Mama died eight months ago today, on September 15. I didn't have to work today; as of 8:00 pm yesterday, I had already put in 47 hours. Today I got to stay home. I planned to do so many things today--weed my rose bed, clean my house, and do the laundry. However, the best laid plans...let's just say mine went astray and I spent my day in far less productive pursuits.
I decided to catch up on my favorite television shows. I worship at the altar of the DVR. It allows me to keep up with shows that I like even though I haven't been home on average until after 10:00 pm for the last month. This was season finale week for a lot of shows, definitely must see television. It was while I was watching CSI: NY that I had my meltdown. A member of the CSI team died. Her boyfriend, also a team member, was on the phone with her when the bad guys shot her. At first I was just misty-eyed but then I realized that the ragged sobs echoing in my living room weren't coming from the television. I didn't cry for long, maybe five minutes. That's how it is now, I go from normal to falling apart and back again in a matter of minutes.
It's unpredictable. I'll be sitting at my desk, analyzing a bill that allows some municipality to license golf carts to drive on city streets, and without warning my world just tilts off its axis and I feel as if all of the air has been sucked out of the room. For a moment I want to wail out loud, but I press my fist against my lips and muffle my sobs, and it passes. Sometimes I'm driving, singing along with the radio and something--the words, the melody, or maybe it's the memory the song evokes--pushes me over the edge. It's not so bad in my car. I don't have to stifle the sounds and I can cry loudly.
We don't talk about grief in this culture. When someone dies, we offer our sympathies to the family but then we politely move on. We use euphemisms for death--she passed away; he moved on. Anything to avoid saying that someone died.
No one ever tells you about grief. Logic tells me that all of us are touched by death and therefore we all experience grief. Perhaps if we shared more of our pain, we could help each other cope with it. Instead, we barely speak of it and offer useless platitudes: she's in a better place or you have to get on with your life. Or the all comforting, "Death is a part of living."
Here's my truth. Grief is a living thing. It inhabits you like a virus and flares up when you least expect it. You can and will go on with the business of living, but there will be times when the grief will engulf you, a dark force squeezing you so tightly that you are certain that you will not survive it. That's when it is important to let the tears come, to cry as hard as you can, great heaving sobs that turn you inside out; it's your salvation, your release.
My ache for my mother is constant. Death changes those who are left behind. I see the same ache in my sister, my brother, my father, all of us who knew and loved her. I don't think that my pain is unique; that's the rub. It's as if society has made some pact to just not talk about grief.
So if you ask me how I'm doing, you'll get an honest answer, "I'm not fine, but I'm doing okay."