Grief is like glitter.

How many times as a child did you create a craft with glitter? Squeezing out the thick white glue, then shaking the glitter bottle until you could no longer see the whiteness of the glue peeking out from under the shiny bits? Followed by the most fun step, shaking the glitter off and watching it fly everywhere! I’m pretty sure kindergarten classrooms all over the country have glitter hiding in their crevices.

It has been a tough year.

Is that the understatement of the 21st century? For some, yes. We have felt loss on many levels since February of 2020. Perhaps for you, even before that. We have talked about the collective grief we have all shared during the shutdown of schools and communities due to COVID-19. Yet for some the grief has been more personal, like the loss of a loved one. 

Grief has “stages.”

Perhaps you’ve heard of them before? The “stages of grief” include Shock/Disbelief, Denial, Guilt/Pain, Bargaining, Anger, Depression, Acceptance. To be clear, these do not align in a linear pattern. In fact, they can feel like the glitter of that creative craft we were doing as a child. Grief shows up all at once in the beginning. The shock and disbelief hits us like a ton of bricks. The bad news is like a gigantic wave that we cannot surf but may feel like an overwhelming battle to simply breathe. Over time, pain sets in. This may be physical pain, as well as emotional. The additional grief stages are sometimes hard to perceive, and other times as warm as the sun on your face. 

We may, after years pass, believe we have “gotten over” our grief.

But then, as the sun hits a piece of “grief glitter” lighting it up, we feel it.  The tenseness of the familiar knot in our stomach, the lump in our throat, the tears beginning to fill our eyes. Was it the song on the radio, the leaves turning from green to yellow, the smell of our loved-one’s perfume? And with that, our unwanted friend, grief, re-enters our present life. This is normal, unwelcome perhaps, but part of our process as human beings to hurt because of loss. Grief returns.

So, what to do when Grief comes back?

Whether it shows up in the most unexpected places or the most obvious… try to recognize the sadness, as well as where it came from. Accept the feelings and name them. If possible, recall a positive memory of the person you’ve lost. For example, a silly mannerism, the way they laughed, or a song that reminds you of a happy experience. Honor the memory and the person with a smile (and perhaps tears). Talk to a loved one or friend about the “grief glitter” revealing itself. Share the experience, emotions and feelings you have. “Talking to” the person you’ve lost may bring relief. Many people find comfort in verbalizing their emotions to the one they are missing and grieving.

Grief is like that glitter, it gets into the crevices of your mind and just about the time you believe you have cleaned it all up, you catch a glimpse of light that reveals a feeling that remains. Grief is not simple, or a one-time-for-all-time process. Don’t be surprised if you look down one day and “grief glitter” is shining up at you. Pick it up, look at it, experience it, honor the feelings it brings, then decide what you’d like to do with it. Do you want to hold onto it for a moment? Or would you like to throw it away immediately? Do you want to share it with someone before disposing of it? 

Grief is like glitter.

You never know when it’s going to show up, sometimes in the most unexpected places, at the most unexpected time, and in the most unexpected ways. 

Written by: Allison Wray