Anyone who has read my blog for any length of time knows I am not a glass-half-full sort of person. Nor, to be honest, am I a glass-half-empty person. I’m more prosaic than either type, more realistic. The nature of a glass is to not remain at a halfway point. If the glass contains a drinkable beverage, you drink it and then refill the glass with the same or a different beverage, or you wash the glass and put it away. If the glass doesn’t contain a drinkable beverage, you toss out the contents and wash the glass or you toss out the whole thing — glass and contents. If you don’t drink the beverage, the glass still doesn’t remain half empty/half full. There is a thing called evaporation, which means that no matter what, the glass will empty itself.
Life, like the level of the contents in the glass, is in motion. A situation can seem bleak with no bright side at all, such as the death of a loved one, and while that situation never changes, you do. When Jeff died, I tried to tell myself that at least he wasn’t suffering anymore and though I suppose that is a realistic bright side, it didn’t help me at all in dealing with my grief. However, there does come a time — years later, perhaps — when a griever has to stop seeing only the bleakness of life and to try to find a brighter side.
In my case, it was the dance classes I started taking three-and-a-half years after Jeff died. Although I was still grieving for him, my grief wasn’t the only “side” in my life anymore. There was a brighter side, too, which helped light my way through the dark times.
I’ve never trusted people who only look at the bright side of things. It seems to me they are either delusional or indulging in dreams instead of reality. Besides, without dark, there is no light. There was an artist who found fame as a painter of light, but if you were to study his paintings piece by piece (as in a jigsaw puzzle) you will see that most of the painting is dark; the darkness is what makes the light so bright.
I do think it’s possible, because of one’s situation, one’s temperament, or one’s mental frame of mind, that it becomes habit to only look on the dark side. (Which means, I suppose, that for some people, looking only on the bright side is also possible.) If only the dark is apparent, it’s a good idea to try to see the bright side of things. In the case of grief, it’s more than okay to indulge in the bleakness because that’s how we learn to cope with life without our loved one. However, as the years pass, it’s okay to start seeing the bright side of other things.
Although I am still aware of the bleakness of Jeff’s being gone, I have looked for a bright side and in fact, looking for any brightness in my life was how I found myself in a new way of being. It wasn’t that I tried to find a bright side to his being gone — there simply is no bright side. It’s that I tried to find a bright side to my still being here. And there is much brightness in my life now — a house, a home, a garden, flowers, a lawn, friends, neighbors, a compatible town, a nearby library — so much so that I no longer need to find the brightness. It finds me.
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.