You might have heard me talk about this before...
When my brother died, the grief I felt was so deep and so painful that it somehow brought all my other grief to the surface. It felt like it was the top pancake added to an already tall stack, making it feel fragile, heavy, and unsteady. Grief already feels that way, but pancake grief... is messy!
I see it like this...
Your very first grief experience adds the first pancake to the plate; you see it, you know it's there, you might even ask questions about it, and then you tuck it away. As you get older there is more grief; the end of a friendship, a break-up, you lose a job, you suffer from a serious illness, you lose a friend or an older family member. The pancakes start stacking. As you become an adult and the losses are more personal, the pancakes keep stacking but they are heavier, because for some reason you don't deal with it, you don't talk about it, or work through it, you were probably never taught how ... so you cover it with syrup, hoping that it looks or feels differently to you. And then you have another loss (in this case it was my sister Laura), which is so big you cannot work through it, you cannot even look at it because it feels as though it has ripped you open, so you tuck it in further. Then you lose someone else (my brother Ben), and the reality of all the loss you have experienced, and the grief you never really worked through, faces you... looks you right in the eye and says, "do you see me now?" And your answer is... "Yes... I see all of you." And you find yourself in such deep pain that you don't know what to do. But you know you need help.
Pancake Grief is something I made up because that is what it felt like for me... a stack of pancakes, piled one on top of the other, messy with syrup, sticky, and falling over. I realized when my brother died, I never truly dealt with the loss of my sister, my mother, my father, multiple friends, or even all of the deaths and grief I have witnessed as a hospice nurse. It started piling on my plate so high that my brother dying made it topple over.
We have to work through our grief. We have to talk about it, feel it, and even though it is really difficult, we have to find a way to accept it. We don't move on. We don't forget. We never stop saying their name. But we learn to face it, meet it halfway, and walk through it. The goal is to slowly remove the pancakes off the plate, starting at the bottom.
If you are grieving, if you are holding on to pain from multiple losses, please reach out to someone. There are many resources available. Most hospices will provide free support to their community, there are many grief sites on social media, there are hundreds of books, and there are hotline numbers you can call. Grief never goes away, but it does become a little easier to navigate if you talk about it. And if you know someone who is grieving... please do not let them go through this alone; give them space, don't smother them, they need to accept the extended hand... just please do not stop extending the hand.
Take care of yourself.
Take care of one another.