Did I think I was the only one grieving? The only one knocked sideways by it?
Jean Perdu speaking of his “Hurting Time” in The Little Paris Bookshop.
Pain and loss in the Hurting Time isolates.
Overwhelming emotions can be hard to put into words. Speaking them without sounding weak at best, or worse, a drama queen, may be asking a lot. And so we often crawl into bed, pull up the covers, silence the emotions, and don’t reach out for help.
Jean Perdu, the protagonist in The Little Paris Bookshop, is grieving the loss of his partner and the choices he made around that loss. But he hears from someone who had been in “The Hurting Time” longer than he and another step is made on Perdu’s own trail:
I became myself when my son died. Because grief showed me what’s important in life. That’s what grief does. In the beginning it is always there. You wake up and it’s there. It’s with you all day, everywhere you go. It’s with you in the evening. It won’t leave you alone at night. It grabs you by the throat and shakes you. But it keeps you warm. One day it might go. But not forever. It drops by from time to time. And then, eventually, all of sudden, I knew what was important. Grief showed me. Love is important. Good food, and standing tall and not saying yes when you should say no.
What’s important to you will differ after you emerge into hope. But…
How to journey through the Hurting Time?
First, remember it’s the “Hurting Time” not the “Hurting Life”
It will be the journey for a time only.
Yet the length of the trail marked The Hurting Time is different for everyone. There is no way around the journey, only through it.
But it isn’t for life.
Second, feel the hurt.
Auschwitz survivor, Dr. Edith Eva Eger, says you cannot grieve what you don’t feel. She maintains that what comes out of your body doesn’t make you ill, rather what stays inside does. So let it out! Crawl out from under the covers and consider Dr. Eger’s suggestion that the car is a wonderful place to scream as long and hard as you need. (I can personally attest to a car’s utility for this purpose!) Scream it out, cry it out, and then “laugh like a hyena,” she says, and get all those feelings out. Daily functioning doesn’t have to stop but take time every day during the Hurting Time to grieve and scream and cry until you can’t cry anymore. At times, you will feel absolutely full of rage and that what you are going through is not fair. That’s expected and it’s okay because there is no letting go without rage. Go through it but don’t camp there, Dr. Eger notes. Don’t allow yourself anything but being a survivor because if you get stuck in it, that’s a victim’s mentality and a sure way to remain in The Hurting Time.
Third, share your journey.
Jean Perdu hadn’t spoken of his lost love for many years. When he began screaming and crying and speaking of his pain, he realized how absurd it was to act as if he only one “knocked sideways by grief.” That recognition came once he let others in on his pain (albeit not necessarily in his car!). You don’t have to let 20 years go by before recognizing that you are not alone.
Fourth, ask a new question.
At the end of the Hurting Time, the question becomes not “Why me?” but “What now?” You’re able to focus on the future because you’ve dealt with the pain of the present. “It’s not what happens, it’s what you do with it.” Dr. Eger notes, recalling her mother’s words when they entered the concentration camp, “Remember Edie. No one can take away from you what you put into your own mind.”
For more of Dr. Eger’s wisdom, you may want to read, as I am currently, her book titled The Choice. (Note: I usually listen to my books but I found the narration of this one to interfere with comprehension. I’m glad I ordered the book anyway because after only a few chapters in, I have dozens of highlighted sections!) Her TEDx talk last fall will make you want to know this full-of-life woman. https://youtu.be/Cwdo8_qwjog
Wishing you wisdom,