Friday, May 15, 2009

Doing Okay: Living and Grieving

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."


Miss Ginger Grant said...

Grief is a process and everyone goes through it differently. It's been over 6 years since my Momma died and I still grieve for her at some point every day. As the years have passed, it doesn't consume me as it once did, but I still get that sharp pang at some point each day. It will never go away, and I don't want it to. For if it went away, that would mean I have forgotten her, and all hope is lost. All I live for today is to be the best I can be on Earth, so I can be with her and His when my time here is done. Your grief is healthy, dear Sheria, and you may not believe me now but some day you will come to appreciate it, if not enjoy it, because it brings you a warmth and a meaning that no human can bring you again. God bless you!

Beth said...

It sounds like your day was a mixed bag...great to have a day off, socked in the face with the loss of your mother, thinking about dealing with grief....

You raise a good point, and I'd have to say that in my family, we're very much the kind who soldiers on stoicly, and doesn't talk about pain. Is that healthy? I'm not sure, but despite the death of many close family members, we're still a happy bunch.

Is it a matter if different people dealing with loss in different ways? Maybe. I think we all have to find our own method of dealing, and hope that we have someone there to hold our hand along the way. I'd hold your hand right now if I could, my friend.

Love, Beth

cw2smom said...

This is something I relate to soooo very much! I have lost so many immediate family members to death in the past 10-15 years that I feel consumed by grief at times. I miss my father as you describe missing your Mom. Grief washes over me at the most inopportune the car, the bath...certain songs, memories, etc. Loss has been a big theme in my life and I've learned a lot of lessons from every DAMN death...even the loss of relationships to something other than a physical death. It can hurt nearly the same at times. My new man lost his wife of 32 years suddenly due to an aneurysm about 16 months ago. It nearly killed him, but he's doing much better and we seem to be really good for one another. I am sorry about your Mom! I know you carry her love in your heart and that you and your family will keep her near in your memories/traditions and by speaking of her whenever you can! Blessings Dear Lady! Lisa

Gerry said...

I always think what a wonderful person this must have been to evoke such feelings in those she left behind. That is a towering monument to strength which can be celebrated at the same time the sorrow at such a person leaving the earth sometimes threatens to overwhelm. I know you are working too hard and too long of hours to be able to respond in writing on your blog too often, but it is good to hear from you. When people are going so fast they just don't have time to grieve the way a person needs to there is a cost, but it will also help you to write the deep and touching thoughts you have written here, when you find a precious moment. You have a talent. Gerry

Anonymous said...

(( HUGS ))

Its ok Sheria, it just proves your HUMAN and that you have that deep longing and wishing for her to be here to talk to her


Thats the one good thing about you, your very down to earth!

Just try to lock the best memories of her in your heart and put that key away so when you feel like you need to cry, you can open that place up in your heart and turn that frown and teary face into a smile :)

-- Christopher

Char said...

Cherish your warm memories of your mother and keep them at the ready. I think they are our greatest bounty. If they make us cry, that's the way it should be.

Bless you.

ADB said...

I'm there myself, Sheria. Having lost my mom a year ago this month, the merest thing will bring back memories. And men don't cry? Well, not outwardly perhaps. Hang on in there.

Sarcastic Bastard said...

I am sending my love to you. I thought about you on Mother's Day and prayed you would have some peace. I figured it would be a really hard day for you.

I'm around if you need me, and I do expect and want honesty. I'm fine with talking honestly about death. It's a natural, but very sad, part of life. I, too, am very close to my mother and am dreading her death in advance.

My e-mail is:
Feel free to write anytime. I love hearing from friends.

Much love,


Yasmin said...

It'll be six years this October since my mother died, and the grief at times is still overwhelming, just the tiniest thing can set me off to take back to that day and time when the call came. I have in the main come to terms with it but I did seek help with councilling, which helped as I was allowed to vent. It's an ongoing process, so I just carry the all the good in my heart as it sunstains me when I'm feeling down.



Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

I lost my Dad in 1990. I still think of him often, but it is not every day any more.

I know that when I am watching a movie, there will be something that sets me off, the memories rush back in, and the grief makes me sob. That only happens about every other year now.

Those that have not experienced it do not understand how powerful and deep it is.

Hugs to you friend :o(

Mark said...

I don't know if it's so true that we don't talk about grief in this country. 30 years ago you never heard the term "grief counseling," now it's automatic. I went through more grief through AIDS deaths than anybody should have to, and I have never felt anything less than fully supported, including now. I have come to find the euphemisms an attempt to soften what feels too hard and direct. When people offer their condolences, I have chosen to believe they are quite sincere, but also to watch for my secret expectation that they should react more deeply to my grief. Why should they? It was my loss, not theirs.
However, there is still way too much taboo around death itself. People are so afraid of it, or react to it as if it is some horrific injustice, instead of an indispensable part of life.
I do hope you've never felt anyone looked askance at your grief--which I have the feeling you generally indulge in too privately for people to know much about, in any case. Given the wonderful relationship you had with your mother, the depth of your grief is the most natural thing in the world. But there IS much to be grateful for in a death not proceeded by years of deterioration, that is not a platitude, even if it doesn't make the sense of loss any less severe. (The deterioration of my mother is starting to make me wish she dies soon. She is so unhappy, even with all the love we give her.)

Rebecca Anne said...

I wish I had the 'right' words to offer someone when they are grieving, but I don't. I do agree that in the good old U.S. we don't celebrate and continue to outloud honor those that have passed away. I love the culture in say, Mexico, where cemetaries are sparkly and FULL Of life and decorations and burning candles and what appears to be contant homage to those who left this earth.
I'm glad you had a day off, even though it went down a path of sadness, maybe thats exactly what you needed at the time...

Sybil said...

Thank you as always.. You always seem to come up with just the right words to say what I would love to be saying as well. I have sent a copy on to my sister as she does so enjoy and admire your writing.
Death is such a strange thing to come to terms with and I have no words of wisdom and I doubt if anyone else has either...everyone just copes in his/her own way. I am not even sure that talking about it does help...oh yes talk about the person who has died often and often but seeing how my sister has not, is not, coping with the death of my darling Goddaughter almost a year ago,
and she seems to want to have her in our conversation or thoughts all the time I am not so sure that if she could get past this period maybe she would begin to feel better. My love of my Goddaughter was and will be never ending however I often in private talk to her and laugh at what she used to do..and if I am honest cry so often but I hope that by doing this I am actually letting her go..
Not sure if this makes any sense whatsoever !!
Much Love as always Sybil xx

Kimberly Rose Carolan said...

I completely agree!!! It is so hard how in our culture no one wants to talk about grief. A doctor I know said recently, "Well, it's not like they're going to 'catch' a case of death by talking about it." But sometimes people about act that way. But grief does come on unexpectedly (my dad died 7-years-ago and it still affects me sometimes).

Kim Carolan

Joy said...

What I learned when my father died 32 years ago is that not feeling my grief at the time was the problem. It waits for you and ambushes you later on. I still miss him and dread the time my mother dies. She's 88 and doing really well, but she is 88.

I've had a lot of loss and know what you mean about how it washes over you. It sounds as if you are in touch with your feelings. I'm glad you wrote this for yourself and for us, too. :-)

aims said...

Sheria, reading this reminds me that I, too, will experience this loss someday. Both of my parents are still here and the older they get, every day that goes by, I find myself wanting to take more photos, document everything they say - as if that will help me to hold on to them. I just can't imagine.

Sending hugs and prayers your way dear.