I got myself a couple of mini-interventions this month. I don’t get them often because I am highly independent as well as incredibly impatient with bullshit so most people are afraid of having their head handed to them. I don’t blame them I don’t particularly like giving myself an intervention either. They can be wrenchingly painful and humiliating. Yet I do it to myself. All the time. And for one simple reason, I think the primary foundation of being self-sufficient is that you problem solve and trouble shoot for yourself.
Anyway for me, I’ve been getting a lot of these interventions lately because I’m a recent widow. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned about grief, it’s that there is an inherently human expectation that even though it makes no sense at all, there is a right way to grieve. Now don’t misunderstand. No one would ever say such a thing because its lunacy, however they do believe it — deep in their bones.
My most recent mini-all about me came from a very, very dear friend. He and I share something awful. He is a widower and has been for almost a decade. He’s still not over it and knowing the woman he was married to, I am not at all surprised. He shared a story with me, which I’ll paraphrase mostly because it’s a good story and should remain his to tell however he wants. Essentially it was about coming out of hiding soon after he became a widower. Many people, mostly colleagues, were shocked and uncomfortable at seeing him and how one guy in particular made him realize that he had a whole lot more grieving to do.
In his sweet and compassionate re-telling of the story, the messaging for me was clear. I am not over the hump yet. He gently explained how he had seen it again and again even in his own father, a year or almost two after the fall there is another, very personal shattering of your composure about your loss. Because my friend knows me well, as many of my dearest friends do, he urged me not to argue with him.
“I know you want to say ‘but, I’m okay and I’m fine’. Don’t. Just listen.” He said emphatically.
Surprisingly I was able to curb my inclination to skewer him with my superior knowledge of myself and I kept my mouth shut. It was difficult. So difficult it’s been creeping in and out of my thoughts ever since. Therefore I’ve come to a decision. Since I need to make room for other thoughts I’ll share the “buts” I didn’t share with my friend, with you dear reader. Here goes.
But, I know you’re right. I’ve grieved many times. I’m older, so probably many more times than you and I know it doesn’t go away. It morphs. It mutates. And it can be debilitating. It can also be molded like clay or channeled into a force for good or evil. It is an emotion. Something you feel even when you don’t want to but that does not mean that you’re not okay or that you’re not fine. Being okay and fine, simply means you’re functional for the moment. You’re not lying in a heap unable to move or sobbing so much that you feel hollow.
But I’m a woman and all the grievers you mentioned are men. Woman fend off pain and loss differently than men mostly, I believe, because we’re used to it. Grief and a woman’s reproductive system have much in common. They both can be painful yes, but it’s more than that. Any woman who has been through labor (or even some menstrual cycles) will tell you that the pain can be sharp or dull but it usually comes in a rush, stays a moment, and then goes flat suddenly like a wave hitting then retreating from the shore over and over. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before or since — except grief.
But I’m taking care of myself as best I can and because I’m no fool or feckless user, I will ask for help when and if I truly need it. It is a slow process finding my footing and I have come to terms with that. However I’m going ahead with it because I have more to do with this life. A whole lot more. I can’t always go as quickly as some would like. I also can’t change myself into an extrovert who shares and shares and shares their grief with anyone who will listen until it becomes manageable. Would that I could. Everything might be a lot easier but, I seriously doubt it. And since I cannot break my grief down into bite size morsels, I am prepared for anything to happen, and I am also secure in the knowledge that I’m not completely ready for anything that does happen at all.
I read a quote recently that I liked very much. I’m sharing it though I don’t know its source: You have the power to say, “this is not how my story will end”. I am a Black American and for that reason alone I’m fully convinced that metaphorically the quote is a wistful fallacy. I do like the quote anyway because it reminds me that I do have power over the story I tell myself, about myself, and how in turn I share that story with others. There is another saying I use a lot. My writing is my therapy. I think about both quotes often when I wake up to a new day with my losses as well as my gains piled high in the recesses of my heart and mind. I have the power but, how on earth will I use it today?