Funny thing about grief: it finds its own way.
It barges in sometimes, an unwanted, boorish intruder with a booming voice and bad body odor, and forces you into a confrontation. You’ve barred the door and closed the curtains and turned off the porch light, but that doesn’t matter. It’s here, and it WILL BE HEARD.
I was minding my own business this weekend, trying to find my desk under all of the stacks of mail and paper, when I found it. The Book. It’s a nondescript hardcover, coffee-table sized, with writing on the spine and section dividers. It is the book that was prepared by my family’s law firm to provide personal portraits of my mother, father, and sister to people who never knew them. It was intended to show them as special people who were loved, who were important, and who are deeply missed. It does a pretty good job of it. There are photographs, excerpts from our depositions and testimonial letters from family and friends. It touches on highlights of their lives and then devotes the end of the text to their sudden deaths.
I had brought it down from the shelf a few months ago when Number Young Son had some questions about the train crash. Having been so young at the time, neither of the boys have read the newspaper articles or seen this book. Their knowledge of the crash has come from me and their dad. I hoped that maybe the book could fill in some of the holes and answer some of their questions.
Of course I had to open it. I just thumbed through it, pausing to read a few lines here and there. The tears welled up and spilled, and my throat was tight, but it was more of a release than anything else. Reading those heartfelt words about my Pa, my Momma and my goofy sister made me cry good tears. But even those tears just drip into the void.
I’ve done that ‘grief work.’ Don’t let anyone tell you it’s easy — it’s not. It’s horrible, brutal, cruel, painful, exhausting, punishing work. It’s as tiring as hard physical labor. It drains every last bit of energy, spirit, ambition, and hope right out of you. It robs you; it takes you down to the raw nubs of your most naked inner self and leaves you with nothing. I have spent way too much time there, thanks. No need to go back. These days, I have a sort of inner governor that kicks in when the going gets rough – it keeps me from the deep end of that drowning pool.
But that is not to say that I don’t mourn. Believe me, I miss my parents with every cell in my body. I miss my sister the same way. I ache for their voices and yearn to be wrapped in their hugs. But fifteen years after the fact, the jagged edges have been worn smooth. The peaks and valleys are there and the road is still bumpy in spots, but I’m no longer picking splinters out of my heart. My sadness is a still, deep well.
So when I saw an item shared on my Facebook feed, a link to a post entitled Mourning My Mom, Before and After Facebook, I had to read it. The author talked about how different it might have been had Facebook been around when her mother passed away in 2002. I won’t summarize it here — you can read for yourself — but she made some great points and made me think about how we mourn and how people offer comfort.
I could write at length about my grief and mourning. I could, but I can’t. I can’t, because I still have some kind of block that prevents me, like that governor inside, from taking it too far. Self-preservation, I suppose. But that can be so frustrating, when I know that each time I write about it, talk about it, and read about it, it gets a little easier for me. I really want to scream and holler and throw things and Get It All Out. Then I would feel so much better, right?
That’s a myth, though. A pipe dream. I could never get it all out. It’s part of me now, and it’s changed me.
In the article, the author says, But grief is illogical. It never feels resolved. She’s right about that. I want to spit every time I hear someone use the term ‘closure.’ Like you can close the door on that part of your life, and it’s done. Pfft. Maybe there are people who can, but I haven’t met one. I can’t close that door because there’s a big boot stuck in it. Grief, that paragon of perfect timing, is not about to be shut behind that door. It is going to show up unannounced and unwelcome, for the rest of my life. When you least expect it, expect it.
I’m no expert. I’m not here to tell anyone how it’s done. I’m not here to wear my loss like a medal or trot it out as a trump card at the pity party. It’s fact, and it’s my life. Even my siblings, who had the same loss I had, don’t experience the same mourning in the same way. I don’t want to carry it around as an excuse for what I do or don’t do. In reality, it’s there; sometimes I spend time thinking about it, but most times I don’t. When it was new and fresh and ugly, there was a part of me that wanted everyone to know, so they could understand the person pretending to be me. I wanted justification. I wanted reasons. I wanted something. Anything.
So I guess this is rather a pointless post. I’m blue now, but it won’t last forever. I’ll pause and reflect and savor warm memories of the way Momma pushed up her glasses and how she answered the phone in her sing-song voice; how my Pa would perch on the stool in the dining room, peeling apples for the pies she made; and the taste of Wendy’s World-Famous Potato Salad. I’ll wipe some tears and bite my lip. I’ll think about what could have been. I’ll wish I could wake up from this bad dream that’s lasted fifteen years.
And then I’ll be thankful to be as far down this road as I am, and I’ll pray I don’t have to walk that stretch again.
Thanks for listening.
photo credit perfect_hexagon