A coworker had heard that from her dad and passed it onto me which I now passed onto my friend. My friend “J” had just lost his mother. Not to disease, but to a surprise heart-attack and therefore throwing his whole family into mourning. I could hear the emotion in his voice over the phone, and my heart broke for him. Grief is different for everyone, but just hearing his wavering voice saying the strong things he said, ah… it was like the knife reopening the wound in my own heart…
I have gotten to know grief very intimately these last few months. It is now 5 months since the passing of my fiance from a motorcycle accident, and I know that although I am starting to find me again, I know that this ‘me’ is never going to be the same. How can I summarize these last five months of hell?
I do a lot of stuff that makes me seem ‘crazy’:
-I still sleep in ‘our’ bed. Although the bed is now in my parents’ basement and we are awaiting to find our new home together.
-Everything reminds me of him: Honda Civics, orange bouquets from Trader Joe’s, figs, hamburgers, Blackberry phones, bird houses, napkins, arugula… I pause, and wistfully think, “Come back to me,” and am not surprised anymore that the answer is, “No.”
-I sleep with the remainder of his ashes.
-I carry his stuffed animal toy with me every time I take a trip. I pretend it’s him. I talk to it constantly. When I drive, I place it in the passenger seat, and sometimes I hold its hand.
-I can’t look at wedding paraphernalia. Especially as we get closer to what was supposed to be our wedding date.
And yet, there is also a moment-to-moment realization that I am -indeed- very much alive:
-Taking rafting trips with close friends where I fall out of the boat and must somehow brave the rapids alone with my little life vest and my wits. And then we all laugh about it afterwards over a beer.
-Glissading down Mt Shasta for 3,000 feet of elevation loss.
-Karaoking Criss Kross and U2 with high school friends at the neighborhood dive bar which is now owned by gasp! one of the guys who did theatre with us in high school!
-Sitting in a car at 11pm and watching planes take off at SFO while eating MacDonalds’ strawberry sundaes (with extra nuts!) with an old friend, talking about his job search and marriage and all other things we are grateful for.
-Watching World War Z with my best friend from grade school and screaming at the zombies and reliving the fact that it was she who forced me to watch the Freddy Kruger films when we were 10 years old.
-Watching other people shine when given the chance. (As seen in this youtube video of an audience member surprising Kristin Chenoweth with her singing.) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FpXm_sXcc_Y
-Phone calls with friends over losing their parents to death as well….
It is a very bittersweet time, and not the same for every other person in grief. But it is strange, to feel so cursed and so blessed at the same time. But maybe perhaps that is what I am learning from this lesson in grief: that life is incredibly GOOD and it altogether does end too fast… but that it took death for me to see it so clearly.
And grief is not linear. BUT it is strangely beautiful. I can’t tell that to my friend in mourning, not yet, not now, and probably not ever. Because he will discover his own new self and his own new perspective in his journey and there are some things that are simply meant to be learned… on one’s own.