Grief, hmmm... it is a heavy feeling. The weight in your chest that seems to drag you down, the pressure that ceases your every breath, the tears, the damn tears that creep out whether you want them to or not and the words you whisper to yourself, repetitive like incantations, a type of ritual of catharsis, of saying goodbye, that is how grief feels like? You cook, you clean, you laugh, you pray and sing, you talk about weddings and birthdays, job promotions and births then you talk about the person you miss the most in present tense because she cannot be gone, not like that, not when there is so much to live for, to see, to hope for.
Grief. When people speak of all the good they remember, you nod and smile, a smile that never touch your swollen eyes. You remember with them but you have no words of your own even though you remember and know more than they ever will so you take their words and reuse them like old bandages and with each telling they become like scabs and scars, a part of you, of your story, of your own memory. After a silent pause, you nod your head and smile to yourself and let the pain filter through your bones like a breaking fever.
Grief, ha... everyone speaks soft as if afraid to wake she who sleeps, as if in a church. Death brings too much reverence, the kind that life should have but we do not remember to be reverent with our lives until we are about to die. People walk small, on tiptoes and there are too many people underfoot, trying to behave as if life goes on and things will remain the same but you know that things are different now no matter how hard they try to fake it. The space you shared would have a vacuum and sometimes, a picture, a word, an action would remind you of what is missing and old wounds will tear open and bleed. This is grief?
The condolence register is there before the picture but you cannot write a thing. The words are like stillbirths in your womb and each time you try to resuscitate them you find nothing but dust. You are full with so much to say and you are empty without the right morphemes to say them all. You seek your silent vigil and hope and hope that this dream would end and you would wake but you never really sleep. You have forgotten what rest means as you pace your thoughts, your room, your bed, seeking solace, assurances, peace, anything to ease the pain in your chest. Grief.
People come with stories, their eyes sad with pain, their hands warm with tears, their lips filled with wealth of words but you have nothing to give them. You console them as they mourn the loss that you feel the most. You help them hold the pain that they have brought with them and you share it with them. You give them water to wash their feet, food to fill their gullet and words to make them feel better. You have forgotten to bathe and brush your teeth and no one knows this but someone who reminds you from time to time, to eat, to bathe, to sleep. It would seem that you have forgotten to breathe, to live but no one knows this but those who see you well. When the visitors are gone leaving the echoes of their presence in the sitting room, you recapture them before they flee and tuck those echoes in your bed and lie with them. Is this not grief?
Grief. You seek the loudest parts of the house where the children and grandchildren play unmindful of the hurt that burns underneath your skin. You join them in play and seek to forget something, not all of it but something at least for a little time. You seek to remind yourself of beauty, of happiness, of love. You take long walks but someone is always somewhere close, watching just in case you stumble, you fall. They are afraid that you are weak, that you will do something terrible but only you know how strong you are. Only you know that if you should gift them your pain for a minute they would go mad and crumble before the world.
And when you come in and sit, listen to the whispers of condolences and the scribbling pen of the condolence register filled with stifled words because grief has no medium of expression in words that would make sense, how do you feel? Do you become numb and silent, do you seek a distraction on the walls of the sitting room; old pictures of a face that would never speak again? Do you watch people come and go, each dealing with grief in their own way? Do you seek for the tears, the similarity of heaviness in your heart that would put you in the same place with the aggrieved? It could be your wife or father that left the world eight years before, it could be your dog who was your best friend for ages. It could be your favorite teddy while you were still a little boy. Is grief the same? Do you feel like you are grieving over the same thing? How do you share grief? I am sorry? Please accept my pain at your loss? Is this what grief feels like?
For it burns deep
and every breath hurts to breathe.
It consumes me and every word
is a birth pang of tears; each morpheme
a flood of liquid pain.
I want to sleep
but my eyelids are frozen open.
I watch shadows in the deep of night
and count beads in hail Marys and whispered pleas.
This pain is too much for me to bear
but no one can take it from me.
This is not grief,
this is something akin to death.
Yesterday i went to visit a member of my family mourning the passing of her mother. It hurt to look at and words were not there to speak. I held her close and that was all i could do then we chatted about every other thing but her mother's death. She talked and wept and i knew that my grief would never compare. I am bereft of words. what is grief?