Thursday, May 1, 2014

Day 21: Let's Talk Grief- What is it?

March 21, 2014

Belly food and spirit food at 바루 in Gyeongju with my friend Mina. It was a favorite date spot.

Trying to get my happy back, courtesy of Noodle the pug.

March 21, 2014

Let's talk grief.

Because, hey. It seems to be the topic of the day. The week. The past several.

And here's what I know. I know you've had grief like mine and my recent posts are reminding you of that, or you're reading with distanced curiosity and filing it away, bracing for a time when you know you will have similar grief. Because, as my friend says, "Life keeps life-ing us."

Grief is the seasons and the explosive blooms and the falling petals and the leaves' vibrant fires and the eventual bare branches and the we-can't-take-much-more-of-this-dead-winter and the glimpse of a tiny bud on an otherwise stark and lonely tree. And on and on and for every time there is a season blah, blah, blah and Christ, can this all be really happening?

Grief is walking down the street and noticing people going about their normal business- getting into taxis, buying groceries, lighting cigarettes, crossing the road with or without looking both ways, fumbling through purses, backing into parking spaces, opening doors, closing umbrellas- Grief is seeing this and wondering how is it? How is it that these people can continue carrying on like nothing is happening. Don't they know?

Grief is riding the waves. Waking up feeling sick, clutching onto a pillow clad in a t-shirt that smells like your loved one, remembering that this is the realest of dreams that you can't wake up from, and whispering into that pillow to give you the strength to get up and do it again. The teeth brushing. The showering. The dressing up for work. The smiling and the talking. All of it. Grief is doing all of it when you really just want to tell it all to fuck off.

Grief is also waking up smiling. Kissing that same pillow with a couple of quick pecks and saying, "Here we go! We're going to do it today!"- showering and smiling, recalling funny things. Putting makeup on and smiling, thinking of getting ready for a date. Dressing up for work and going in and having an amazing class, with eager students who laugh at your every joke. Grief is this. And grief is leaving the class and making it 10 steps past the door before being overcome by a wave that starts in your legs, which are now going numb, and ends in your chest, which is suddenly heaving from the sob. Grief is the sobbing that comes out of nowhere.

Grief is the first week, where the thought of taking one single bite or one single sip of something actually nauseates you. It is the single raisin that you bring to your lips, will inside, and find between your cheek and your teeth 20 minutes later, not a single bite mark in it. Grief is feeling like you're going to vomit from one single raisin.

Grief is enjoying a meal out with a friend a week later, and feeling grateful that the food is both delicious and wanted. It is chewing with ease, swallowing with comfort, feeling fed. A we-can-do-this approach to eating meals. Grief is this moment of appreciation while wondering why the throat is tightening. Why the stomach is knotting. Grief is suddenly sobbing in the middle of an enjoyable meal.

Grief is waking up every two hours and reaching for the phone. Plugging into a virtual world where all of your friends are stored. Grief is reminding yourself they're all still there. It is a 4a.m. moment where you wouldn't dream of doing anything to harm yourself, but you tell God it would be totally ok if, say, your heart just stopped beating in the middle of the night. It would be ok, God, you say. You almost plead. And you realize this is just the Grief talking.

Grief is knowing all of this is normal. It's hanging on the words of the people who have experienced great loss and are getting through it. It is searching for new mentors. Guides. Friends who have been here in the last year. It is gathering strength from the aunt who lost her daughter/my cousin to suicide last year, the friend who lost a husband to cancer last year, the friend who lost her husband to a heart attack two years ago, the friend whose fiancee was hit by a train and killed, the friend whose boyfriend killed himself after they broke up, the friend who lost her sense of normal and stability after a cancer diagnosis. Grief is listening to each word spilled from the mouths of these people and thinking "I don't want to have this is common with you. I don't want to have this in common with you."

It is remembering listening to stories of profound loss on NPR, and while being moved at the time, realizing you didn't really quite get it then, did you? You really had no idea what it felt like. And now you do.

Grief is the very public display of how you're moving through it. The refusal to attempt any wave to stop from hitting, because there is no stopping it. Grief is facing the waves as they break across your body and allowing yourself to occasionally go under and become disoriented.

Grief is trusting in the resurfacing. The recalibration. The recognition of water versus sky. The breathing. Oh, to welcome the breathing.

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