The Changing Palette
John Paul Floyd was six years old, a carefree, loving boy playing with his brother David in the front yard of their home. Without warning, a car jumped the curb and struck the two boys, injuring David and killing John Paul. Thus the nightmare began for the Floyd family.
Gregory Floyd, the boys’ father, describes his grief journey in a wonderful book entitled A Grief Unveiled. He also helped create videos on grief and gave talks and presentations. One of his images for the grief process may be particularly helpful to you.
Greg reported that even in the beginning, when the grief is most intense and the pain is searing, there are sometimes brief moments of joy. Some little thing makes you smile. Someone unexpectedly gives you a hug when you most need it. You momentarily lose yourself in a movie or a show and you laugh out loud.
Those moments can bring instant guilt. “How can I be happy when this person I love just died?” You can feel you are being disloyal to their memory when you don’t remain in your grief. You may even feel that you aren’t ready to let go of the pain because the pain is your closest connection to the one who died; if the pain is diminishing, perhaps the connection is diminishing.
Yet grieving well does not mean being sad every second of every day. We need those little breaks and rays of sunshine in order to survive. Greg advised that we treasure those moments of joy because they sustain us. He called them the “bright splashes of color on the gray palette of grief.”
Don’t worry. You will not lose your grief nor forget your loved one if you smile once in a while. Those smiles are the necessary break in the bleakness, the glimmer of hope that perhaps there can still be happiness in life.
As you continue to heal, those “good” times become more frequent and more intense, while the bad times become less frequent and intense. For instance, one day you realize you only cried for a half-hour that day. Then you realize you haven’t cried in three days. Eventually, you pass the milestone where you haven’t cried in weeks. It takes a long time, and the balance shifts back and forth on a regular basis.
Finally, you reach a point where the pain of grief does not define you. Your palette has changed. The joy is no longer the bright splash of color on the grey palette of grief. Instead, the pain becomes the grey splash of color on the bright palette of life. You never totally lose the grey. You will experience grief bursts or “ambushes” for as long as you live. You will never stop missing the one you so loved, or wondering what life would be like if they were still alive. Yet your life does not have to be lived in grey tones. There is still exuberant color waiting for you, joy to experience, new things to learn, friends to meet, and a future to re-build.
It is a long process to move from a grey palette to a colored one. Start by accepting those splashes of color and treasuring each one as a gift. Allow whatever joy you can without guilt or regret. After all, your best memorial to the one who died is to live as fully and colorfully as possible, enriched by their memory.
© 2011, Amy Florian. Used by permission.