Grieving The Living

people walking away

I wrote this piece two years ago. After a conversation with a close friend this weekend, it reminded me that many of us, for a myriad of reasons and in many ways, grieve the living…

I learned yesterday afternoon my grandfather died. 

Grief is complex and complicated. The death of my Grandpa is going to take some time to work through and process. He was a wonderful man, my hero. Yet, I can’t really say, “I will miss him” because I’ve missed him for over five years now. Some would say his soul left his body yesterday. I know his body and spirit left me more than five years ago when I came out as LGBTQ+. That’s when the loss of my grandpa first occurred and my grieving first began.

I grieve many who are still living. Those who have chosen to ban me from their lives for what they claim are my “lifestyle choices.” They look at who I love, shake their heads, and turn their backs – making their own “lifestyle choices.” In an instant what was is gone. The relationship has forever shifted and the connection permanently severed. But, one still hopes, even prays, for the possibilities. One still clings to the potential promise of reconciliation and reconnection. And in the midst of the fallout, in the mire of the mess, one begins the slow and steady journey of grief. 

Those of us who grieve the living learn to live fully in memories of the past – even if for only moments of time. We hold firmly in our grasp the glimpses of joy and laughter we had with those who have left us. Like anyone who grieves the dead, we lament the loss of what could have been and the hope of things that were yet to be. 

And yet, there is another layer of heartbreak when you grieve the living – the fact that the one you love is, in fact, living. The knowledge that they are here, breathing, walking, doing, loving, and living alongside others – and not you – is its own special type of suffering. Knowing the family Christmas party is happening without you. The realization that they are in the same store and have rushed to another aisle. Walking into a room and seeing them run out. Hearing the disdain and distance in their voice when you do find yourself face to face and attempt a conversation all brings its own complex and undeniable grief.

Grieving the living is hard – and it’s necessary because in grieving the living, I am reminded that I am living. I am living my truth. I am living my life in authenticity with integrity and honesty. No longer am I sacrificing who God made me to be at the altar of others’ comfort and understanding of God. The grief I hold for the living is simply a product of life – my life – my true, authentic, beautiful, amazing life! 

And so, I grieve. I grieve the living. The ones who have made their own choices. The ones I can not control, confront, or comfort. I mourn the loss of what was and what might have been. I lament the lack of understanding, grace, and acceptance. I pray for peace. I hold onto hope. And I give thanks – thanks for what was. Thanks for what still could be. And above all, I give thanks for my life. My one true life. 

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