It has taken me a lifetime to understand the relationship between these two.
The first time I recall experiencing profound grief was in my 30s, when a dear friend moved away. The physical heartache I felt was new, and I wasn’t really sure what to call it. I ached for her company, not realizing I was grieving the loss of her presence in my life.
When my father died, I was in my 30s. The physical ache was almost unbearable, and I lacked the words to explain it to my three young children. There was an unfillable void in my life, and I wasn’t yet sure how to process it. My faith brought me comfort, but I still wandered through the physical feelings. It was the first time I understood the meaning of ‘heartache.’
Years later I lost my mother, and the pain returned in a more profound way. I don’t need to explain that pain to anyone who has lost their mother, and I can’t explain it to anyone who hasn’t. I muddled through the stages of mourning in a bit of a fog, accepting each one without really understanding it.
But it was when my husband was deployed for a year with the military that I gained the needed perspective on love and grief. One of my boys was crying because he missed his dad. I started to cry, too, and soon the four of us were huddled together, crying and comforting simultaneously. I remember the words clearly because they changed me. I commented that there are some families who wouldn’t be sad if their dad went away for a year. “Aren’t we lucky that we love each other so much that it hurts when we’re apart.”
For the first time I understood that the pain I had experienced before was grief.
It was then that I realized that love and grief are felt in equal measure.
Since that day I embrace grief. I am grateful that my life is so rich and full of love that the loss of something or someone hurts.
I remind myself that there are people who don’t feel that.
And I let the tears fall.