Although I like books, I haven’t authored a single grief book review for What’s Your Grief. Book reviews are Litsa’s forte because, as she’s mentioned before, she has a book-buying problem. I consider this an okay problem for her to have because she can read a book cover to cover in what I consider warp speed.
I on the other hand suffer from an unfortunate dual diagnosis of having both a book-buying problem and a book-reading problem. In laymen’s terms this means I start books but never finish them because I read so darn slow I get distracted, misplace the book or decide to move on to something new. The rare exception to this rule is the book that engrosses me within its first few pages, basically anything from the ‘Young Adult’ section.
Much to my reading pleasure I recently found myself engrossed in one of those novels you just can’t put down (an adult novel to boot) while on vacation. I won’t say which book it was in case you read it but I will tell you it was a certain thriller novel that you may have already read, possibly not, but I’m sure you’ve seen the movie.
I ignored my family for three days while trying to finish this book; I simply had to know the ending. On the third day I plopped down in my beach chair and proclaimed for all to hear, “I will finish this book today if it’s the last thing I do”. Hours later, sweaty and covered in sand, I read the last word and quietly closed the book hoping no one would notice. I didn’t want anyone to ask me about the ending, I was too frustrated to talk. I maintained a calm exterior while in my mind thinking…
What the stinkin’ heck? That was NOT the ending I wanted. Seriously?!? Where’s the justice?!?! Where’s the happily ever after?!?! I need finality! I hate it when things end like this. I’m never reading another book again.
I felt betrayed by the author just as I do when the end of a movie is unclear, ambiguous, or not at all what I wanted it to be. When I open myself up to a story it’s with the expectation that it will reach a neat and orderly conclusion; when I get something different I feel confused, abandoned and misled. I demand a rewrite!
It did make me think though how funny it is that vague and unanticipated endings can be so intensely frustrating when they are actually the most true to life. Just like in life the ending can be sudden and unpredictable. There are no rewrites; the story is over when the story is over and, unless you’re reading a Choose your Own Adventure book, you probably won’t get to decide how it ends.
Anyone who’s experienced a loss of any kind already knows that often life doesn’t turn out the way you planned. The death of a loved one almost always leaves you with that – this is not how it was supposed to end – feeling. Similarly things like the following may mean closing chapters in disappointing ways:
- loss of loved ones
- loss of health
- lack of skill
- lack of education
- divorce/relationship problems
- loss of hopes and dreams
Last sentence. Final word. Period. What now? If we were talking about a book or a movie I suppose we’d hold out hope for a part II; but we’re not talking about fiction, we’re talking about life.
I was walking through Wegmans with my father the other day when our conversation turned to my mother. My family’s mecca is my hometown Wegmans so it’s virtually impossible for me to walk its aisles without thinking of my mother. Standing amongst rows of pasta my dad remarked how sad it is that my mother didn’t live to meet all her grandchildren or to see a day when they weren’t stressed by worries about money. As usual I agreed saying, “this was not how her story was supposed to end,” and I silently reflected on the many ways her death altered my father’s story as well. He’s a single widowed grandfather of 19. His life is drastically different than the one he would have led with my mother, but he seems happy.
I’m cautious with quotes around topics such as these because so many are syrupy and reductive (now what to do with all these lemons?), but I thought this one by Maya Angelou was wise:
“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”
Ater a loss you face many challenges; you step into new roles, face new stressors, and struggle to find ways to cope. You hope above all hope that along the way you’ll find strength, joy and happiness and that, on most days, you’ll like the person you’ve become. It’s hard work – adjusting, reframing, and rethinking your life – but finding balance and a new sense of self of is not out of reach.
How can you turn to the next page when it’s written in a language that doesn’t make sense? The answer: I don’t know. Your problems are dynamic and only you can find solutions that are right for you. All I know is, in reality, life never turns out exactly the way you planned. Your narrative continues to be written and I truly believe, for all of us, there are many story lines that lead to happiness.
I may not have any sage advice but this doesn’t mean there isn’t help for those who want it. As always we think counseling is a great tool to help you get through a difficult adjustment, but if you prefer to start with the internet here are a few resources you might want to try:
Have a tip for coping with the unexpected? Let us know in our comments below.
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