Alzheimer's, Family, Spiritual Direction

Grieving? Groovy. Five Things to Remember While You Lament

Don’t you think the word “grieving” is onomatopoetic? What-a-word.


GRRRREEEEIIIIIVVVVVIIIIINNNNGGGGGGGG. I mean just grab a box of tissues (or a hand towel), take a seat on the couch with your favorite blanky, hot tea, and just start saying that word. You’ll be sobbing before the i-n-g.

I’ve decided to dissect what I have been learning about this Ne’er-Do-Well. And what can, perhaps, help to wrangle this Wile E. Coyote. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far.

1. You have to know you are grieving.

My mother, (Grandmother), but yes mother, has dementia. The Alzheimer’s kind. The degenerative wasteland of the brain shrinkage kind. It absolutely bleepin’ sucks raw granite boulders. I had noooo idea just how much it was gonna suck until long past the sucking sucked long.

There is a hashtag on Instagram: #AlzheimersSucks. I refused to use it because I thought it was tasteless.

I’m over that now.

Because, Friends, you guessed it: #AlzheimersSucks. The only thing more tasteless would be to add a four letter word in the middle of the phrase but I’ll let others have that honor. None shall be judged.

Back to Mom.

You have to know you are grieving. Back before the diagnosis, before the move into the elderly care facility specialized for ALZ residents, before memorizing the code to the front door of the facility, even before we moved her stuff out of her own home… I was crying into hand towels in the bathroom.

But I didn’t know that was grief.

I just thought I was sad. <sad yet shallow emoji here>.

But the sad didn’t go away. It got more intense. More towels. (Puffs can’t keep up.)

Sometimes others have to tell you what you are actually going through. Makes sense. Because you are too busy going through it. For instance my mother, sorry, my actual mother, who was Mom’s caretaker for 4 years, felt guilty that perhaps she could have done more. If she’d done X or Y then Z would not have happened. In this case my mother would not have gotten so “bad” and we wouldn’t have had to put her in the home.

I told her she wasn’t that powerful. Yes, even she had to be told she could not leap tall buildings in a single bound.

So in the same vein I had to be told I was grieving. It got so much easier after that. A light bulb went on. “Oh, that’s what this is.” Oh, ok. Regroup. Permission to…

Full grief ahead!

So, once you know. Dig in and let it flow. So grieve. GRRREEIIIIIVVVVVEEE.

2. Eliminate what is of no consequence at this time.

There’s only so much an emotionally wrecked body can handle. So returning that call or email, cleaning up that mess, or well, you know, finishing your life’s work, may have to be put on the back burner. Why?


(Make sure the hand towels are machine washable.)

Also, you are not superhuman. (No. You’re. Not.) When you work hard to hide your grieving by putting on that bright yellow cardboard happy face for the world to see, two things happen:

– You self-destruct at some point. Guts everywhere. Terrible clean up. Don’t do that to your friends.

– You look like you are wearing a bright yellow cardboard happy face. And everyone can see through it. So it won’t work anyway. Best to just go with authenticity. Ok, sometimes “happy” is what is necessary for the moment or activity. For instance, you just can’t bring your grief to your best friends baby shower. Ya just can’t. But who’s to say a butterfly sitting on a flower, mildly smiling, isn’t happy? You don’t have to be a laughing Buddha.

-If you’re hanging around folks who need you to constantly make them feel better about the fact (that they are trying to ignore) that you are grieving, then read the title of #2 again.

3. Grief lasts as LONG AS IT LASTS.

If you are at all like me you’ll want your grief to comply with your super-extroverted-born-to-be-a-cheerleader-for-the-world timeline. Well, Darlin’, get ready for the bitch slap of your life. Grief stops for no one. Grief is the steam roller in the winter of life flattening all snowpeeps in its path. There are no road forks.

What do you do? Nothing. Grieve. And get over the “when is this going to be over” lament. Or, ok, lament that too. Because grief lasts as long as it lasts.

4. On top of all that –  be prepared for things to change!

I know this one may seem obvious but you’d be amazed at all of the things you would think you’d expect (on paper) but that you do not expect at all. For instance, you may lose friends. You may dump friends. You might move. You might feel the need to cut your hair and dye it black, pierce thy nose and get tatted up the arms. (I would really, really urge you to reconsider this until such a time as you are no longer grieving. See #3.) Hey, you might lose your job! You might get a new job. You might find that you really like doing nothing. But that you need food in the fridge. So you will do the most minimal you must (get dressed, make money, go home, lie on couch, repeat) to get said food in the fridge. You might begin to ponder your place in the world and drop everything for a trip to a new country where you will leave it all behind while you let those who have much less than you and suffered much more teach you a thing or two.

Be prepared for change. No, scratch that. You are in no place to prepare for anything.

Just don’t be surprised.

5. It feels like it’s all about you. But it’s not.

Grief can be a selfish act. All those feeeelings. I don’t mean to sound cruel. I mean to sound matter-of-fact. It’s a selfish act to grieve but an act of charity too. We grieve loss of that ONE. Let it be known throughout the land that you made a difference in my life! Let it be sung from the mountaintops that life will never be the same again! Let the world stop! I want to get off!

And just be.


And “be” some more.

And that’s the selfish part. I’m not here to say it’s undeserved. And for whatever reason you may grieve, your time of echo in the canyon is well deserved. And whatever or whomever you grieve deserves that time too.

That’s why funerals.

Funerals are awful aren’t they. Some don’t go. Some don’t believe in them. But funerals are a necessary ritual for all concerned. Where we all come together to say I KNEW YOU! I LOVED YOU! YOU MEANT SOMETHING TO THIS WORLD! You get your very own bookend on earth.

And humans needs beginnings, middles and ends. It’s all well and good to get all spiritual with your ramalamadingdongs and say “you ok” because Fred’s “moved on” and is “in a better place” and “part of the light.”

Whoo hoo Fred!

But you have to stay here. And you need to give Fred his due for your sake too. Even if you didn’t like Fred so much. Maybe especially if you didn’t like Fred so much! If not, why, at the very least, do you find yourself toasting to Fred at the bar shortly after that funeral (you never had) for Fred?

Because you need to mark his time here on earth. You know what’s wonderful about Fred, too? He’s code. For anything you need him to be.

Good ole Fred.

So yes, Grieving is for all concerned. It is an act of deserved selfishness and an act of charity for the Griever and the Grievee. (I really wish that could somehow turn out to be The Griever and the “Groovy”.)

Oh My Lord! Can the thing or person I am grieving be called a Groovy for such a time as this?

Can that please be a thing?!!!

It could work.

It would make this just a tiny bit easier. Because, you know.

So there you have it. The top 5 things that you can remember while you are grieving that won’t help you at all because grieving is totally personal and idiosyncratic. Yep, you are that unique. But still. You are not alone. So keep the list handy.

And the next time you find yourself in this awful period of lament you can say something like:

“Mom I am Greiiiivvvvinggg. Because you are a super Groovy.”

Worth every single towel.

And every single tear.