Blood is fascinating.
It’s so full of life, so critical to every breath and step; a powerful, perpetual flood, flowing just there beneath the surface of our skin. It’s a force that we’re largely quite oblivious to as well, even as it’s part of us, even as it sustains us.
In fact, we don’t think much about our blood until something breaks the flesh and we realize just how close we are to it all. Some times it takes so little to bring it rushing to the surface, and then the challenge is to stop it before it does too much damage.
Grief is this way.
It’s hidden, just there below the visible stuff of life.
Some days, we who’ve lost someone we love are quite unaware it’s still there at all.
We forget the river raging underneath.
Sometimes for stretches of hours or even days or weeks, we move and plan and laugh and play with our kids and go to restaurants and mow the lawn and fold laundry and Tweet our dessert photos and everything feels normal—and then it happens, a pin prick, and a wound opens.
The stuff that breaks the surface and triggers the flood of sadness and memory in the wake of loss is confoundingly random; often so innocuous that it seems ridiculous; that is, until the abrasion.
The most mundane, trivial things can derail you in The Grief Valley, much like that split-second slip of your finger opening a can or the sudden misstep walking in the garden that can cut the skin, turning an ordinary moment into Triage duty.
Here, ten months after my father’s passing, I find (among a million other places) that solitary trips to a local grocery store do this for me. For no reason that makes any real sense, I often find myself pushing back tears in the breakfast cereal aisle or the produce section. (Awkward for the clerks, I’m sure).
And as silly as is sounds, it’s the place where I grieve fully. It’s the place where I so often bleed and bandage and where I again face the hidden flood.
There is no rhyme or reason to things that reopen the wounds for any of us.
There is no sense to the hemorrhage of Grief.
It simply comes when it chooses, and it makes you bleed.
Over time, you learn to accept that the stuff beneath the surface just isn’t going away—ever. You may develop thicker skin or you may be less apt to break as often as before, but the flood is still there below; of sweet memories and wasted words and missed opportunities and lost tomorrows.
I think walking through this valley for the past 10 months has helped me realize just how much is happening right below the surface for all of us.
I don’t just see people now. I try to see into them.
I know that there is more than they show and more than their surface skin reveals. I know that at any moment they may be bleeding and they may need bandaging.
Look around for those in your path who may be walking wounded and who simply aren’t showing it.
See deeper than skin.
If you’re navigating your own loss these days, be aware of the river of grief beneath your own flesh, and make peace with the fact that it won’t stay hidden forever.
Don’t be afraid to bleed.