When I was out weeding earlier, it dawned on me that grief and gardening have something in common. With gardening, you have to concentrate solely on what is within arm’s reach. If you think of the whole yard as a single entity, you’d never get anything done because the totality of the work involved is immense, more than one mind can hold. So the only way to get a yard or garden the way you want is to do what you can when you can and hope that someday the whole will be worth it.
That’s pretty much the same as grief, though with grief, you also have to deal with a whole lot of pain and trauma and sorrow. The totality of the loss and the pain is beyond the comprehension of most of us, so all we can do is concentrate on each day, each hour, sometimes even each minute. As with a garden, you can only hope that there is something at the end of all the grief work you’re doing that will be worth it.
Nothing, of course, will ever be commensurate with the death of that one person who was intrinsic to your life, but there needs to be the hope that someday, somehow, you will find a new way of being — of being you alone, not you as half of a couple.
It’s a long time coming, that hope. For years, most of us can’t even imagine having any sort of hope, and yet we get up each day, survive each minute the best we can, deal with all the tasks that can’t be put off. That all of this is accompanied by tears or anger or screaming or any of the other ways we have of dealing with the pain and stress of grief doesn’t mitigate the hope that getting up each day signifies. Even if we don’t feel hopeful, the mere act of living shows hope. A rather despairing sort of hope, to be sure, but hope nonetheless.
It’s only in retrospect that I can see the bigger picture of grief. For a very long time, all I had were the small increments, though over the years, the increments did expand from seconds and minutes to hours and days, and finally to years. And now I am in a place where I have a house and yard and garden and thoughts of bigger pictures.
I can’t say that that all the grief work was worth it to get me here because while the work of a garden might be worth it, “worth it” is meaningless when it comes to grief. Once I lived a shared life and now I don’t. In the end, after years of pain and sorrow and grief, that might be all it comes down to.
But I am here. And I am surviving on my own. That has to mean something.
Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator