Mi casa obviously is not su casa
Both the foul weather of grief and the deceptively calm surfaces of bereavement are tricky seas to navigate.
Not one but two people recommended I watch the Netflix series “Dead to Me.” “I couldn’t stop laughing,” one said. “It is so funny. You’ll love it,” the other one told me.
I took a look at it, a quick look, and then I looked away even quicker. It might be hilarious to them, but not to me. What were they thinking? It opened with a grief support group. After what I’ve been through — am still going through — nothing about grief is funny to me.
The world is asking me, “Aren’t you over that yet?” No, I’m not. And neither are the half dozen quietly, privately grieving widows, widowers and parents I know. Grief isn’t something you get over; it is something you get on with. But you try to do it privately and quietly, which seems polite. That is what makes it misleading because other people don’t see it. They are over it.
Life rushes on, carrying us with it, but we’re not 100% buoyant yet. The edges of loss are blurry on the outside, but they are sharp to those of us still inside. We don’t want pity, but neither do we want to hear people say, “What a Gloomy Gus! Just get another cat, dog, child, husband, mother, home, business, friend, career.”
Not that we don’t have compassion. We do, and plenty of it. Pity, sympathy, empathy and compassion are ombre shades of caring for others. All of those emotions have Latin and Greek root words that mean piety and suffering.
Grief is not a subject we are comfortable discussing. Mentioning the name of someone close to us who has died makes others uncomfortable. They don’t know what to say or how to say it. I saw this condolence email to a woman whose adult son had died: “Oh, that’s tough.”
No. Tough is when I accidently mow down the hollyhock I’ve been babying. Tough is when I drop my phone into the dog’s water bowl. When a child dies, whatever his age, whatever the parent’s age, the word is tragic.
Both the foul weather of grief and the deceptively calm surfaces of bereavement are tricky seas to navigate. They last as long as they last. They are as treacherous to those in the water as to those watching from shore. We all do the best we can.
Those of us on this side can be ham handed, too, and I am an example.
“How’s Jay doing?” someone asked me cheerfully.
“Not well. He died two years ago.”
Big, thudding silence.
Life goes on at a rush and drags us with it. We’re all so busy and polite, we gild our various griefs, to disguise them. Some cultures dramatized them: wore black clothes, cut off their hair, refrained from listening to music, pulled down the window shades, stopped the clocks, hung black bunting on the home, neither danced nor went to parties, wailed in public, wore no jewelry, offered a fire sacrifice and ripped their clothing. These displays said, “I’m in mourning, and don’t you forget it.” Maybe that would be cathartic. Maybe it would be a helpful reminder to others.
We have all been through a lot of stress and anxiety in recent months. The floods and tornadoes almost did us in. Even on calm days, those annoying robo calls nip at our nerves. We do need to laugh, and we need to find ways to be kind to one another and to ourselves.
Here’s my personal kindness to-do list for the month:
Do not watch sad TV shows or movies.
Do read calming things, like the baseball box scores.
Learn to make boozy popsicles.