A few winters ago, I stumbled into a grief group sponsored by a hospital in my neighborhood. I had just lost Daddy and in the quagmire of sadness, snow on my shoes, I decided it couldn’t hurt to gather with other grievers. And it didn’t hurt, but it did. It hurt to listen to the young man in the circle on my right talk about his father’s horrible traffic accident the day before; it hurt when the trio of hurters said they were all there mourning the same wonderful aunt, her peach pie still warm on the stove; it hurt when I felt the air conditioner against my skin and because what I most needed was realness, it hurt when someone pressed play on a pre recorded meditation. It all hurt so much that I failed to reach the hot-pink, I-miss-Daddy-so-much pain spot coiled deep inside my heart. I never went back. That’s my problem, right? But it’s also the problem with grief groups. I haven’t been to many but what I’ve found is that, for me, one-on-one counseling works far better. When I am cobwebbed in grief, I am selfish. I am ugly. I am inhospitable. I am not wearing deodorant. I am pissed. I am not always willing to share my feelings with a roomful of snotty-faced mourners AND this particular program requires a multiple-week commitment. Well, I never know from Tuesday to Sunday which Gayle I’ll be, so I tend to stay home just in case I want to smack the first person I see with a fly swatter. A very big fly swatter. It’s hard to get around the one-size-fits-all thinking of grief groups; sometimes it’s all about convenience:”Freda, is room 2 available? Just put the grievers in there since there’s enough chairs and the light’s pretty good. They’ll be aight.” But what if we aren’t? What if the light’s poor? What if I’m sitting there, tears soaking the front of my blouse, comparing my grief to his grief? What if I don’t measure up to the happy woman who has finally made peace with Uncle Curtis’ death and is ready to move on? What if the only moving I did that day was getting to my car and making it to the meeting? What if I hate the facilitator’s hair or the color of the back wall? I’m a mess and so is grief. We’re both funky and petty, slippery and sometimes judgmental. Often it feels like grief keeps score (her grief is her grief and my grief is my grief and his grief). Sometimes the room is too cold or too hot and the chairs are rusty. Sometimes I want to throw the tissue box instead of passing it because my father just passed and I’m hating that word. Sometimes I’m just a butthole with a nametag stuck to my shirt. Hiding the tears.
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