Grief and celebration are two sides of same coin

Grief and celebration are two sides of same coin.

Not keeping a promise is a serious error, and I didn’t keep my promise.

I promised my friend — well, actually we promised each other — that if anything happened to either of us, we would quickly get over to the other’s house and throw out all the food that was past its “best by” date. The reason was simple.

We didn’t want our children finding out we still had ketchup from 2013 and a can of soup from 2008. Children’s judgment is the worst. We would laugh about this and promise each other.

We also talked about cleaning our basements, but no matter how good a friend you are, that is a promise we didn’t expect anyone to make. Dumpsters and many trips to St. Vincent’s would have to wait for a group of willing participants.

I couldn’t keep my promise because the tragedy struck when we least expected it. I guess that is how tragedies work. There was wash in the washing machine; outdated food items just didn’t seem important anymore. No one would judge or care.

Experiencing loss is the price we pay for growing close to people on this journey we call life. Family and friends go with us on this path and we share and support and laugh and cry, all the while knowing nothing and no one is permanent. We don’t live forever and somebody is going to be left to grieve.

We can’t imagine a world without the people who we hold dear, without those we love fiercely, even without those we have gotten to know peripherally or work with or been on a committee with. They always have been there and then one day they are not.

That’s when it’s no longer about imagining, its about experiencing the grief and sorrow and pain. We lose a little piece of ourselves when we suddenly find out someone has been taken. We feel an absence, an emptiness, an imbalance in the universe as we knew it.

This happens more than we could have imagined when we live in smaller communities for a long time. We get to know and like so many of our neighbors that they all become friends. Our paths cross; we know their children and even their grandchildren. There is a connectedness in the support, whether it is cheering on the sports teams or raising money for a community cause.

When someone is missing, we notice. We experience loss. Some people move away, and we feel that and are sad, but they have moved on and we are happy for them. Others did not make that choice. Their absence is devastating.

There is something that can help. It cannot stop the tears, or erase the experiences, but it can put a new light on coping and moving through life. We have two selves. The experiencing self and the remembering self. The experiencing self knows the present moment. Those things that happen around us and cause us great anxiety, stress, sadness, grief.

The remembering self is the one that gets to keep the memories, hold on to the happiness and joys associated with the people and situations. The remembering self can mold the experience around the positive parts. It doesn’t dismiss the grief, but it does not let the grief take control of the future.

The remembering self can direct the world view after the loss, the tragedy, the unfortunate events in our lives that seem immobilizing in the moment. Nobody says this is easy.

The remembering self can celebrate all the good times, the laughter and the shared experiences that bring people together. The remembering self can embrace all the celebration for what has been given.

What makes us most sad in the moment can be rewired to look at the cumulative moments of pure joy. With all things, we can cry because it’s over or smile because it happened. Life happens, and sometimes it is sad.

Some would say I have lived in one place too long. Some would say I know too many people. I would say I have been blessed.

Kay Stellpflug is an educator and trainer in interpersonal and professional communications. She works and lives in Beaver Dam and can be reached at kaystellpflug@gmail.com.

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