People keep asking me how I am. There’s a brittle edge to the question, a certainty that what you see is not what you get – that all the “going about my daily business” hides a slew of crises just under the surface. And it does.
Grief is a strange beast. On a day to day basis it consumes cognitive capacity. 5 weeks after my dad’s death I still can’t think straight. I am exhausted but not sleeping. I forget whether I have done simple things like locked the door or closed the garage. I don’t know what I did 5 minutes ago, but I can remember with crystal clarity a conversation with my dad 25 years ago.
The first shock passes, the funeral comes and goes, and life settles into a new rhythm. People move on – the first flush of support washes by us and now we expect ourselves to get on with the everyday things that keep us fed and moving. My five year old shocks me with her perception when she cries “nothing will ever be the same”.
I find myself on a hair trigger. I rage over small things, yet some days I can let the big stuff float right past. I grieve for life as it was and as it wasn’t. For what I lost and what I never had. It turns out that it’s not when you die that your whole life passes before your eyes – it’s when someone you love dies.
In life I couldn’t always see past the day to day. Now that my dad is dead I can see past him to our whole life together.
I think we forget, or perhaps never fully realize, the profound and lasting impact of grief on our lives. We wonder if we are going crazy, and when it will get better. We expect ourselves and others to move on, and in some ways we do, but in other ways we are anchored here by our pain and loss.
You don’t get over grief. It never goes away. You just learn to live with it. In some ways it’s necessary to make peace with it. To accept that sometimes it will wash over you in a wave of heartbroken tears, leaving you drained and empty, and that the next day you will get up and get on with things. The very intensity of the wave is a tribute to the strength of our love.
We are very fond in our society of doing the “stiff upper lip” thing. Pretending that everything is fine. Stuffing the grief down into its box, where it corrodes and consumes us behind a veneer of perfect makeup.
In my eternal quest for truth, I wonder what it would be like if we were more open with the people around us. If we felt safer answering “How are you really?” with “Actually, I’m really struggling today.” Instead we toss “how’s it going?” at each other as we fly past down the corridor, often well out of earshot before the answer that never comes.
Some days I am ok. Some days I am not. Some days even honest answers to well meant questions are too hard. It’s one foot in front of the other, one day at a time.