(WARNING: SOME SADNESS AND A FRANK DISCUSSION DEATH.)
I have actually had a few “normal” feeling days. If I can even qualify myself as someone who understands “normal.” Maybe “upbeat” or even “happy” are better words. Or the therapy favorite “engaged with life.” Yesterday was such a day. I participated in a friend’s podcast (ENOUGH SAID) and went to a sushi-making party. I spoke my truth into a microphone, rolled spicy tuna, drank sake and ate ice cream…HOW COULD I NOT FEEL RIGHT WITH THE WORLD? It wasn’t until right before I fell asleep that I remembered, “Oh wait, my mom is gone.”
It’s been almost three months since my mother “passed away.” I prefer to say that she “died” but the “D” word creates a lot of downcast eyes, shuffling and weirdness in people. Nobody discusses death except video game players and comics who, as a friend pointed out, regularly “kill.” I’m kind of aghast at how alien death is in our culture. I’ve noticed that a lot of acquaintances don’t mention anything. Some might say, “I know now is a hard time.” Maybe they are afraid I’ll burst into tears. Maybe they don’t know she died. (I might be narcissistic in assuming that people see my Facebook feed). But I suspect many people just don’t want to bring up the topic. Other friends have kind of taken a step back. Just disappeared. I kind of decided to let them go. I can’t blame anyone for not knowing how to handle the concept of Death when he or she has grown up in a culture that treats it like unique tragedy.
I have typed into Google things like “dealing with loss” or “dealing with death” and so I thought I would write about what has helped me. Honestly, I can’t tell anyone how to act to the strangest, hardest, most inexplicable event in our lives. (Other than birth, puberty, or your first visit to the 99 Cent store).
Here’s what has helped me “deal.”
1) People reaching out. When people ask, “How are you?” Oh, my God! I love those words! I think maybe technology and booty-call style dating made non-human greetings begin with things like, “Do you…” or “Can I…” or “Will you…” However, when people message me out of nowhere and just say, “How are you? I’m sorry. Just wanted to connect.” No agenda. I LOVE THAT.
2) SLEEP. I love sleep. We all need more sleep. Always. But especially now. I think during grief we’re engaged in some traumatic healing process that requires unknown reserves of energy that I only get from sleep.
3) Reverence for Death and Grief. Not to be creepy, but this shit is real and necessary. I think that being with my mom during her final hours was the greatest thing I’ve ever done. It has given me more self-respect and a sense of the sacredness of life. Sometimes people – not to blame them – but will get all super casual about it. “How’re you doing with your mom?” It’s kind of like a reporter asking a victim, “How does it feel to lose everything?” Again, it’s our culture. Grief is creepy. GET OVER IT. (Is the thinking).
Bottom line: I’m never going to be “at peace” with grief due to the loss of an important person. It’s a big deal. For once, you are dealing with a situation that falls in the category of “Life or Death.” (Just FYI…the Mad Men season finale? NOT LIFE OR DEATH.)
4) Other people’s stories. I love other people’s stories of loss. I don’t love that people lose people. But since we do, I want to hear about it. I have some friends who have lost parents or close people. It’s not just their stories or sharing, but the fact that they have gone on to embrace life.
5) Pictures. See blog below.
Other things that help are a Loving Boyfriend, Coffee, and Protein.
The truest words I have read about losing someone came from this pamphlet by Paula Spencer Scott.
To be sure, the passing away of a loved one can be almost unendurable. That in the end it is endurable seems to be both its blessing and its curse.