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Let It Rain

It’s been a dry summer, but this week where I live, we’re finally getting some rain. Some people have complained because they want to be outdoors, but I love the rain. After living fifteen years in Arizona, I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of rain.

Around the time it started raining, I got in touch with an old friend I haven’t seen in a long time. The main thing going on in her life right now is that she has a beloved dog, a Schnoodle. His name is Melvin, and he’s pretty old and has dementia. It’s just about Melvin’s time, and my friend Chris is making the most of his last days.

I like to focus on the positives, the bright spots. I believe, most of all, people need and want to be reminded that the world is basically a good and beautiful place, life is a gift, and happiness comes from practicing kindness, bravery, and humility.

I think we can never hear those positive messages enough. Because it can be hard to remember. I know there’s a dark side to life, and it’s because I do see that darkness that I write a lot about sunshine and butterflies.

I also know that when you’re in the midst of grief, talk about bright, happy things doesn’t feel real. 

Sometimes you just need to grieve and not to be cheered up.

Kentucky’s governor, Andy Breshear, said much the same during the horrible recent floods in that state. He said, “A lot of the grief that we’ve suppressed these last seven days trying to get the mud out and take care of each other when it rained again or it’s so hot, that’s going to come to the surface.”

He went on, “If you need help, ask for it.”

“Remember, it’s okay not to be okay.”

Not only is it okay not to be okay, it would be inhuman to be okay after a trauma like that.

And we’ve all been through traumas.

The Perseid meteor shower is just about to reach its peak as I write this, and every evening – when the sky isn’t cloudy – I go out to watch for falling stars. Some nights, the sky is clear enough that the Milky Way looks like a spray of silver dust across the black-velvet sky.

The world really is beautiful. Even the blind and deaf woman Helen Keller could perceive the beauty in the world. She wrote, “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.”

But I think even when the beauty is see-able and touch-able, whether it’s a starry night sky or a beloved pet, or anything that brings you joy, you have to have a beating heart to feel it. 

And that’s the trouble with grief – that we sometimes let it still our hearts, because the grief is a thing we don’t want to feel. And we end up not being able to feel anything at all.

When you look at what people have said about grief, it’s almost always paired with love. Queen Elizabeth said, “Grief is the price we pay for love.”

The author Washington Irving, of Rip Van Winkle fame, wrote, “There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.”

Dog stories particularly pierce my heart – I can’t even watch Lady and the Tramp. There’s a reason for that. I won’t give the details so it won’t be too sad for you, but when the family dog died when I was twelve, none of us even cried. The problem was that it had happened because my father made a poor decision, and no one wanted to make him feel bad about it. So we all just sort of pretended nothing had happened.

That incident is still a hole in my heart because it seemed as though we were all saying we didn’t care. And the sadness remained instead of being released in a healthy, healing way.

“Grief is itself a medicine,” the poet William Cowper wrote. 

“Grief is the healing emotion,” according to educator John Bradshaw. 

The bereavement counselor Earl Grollman wrote, “Grief is not a disorder, a disease or a sign of weakness. It is an emotional, physical and spiritual necessity.”

There’s a Jewish proverb, too: “What soap is for the body, tears are for the soul.”

Grief pairs with love because it’s love that makes us vulnerable to grief. But that’s only one side of it: the other is that grief makes love possible by cleansing the heart of sadness. Grief teaches compassion and humility; it softens your heart and strengthens your soul. It makes us better, kinder, braver people.

If it feels overwhelming, please reach out – to the new national 988 mental health number, or to an online support group (Grief Anonymous has a Facebook page) – or just to someone who can listen and give you a shoulder.

“The only cure for grief is to grieve,” Grollman wrote. 

It’s as necessary and natural as the rain. And rain is a good thing.

Without it, we’d be parched and barren souls, where nothing can grow.

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