I believe grief is as individual as fingerprints or DNA. I know, I know, there are the “five stages of grief” – and when you do not follow them and end your grief in what your friends, family, and society in general consider a timely manner – you must be “depressed” in a clinical sense or “holding onto your grief to keep them here”, or “holding on to your grief so that you do not have to move on”. One’s extended grief can actually become annoying to those close to them. “ You need to see a psychiatrist”; you need to “get some help”. Sometimes a person in grief is not crazy or depressed – they are in grief and it last until it’s done or they are dead.
“Why haven’t you married again?” “Why don’t you date?” “You should have a relationship and then you will forget.” Well I don’t bloody well want to forget! I have “moved on”. I have a happy life.
It’s not a timetable that works. There are always extenuating circumstances – for some it’s the last straw on a lifetime of loss, for others it is just too overwhelming to consider life without those lost, some have never had such a loss and have no tools with which to deal with such an all consuming emotional state. Some take their own lives because they cannot face a future without those whom they loved so completely; and then there are those like me, who find we have no ability to commit suicide and it’s fucking annoying at the time I can tell you – pissed me off. So I spent a year trying to die in some very creative and noble pursuits – you note that I remain.
I suffered such a loss over twenty-five years ago that still makes me bleed through my skin. At this time every year, some years less and some years more, I walk, talk, eat, sleep (not very well), and function as best I can while all the while my life’s blood is oozing out my pores and dripping on the floor, the keyboard, the book I’m reading, the kitchen counter, into the sink while I wash my face. I watch it swirl down the shower drain in a whirling circle of red.
And grief is fucking sneaky! It gets you when you are watching mourning doves build a nest outside your window and you burst into tears; when you see a child whose face snatches you back in time as surely as any mechanical time machine and your heart aches to the point you can feel the pieces falling off; when you make the mistake of watching the latest Kira Knightly movie because you think it will be just another light costume drama and instead it leaves you feeling like a rag that has been used too long, wrung out one time too many times; a song plays, or a smell – like a curl of smoke – drifts slowly up your nostrils and sends you body and soul back to the that day; a touch on my face, just so, can put me back on the walk along the Seine on a Spring day in Paris…
You can be just fine and then suddenly you can’t see through the blackness that has descended, you are trying to communicate with the world through a fog so thick it’s like cotton candy, and so dark that it could be midnight inside a singularity, and there is a one hundred pound anvil on your chest so that breathing is an effort. Your hearing is impaired – you hear the sounds from that day, those years ago, instead of now – the bells of Notre Dame, the ragged chugging of the motorboats taking the tourists back and forth along the Seine, the barking of the small Paris dogs that are ubiquitous, the sound of my love speaking to me of nothing of any great import – all sounds of a Tuesday morning, any Tuesday morning, like so many Tuesday mornings that had come before, and like no other Tuesday morning ever to come.
And the smell of the fresh grass of spring, the flowers that the old woman on the corner is selling from her stall (I remember the cart was blood red with a fleur-de-lys stamped in gold in the centre, and the flecks of gold paint had fallen off over the years giving it the appearance of standing history); the flowers in the Tuileries peeking out from the winter thaw, the smell of fresh bread baking, drifting out from the many café’s along the way, and the clean man smell of the tall chap rubbing my huge belly with his long fingered hands, my belly which was filled with life that we had created together – and he laughed, and then I laughed to see the joy in his eyes that I had put there.
And then in a single moment that lasted for an eon they were both gone. And I should “get over it”? I don’t’ think so. I can live with it. I have done so, I continue to do so, but “let them go”? Why would I want to do that? The guilt yes, I’m working on that; I’ve been working on that for almost thirty years but guilt so deep as to be felt every time you breathe is not so easily expunged.
First the Universe gave me Q to ease my heart and give me joy, and now a love from thirty-three years ago has come back into my life and has filled it with so much love that I wake every day with gratitude. So yes, this year is different. This year is much more difficult. This year I must let go some of the past so that there is room for my present, for him. This is no easy thing. Some emotions, experiences that change us fundamentally, lie buried so deep that there are endless reservoirs of grief to replace – indeed to displace a new love.
Oddly enough I feel almost adulterous, an unpleasant feeling being the loyal soul that I am. He feels it, he sees it when my eyes go ‘dark’ and I’m no longer here. It hurts him. It makes him feel I leave him, and at such times I indeed do just that. It makes him jealous of a dead man, and that does not make him feel honourable no matter how much I say it is normal and that I understand. He has been tender, loving, patient, but the pain in his eyes is growing; and he wants an answer. He wants the pain to end because he loves me; but he is after all a human, and he wants my pain to end so that I am here, in present time, with him.
I am trying – yes Yoda I hear you, “Do or do not… there is no try”. I am meditating. I am constructing a room for them in my mind. A place my memories can stay and be out of the present; and yet a room I can visit. I know that to not have love in my life, to not have the best existence I can is to fail to honour them. I know this. I do not disparage psychiatry, I think it works for some, and is needed for many people; it’s not where I go for help – for a list of reasons it is not an option for me. I can do this. I know I can. I just have to convince myself that I want to do so. I do. I am not someone who is willing to throw away happiness. I have seen much of the world and there is so much misery that to give your happiness away is not logical. I will not do that. And yet I know I cannot pretend. I cannot push the feelings down lest they attack me at some crucial moment when not expected. I have to bring it all, including the guilt, most especially the guilt, and expose it in the clear and merciless light of day. I know that they, the one who could not yet speak and the one who loved me completely, would want me to do this. For me, it is time. Now is the time. I know that their souls are out there, that I will meet them again in the next turn of the Wheel. I know this.
Today is a better day. Yesterday was a very bad day. Tomorrow is another day. I can do this.