This is still a sad house after the loss of Mollie. I wrote this in 2015 after I lost Jake but I needed to remind myself that grief is a journey and not a sprint. Some of the references date back to fall of 2015 but I decided not to edit that. It is even more difficult during a pandemic.
Grief is a tunnel. The loss determines the length and diameter. The bond with the loss determines the speed that you travel.
The loss can be anything. It can be a person, a beloved pet, a marriage or the perfect job. Grieving is the recovery process.
Sometimes it’s short. I felt very sad when Robin Williams died because he was one of my favorite actors and a contemporary but since he wasn’t in my daily life, my sadness was short-lived. There was no impact to my daily routine.
Sometimes it’s not. When my Dad died at a young age, my mother was in the tunnel for two years. It was very scary because I was only 11 and feared she would leave me too.
No mojo – People say keep busy. That’s easier said than done. It’s hard to keep focus. Both my attention span and interest are very short. I was able to complete a project that was on the list all summer but the beloved husband was there to keep me going or I may have crapped out in the middle. I was not able to write.
Glazing – I’m perfectly fine one minute and then my eyes glaze over and I can’t hear a thing you are saying. I have no idea where I am but I’ll snap back. Hopefully I can pick up the conversation and won’t notice the odd look on your face. For once that saying is true – it’s not you, it’s me.
The litany of the losses – Mourning has a cumulative effect. When I mourn, I mourn collectively. I mourn the loss of summer. I remember the loss of my parents and the loss of my youth. Perhaps more than anything, death reminds us that we all have an expiration date and we mourn that too.
Keep the routine – Some folks like distractions. I have no patience for them. Many years ago, when I was married to my ex, his father died. His mother was not mentally capable (early dementia but fairly alert) of living by herself. She lived an hour or two away from her kids. I pulled the short straw and stayed with her for a month but I needed to get back to my life. None of her children could or would stay with her so she was moved to a lovely assisted living place. I remember her painful wails. “I want to go home!” Of course she did. She needed the comfort of home, the familiar and most of all, her friends who were now too far away. How cruel it was to rip her from that and put her in a sterile environment. I only understood that years later. At the time it was the “right” thing to do. After all, people had lives and no one had time.
I get “claustrophobic” when I’m somewhere. I call it that because I don’t know the clinical word. After a while I need to go home to the familiar. It’s calming.
I have a great friend who gave me the 90 minute rule. When invited out, 90 minutes is all she stays, then she goes home. It keeps activities pleasant and sets a good end time. Sometimes I don’t last 90 minutes.
Buck up Bunkie! – (No one said that to me because they wouldn’t have any teeth left.) Grieving is very personal. Everyone has their own rhythm and timeline. I worked with a man whose 20-something son died. He was back at work in a week and nothing was visible. Does that mean he was done mourning? I doubt it. He had private coping mechanisms. Very private. Some people can compartmentalize better than others. Doesn’t mean they don’t hurt.
What to do? – Just be there. Sometimes I want to talk about it and sometimes I don’t. You won’t be able to tell. I can’t tell. Don’t avoid mourning people because it’s too hard. They are more sensitive, needier. The feelings reside just under the skin. Even a sad story that is not related to them will send them into a pit.
In the end, you come out of the tunnel. One day you wake up and the cloud of gloom isn’t so heavy. The sun punches through a little bit at a time. Not all the time, but sometimes. It keeps getting better.
You start to worry that you’ll forget but don’t worry, you never forget. Humans are resilient but we don’t forget.
Author’s note: The only thing I would add is that the mind knows how painful loss is but the heart forgets the hurt so it’s always a shock.