This post began as an e-mail exchange with my friend Marc. I'm publishing it as is, in an attempt to make some sense about the sense of loss and bewilderment that has enveloped me since mama's death on September 15.
I confess that I've never known this kind of emotional loss and I don't feel like me. I go to work and I go through the motions of what I should do; I smile, I talk, I try to be "fine." When people ask how I am, I always say, "I'm doing okay. I'm fine." But I'm not. Everything seems so overwhelming. I come home and watch hours of mindless television. I rarely turn on my home computer; I tell myself that I'll catch up on things tomorrow, but tomorrow never comes. All that I know to do is to keep moving forward one day at a time until I find my rhythm again. I realize that this loss is personal but it is also universal. I am not the first person to lose a mother and people do survive the loss; I just have to get back in sync with living again.
I try to be honest with people whom I consider friends. I don't pretend to my friends that I'm not devastated. I am not functioning as me. I feel helpless, lost, and so alone. I think that my reticence to acknowledge my grief is a fear that I will not be able to contain it. There's a line from an Iris Dement song, No Time to Cry, that sums it up,
"I'm walking, and I'm talking, doing what I'm supposed to do; working overtime to make sure I don't come unglued, cause I'm older now, and I've got no time to cry."
I believe that grieving is necessary and healthy but all I really want to do is take to my bed and wail for days. I'm just not certain that would be in my best interest, so I keep focusing on getting through each day while allowing myself to feel sorrow and hurt, but remaining functional. I have wailed a bit, but I've been able to calm myself and get back to the business of living because I want to be a part of life, not on the sidelines, wrapped in sorrow. It's a balancing act, but the alternative--a complete collapse--doesn't seem healthy or useful.
I do believe that this utter emptiness will ease with time. I know that there will always be a sense of loss but I also know on a purely intellectual level that people can live with loss. My heart just needs to catch up with my head. I also firmly believe that what mama would want is for me to go on and live well. We went through so much to find each other, to reach a place of mutual love, that I feel cheated somehow to lose her in the blink of an eye. I'm grieving, but I'm also angry at the universe. All of my senses are raw and everything hurts. It is an interesting and new set of emotions for me. I've been saddened by other deaths but I've never before felt such a void inside over anyone's death. I've lost other people that I love, other family members, but I don't think that I've ever fully understood sorrow before. I'm trying to see what I can learn from this state that I find myself in, see how I can fashion it into something that will make me a better person. I think that mama would approve of that and be happy for me.
I wanted to include a video performance of Iris Dement performing No Time to Cry, but the only thing that I could find is an abbreviated version that she did in a live performance. I have my mother to thank for my love of country music. When I was growing up, she used to listen to Aretha Franklin and Patsy Cline. She also would sing along. I do that too. For the lyrics, just click on the song title.