I'm really slow sometimes.
I've come to realize in the past week or so how strongly my reaction to grieving issues intertwines with the times I've grieved in the past, and my experiences of grieving.
Shortly after my father's death, I got angry with the way a well-meaning neighbor handled something. My father died a couple weeks before my birthday, and I went to the family home along with my sibling, and stayed for a while, almost until my birthday. The neighbor, in a totally well-meaning way, decided that she needed to make a birthday party for me before I left, complete with cake and such. I think I told her that I'd rather not celebrate my birthday there and then. But maybe I didn't tell her. At any rate, she went ahead with the party plans.
And at the party, she made a big point about how now my birthday and my Dad's new birthday could be celebrated together. Now, for her, a Christian, maybe that seemed like a perfectly cheerful idea, but it didn't do much for me.
I tried not to reveal my anger because making a big deal would have upset and hurt other people needlessly. So I hope she never knew how upset I was. As happens, my anger diminished greatly over time. It's not something worth focusing on, really, and I didn't. It hasn't ruined my birthday practices since nor my otherwise happy relationship with my former neighbor.
But in the past week or so of long walks and conversations, I couldn't help thinking about my neighbor. And even though it wasn't pleasant, she taught me an invaluable lesson by throwing me that birthday party, a lesson I hope I'll keep as long as I have need. It wasn't the Christian lesson I think she hoped to teach me, but it's my lesson. And recognizing the lesson has helped me put my anger fully aside.
The stupid thing is, I should have been smart enough to see the lesson long ago, but only lately have I been observing grief in quite this way, inside and out, seeing how differently people deal with their loss and how many conflicts and hurts they can cause by not being open to the differences. There's more than one way to grieve. That's the lesson.