Tuesday, November 14, 2006

You don't need a weatherman. . .

My grief lies all within,
And these external manners of laments
Are merely shadows to the unseen grief
That swells with silence in the tortured soul.
There lies the substance.
King Richard, in Richard II, act 4, sc. 1, l. 295-9.
--William Shakespeare
Grief is formless, ever-changing, and ephemeral, like the wind. But it is also solid, like the wind. And just as a steady wind can wear a hole in the ground, so can grief wear away at a person's flesh until there's nothing left but a heart rattling around in a cage of bones, bumping out its rhythm, inaudible under the whistling of the wind. It appears nowhere in my life, but it presses against me at every turn, fatiguing me in every motion, making me labor to complete the simplest of tasks.

I haven't really wanted to write much about it here, and I still don't. I don't want to get bogged down in it. I want to--need to--get on with my life. If I can keep moving, I know that eventually grief will tire of the chase, although the escape will exhaust me until then. And this time I'm not scared to lose the grief; I'm not scared that if I'm no longer sad, I'll no longer remember Mom; I know that as soon as I lose the grief, I'll be free to see her as I did when she was alive, unencumbered by melancholy.

To avoid the quicksand of melancholy, I remind myself of all the small favors for which I have to be thankful--that she lived so long, so full, so happy a life; that I got to share with her my greatest joys and know her comfort in my deepest sorrows; and that she is so deeply rooted in me that she will never leave me, wherever I may roam. I also have 3B to pull me back from the gaping maw of bleak, self-pitying contemplation--he needs me here to hold him, talk to him, and sway him to sleep. He needs me here so that he can, as Mom would say, "get on with his life," which reminds me to get on with my life--to not let the shrieking winds of grief push me, running, before them, but to turn my tiller and tack against them, beating into the formless currents that whistle around me and slice across my skin.

And so, as he creates his own life with each soft, shallow breath, 3B also breathes life into me, giving me strength and direction--and that's no small favor.

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  1. My nephew died right before my son was born. We buried him on 9/11, and my son was born on 9/23.

    Riley was....oh, just Riley. I was there when he took his very first breath. I was there the very moment he came into this world. He would crawl across the floor just to sit in your lap. He was wonderful.

    Losing him was so very, very hard. So hard. Words can't even seem to adequately reflect the loss, the grief, the anger, the sadness...all those things.

    And then Gage was born. And suddenly, Riley's death was so much harder. Looking into my son's eyes & wanting so badly for my sister to be able to look into Riley's eyes. Wanting so badly for them to grow & play together. Wanting so badly for Gage to know the person that Riley had become, and wanting so badly for Riley to know Gage....

    It's hard.
    And it'hard to describe: the missing that person is constant, but it also seems to come in strong waves...

    It's been One year, 2 months, one week, and two days since Riley died.
    I still count it that way...so I must still be grieving....

    ...but, we miss them, and we keep going....carrying them in our hearts & memories.

  2. Grief is a funny animal. I like the image of it chasing you until you finally outrun it. With me, it's not entirely like that. I shun it for long stretches, then, when I feel a little ready, I turn around and face it in small stages. A sip at a time. You don't want to wallow in it, and you can't let it overwhelm you. But, tentatively, you come to grips; you reach an accommodation.

    Your siblings have almost all mentioned some of the same things you're going through. Sleep irregularities. Loss of appetite. Physical symptoms. Restless energy. Is all the driving I'm doing part of my reaction? I don't look at it that way, but I wouldn't try to deny it either.

    Someone perceptive once described our relations to each other as a kind of human mobile, everyone connected to each other by strings and bars, moving around. When one part of the mobile moves, other connected parts move also. Sometimes the partner at the other end of the bar moves a little, and you move a lot; sometimes it's the other way around. Here we see one major player in the mobile dropped off completely, and the rest of us all spinning and colliding as we find a new equilibrium with our other connected pieces. That's just one image.

    I have to laugh at the question of losing sleep. Yeah, I'm not sleeping so well because I'm grieving. It's not because every time I go home, I have to drink coffee every time I want to check my e-mail, and after all that caffeine it takes me three weeks to detox. No, that has nothing to do with it. Definitely it's the grieving.

    We plod on and make our way, those who are grieving and those who aren't, and both of us look up from time to time and remember the sun is shining and it's an amazing day. It'll be good to see each other again.