else who felt just like I did could read it and not feel so alone.
I have only one goal: to get this book into the hands of as many people as we can, so that – through this story- everyone who has ever experienced a loss will know that they are not alone in grief. This story is being shared– the triumphs and tragedies – with anyone willing to listen, so that the grief in the lives of others might be lessened through knowing that there are other people who continue to live with grief, who continue to “fight the good fight” and who continue to prove that, while grief is something that is very real, it is something that will never beat us. And it will never beat you either.
Grief will not win. Flat out ugliness will not win. Love triumphs in the end. YOU will triumph in the end. (and, chances are, if you’re reading this, it’s for you!!)
Grief: it gets less awful.