Grief on top of grief

“Grief on top of grief”

That’s how my therapist described what I’m feeling right now.

I had spent the early part of this week mentally and spiritually preparing myself for the anniversary of my friend Harold’s death. Harold was a seminary friend who succumbed to cancer last year. I sat with him several time during and after treatments. I watched him wither away. He continued to encourage me, even as his own life was fading. It was hard to watch this big personality become something small and frail. Harold’s death knocked the wind out of me last winter and I was planning on spending this anniversary, quietly, away from the world, in reflection.

Then on Wednesday, I got the message that Liz had died.

Liz and I were incredibly close during our senior year of college and freshman year of high school. Her dad was my pastor throughout junior and senior high and it was he who told me of his daughter’s passing. Not only am I dealing with the loss of my friend, but the hurt of seeing a mentor grieve and not really knowing how to be there for him other than to literally be there, which I will tomorrow.

Liz, I should mention, is the second person from my graduating class to pass away this week. What the entire hell???

When I described my relationship with Liz to my therapist, she called her my “joy person”. I probably have several of those, but it was an accurate description. Whether it was writing, Star Wars, or pro wrestling, Liz was the person I could talk to about whatever I was into at the moment and she almost always had the same amount of enthusiasm for it as I did. Years after high school, when Facebook reunited us, I discovered that she had married another friend from high school who owned a family farm. As adults, we were able to share our love of growing things. She never let me romanticize about making a living as a farmer. She let me know how hard she and her husband worked. At the same time, she encouraged my green thumb and it always felt a little extra special to get a “like” from her on something I posted related to my garden.

Harold left behind a wife and three boys. Liz leaves behind a husband and two boys, slightly older than my oldest. I’m trying not to center my own grief, knowing that there are people hurting more than I am.

I don’t grieve well. I’m not a crier. Right now, I wish that I were. Crying would feel like a huge release.

I’m heartbroken. There is part of me that feels like I’m too young to be burying friends. I know that isn’t based in reality and I know that as I get older this will only become more common, but damn.

I don’t know what else to write. I’m overwhelmed. I was already having a kinda rough week and then I got blindsided by waves of emotions. You all know how I hate to feel things! Tomorrow I will go to Pittsburgh and say “goodbye” to my friend. And I will set aside a little space to remember my other friend. And I will not beat myself up for “grieving wrong”.

I am sad. One of the first sentences that I ever learned to write and yet it is as profoundly true now as when I was first learning my letters.

I am sad.

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