Wallow or Grow
Woe is Me Has No Place Here
I’ve always been comfortable with grief. I suppose that isn’t an unexpected result of going to my first funeral for a friend at the age of 10. There is so much grief surrounding those in my life right now. The loss of siblings, best friends, parents, children… it seems that the world is grieving, which has me reflecting on my own experiences of grief of many types.
Most people expect to grieve at some time or another. There is no cure for mortality, so everyone experiences the death of a loved one. Some of these loved ones are gone too soon, left on bad terms, fill us with regrets. This is not the grief I want to talk about. There’s another kind of grief that has been more prevalent in my life - the grief I feel for dreams lost or dreams delayed.
I guess this is where I should wax poetic about all of the things I’ve learned from the way CVID has altered my life. There are those things, but this post is not about those things. This post is about how I feel about the innumerable things I’ve lost.
When you’re a young kid, you believe that you really can do anything you set your mind to. You believe that love conquers all. You remain convinced that the good guys will win in the end, because karma/God/the universe will even things out. The type of grief I’m talking about is the kind that sneaks in when you realize that these things aren’t necessarily true. Not every dream of every person comes true, sometimes in spite of their hard work and ambition. Sometimes, you’re not the right person in the right place at the right time.
The life we wind up making is when we make a choice. Will we wallow or grow? I choose to grow, but there is a time of mourning and grief before that growth can happen. But how do you grieve something you never had, even though you’ve always wanted it? How do you explain that grief to someone who seems to have everything you’ve ever wanted?
I suppose this could come across as jealousy that masquerades as grief, but it’s so much deeper than wanting what someone else has or wanting what you think you should have. It’s feeling that inescapable feeling that you were supposed to be someone else. You mourn the life of that person. The person you imagine that a better you might have been.
The trick to growth for me was the realization that I don’t have to explain or justify feeling loss because of my disease. You can’t control how you feel. You can, however, control how you react to those negative feelings. That’s when you grow. When you embrace the feelings that come, find a trusted confidante (or preferably more than one) to talk to when things are too hard. The kind of people who understand that they won’t convince you not to feel the way you do and who won’t judge you too harshly for your feelings. Those people are the ones who inspire your growth because they chose to show up.
Even with a great community of support, there are still days when it gets to be too much. When I see people who seem to have a much easier time, but I can’t seem to catch a break. I don’t think this is abnormal even for the healthiest among us. Do I still feel like I’m absurdly fortunate? Absolutely. Does that make it easier to struggle or see what friends with CVID go through on a regular basis? No.
It also doesn’t change the fear that the bottom will fall out of my life with one illness, one misfortune, one more diagnosis. I’ve had that happen before, when you have to hit bottom and find a new floor for what is the new normal. I’ve seen some pretty low valleys. I’ve actually seen periods of improvement, too. Who knows what person I would be without this disease, for better or for worse? Today, because I’m feeling pretty crappy, my thoughts wander inevitably to what and who I’ve lost to this disease. I have had little choice in what has happened to me, but I choose to take ownership of what I can and to make this life one I can love. I choose to grow.