I’m tired of writing about grief. I’m tired of feeling grief. But it’s important.
I’m tired in general. The worst of the insomnia seems to have passed-for now, anyway-but I’m still very tired. It tends to hit me in the afternoon at a time when I usually have the most energy, and it’s all I can do to continue with activity. Sometimes I nap instead. Sometimes my stomach hurts for no discernible reason.
The last week or so, there’s been minimal drama in the rest of my life, which has been a blessing. I’m too tired to deal with it. In the meantime, I do what I do. I try to get work done, I do chores, I make plans, I go out. Everything feels somewhat flat and colorless. I do things because that’s what I do, not because I have a strong urge to actually do them. Fatigue encroaches on everything.
An interesting part of grief, for me at least, is that a fresh grief tends to bring up old griefs that I’d hoped were buried and finished. So I’m not mourning for my friend and nothing else, oh no. That would be too simple. I’m mourning my childhood; and I’m mourning the people who have let me down, and the people I have let down; and I’m mourning the reality of death at all.
I’m learning a lot, and I speak about almost none of it.
When my mom died, I spent a week at home surrounded by people. We had the memorial service at the end of the week, and then I drove back to college. And that was supposed to be the end of it.
But here is the important truth, so important that I’m writing this post right now even though I really don’t feel like it: grief doesn’t stop after a week. Grief doesn’t stop after two weeks. Grief takes the time it takes, and sometimes the time it takes is a very long time indeed.
Back at school, I wasn’t supposed to talk about what had happened. I was supposed to be fine. My grief made people uncomfortable. All the people who had surrounded me at home disappeared. No one called to see how I was doing. Most of my peers didn’t seem to know what to do with me. It was almost as if nothing had happened, except I had huge amounts of work to make up and I felt like I was dying inside.
I tried to force myself to continue. That was the only lab exam in my entire college career during which I choked; I completely blanked on the chord progressions I’d known perfectly that morning. When I tried to cut myself a little slack with my class load the next quarter, my teacher angrily told me I didn’t deserve a senior recital that would have been more than a year and a half in the future. I was compared to a fellow student who had lost her mom and was doing better than me. After eight months, my dad had his new girlfriend move in with him even though he’d promised me that wouldn’t happen yet. He told me via email. On Valentine’s Day. Several weeks after the fact.
My grief was packed into smaller and smaller boxes because I wasn’t allowed to have it. I wasn’t allowed to show it. I wasn’t allowed to speak of it.
Grief doesn’t fit into small boxes, my friends. Grief doesn’t disappear just because it’s inconvenient, just because other people don’t like it, just because you’re tired of it.
Grief isn’t like a flat tire. It isn’t like a bad first date. It isn’t like a temporary setback. It isn’t likely that you’ll wake up in two weeks and think, “Oh, I guess I’m okay with this person being dead now. No big deal.”
So be kind to one another. Be compassionate. Offer support and assistance, if that is appropriate. Don’t expect someone else’s grief to be short and predictable. Allow them the space to have the experience with grief that they need to have.
No one deserves to be pressured into putting their grief into a tight little box. It’s hard enough as it is.
“”That’s the thing about pain,” Augustus said, and then glanced back at me. “It demands to be felt.”” – The Fault in our Stars, by John Green