Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Face of Grief

A quiet, well dressed widow in a serene sanctuary, sniffing delicately into a handkerchief. Um, not.

I somehow thought grief was a quiet, private, delicate suffering. When my dearest friend Bob died, I was prepared for it, so I quietly, most likely numbly, turned inward and processed his passing. Every spring for the next five years, I would be sad around the time of his birthday, but I could function. When my parents died, we were so ready for them to go, that their deaths were a relief--we had pre-grieved for each of them.

Nothing, absolutely nothing, prepared me for this time. Around here, grieving operates with a lot of barking, name-calling ("You tyrant!" "I am not a tyrant. MO-omm! She called me a tyrant! What is a tyrant, anyway?"), chores which need to be done, bills which need to be paid, homework that needs to be supervised, and the eternal, endless mounds of dog hair. Grief is not quiet and serene--in fact, it is like one of those violent juvenile offenders who just happened to move in to our house. We certainly would never have given permission for Grief to appear here, let alone stay. Yet here Grief is, and along with Grief come some of his friends, Anger, Depression, and Overwhelming Sadness. They steal our belongings, putting them places we never would have; they disrupt our normal flow of operation; they take up a lot of room and make big messes.

And I don't see them leaving any time soon.

How, exactly, do we move on from something like this? How do we incorporate our new reality of that loss? I know, I know, everyone says time will heal us. But I don't want this new reality.

EG and I always teased the kids about how, when we were little old people, we would take turns living with each of them, driving a tiny little car to church at speeds never reaching over 25 miles per hour, and then going to one of the "all you can eat" buffets for Sunday lunch. We'd hold hands and dote on one another with the tenderness sometimes seen in those gray-haired, frail couples.

We were, first and foremost, a married couple. Sometimes you see married people who are actually "married singles," who have their own lives and are married out of convenience or inertia. There are also the married couples who are Mom and Dad first, who don't know what to do when the kids move out. Getting to the "married couple" point took years of work and commitment on both our parts. And now that investment is gone, and I am a single parent of three kids, and in seven years Nita will move on to college, and I will be alone.

I wonder if Grief will still be living here with me.


maeve said...

You write the thoughts and feelings so amazingly well! You will treasure this writing for the rest of your life, even when the raw grief has turned to something less painful. I don't think that time heals anything, frankly. My grief is going on eight years and sometimes it's just as raw as it was in February, 2004.

Thanks you so much for sharing these very private and personal thoughts and feelings here. You're an amazing person!

debinca said...

Diane, first.. a big hug, even through cyber space, its the most substantial thing I can offer.

My second offering is for you to know I am reading, I am listening and I am appreciating your journey, your family's existence, and especially your ability to write.

I don't think you are really asking for an answer to your last question. Maeve knows exactly how it behaves over time and explained it perfectly.

For now the kids will have you moving through life as you do with them.Give them too, a hug from California.

Kimluvswinston said...

Well said, Diane. I never realized how damn BUSY grief is. It's loud, unpredictable, and never stops leaking.

I, too, am not sitting around my parlor waiting for casseroles and potted plants.

Munchkin Mom said...

LOL at the casseroles. One of the best things to have happen was when someone gave us this HUGE pan of pasta. On the bad Sunday after Rocky was hospitalized, I had Kiki bring it out of the freezer and thaw it on a low oven. We ate it Sunday. We ate it Monday. We ate it Tuesday. And we heated it Wednesday, stared the never-ending pasta pan down, and fed all it to the chickens.

My sister commented that this was something we could become tired of and GET RID OF IT. Who would have thought pasta was so empowering.