As I sit with my BFF (Best Friend Forever), we watch the rain bounce upon the pavement through his office window. Our hands are tightly wrapped around our ceramic mugs, not because it’s particularly cold, but more for its consoling gesture. With a subtle hint of wood burning in the air, it most certainly feels like fall. As I watch the sky heave, it seems to reflect how I feel as though Mother Nature is bearing the burden of my grief.
Today, I have awoken with a welling ache in my solar plexus like I’ve been hollowed in my sleep. It’s strange that this emptiness feels more literal than metaphorical, but my BFF knows exactly what I mean, for he still feels the emptiness from his own grief. This unspoken understanding instantly soothes the pain in my soul.
Like most forms of loss, there are days where the pain feels like its healing and there are other days where it feels fresh. I guess that’s just how grief works. Well, that’s what my Psychologist says, anyways. I know, I know, no need to roll your eyes. “My therapist says” is disastrously clichéd, but who cares about clichés, really, when one is barely staying afloat in these emotional waters.
Our conversation interrupts the hypnotic pitter patter of the rain. A practiced litany of our woes, my BFF and I talk like a stream of consciousness with no clear direction, but that’s what’s so comforting about sharing our grief with each other. After a deep sigh, my BFF addresses a concern that has been nagging at him; it’s been over a year and yet, the sorrow continues to haunt him. When he asks what I think, I draw a blank. Unfortunately, I’m so busy taking it day by day that it’s hard for me to wrap my mind around the future.
I reply that I need time to think about it, but he insists that I share my first thoughts. I take a deep breath and look up at the ceiling as if I’m searching the deep recesses of my mind. Slowly, I begin to speak, “My first thought is that I’ll always miss my mom. It will always hurt, especially since she was my best friend. Here’s the thing, though, although there are times, the pain feels brand new, it doesn’t consume like it did. For those first few days, there was absolutely nothing of myself except piercing pain.”
My BFF asks, “Aren’t you worried that it will never get better than this; that this pain will never go away.” I nod, “Yes, sometimes, but I worry more that as the pain subsides, her memory will fade. The hurt reminds me of how lucky I am to have loved so greatly. Maybe, that sounds somewhat masochistic, but it’s true. Our anguish feels insurmountable because we loved them so much. It’s directly proportional.”
“Look, my sorrow, my sadness, my tears, my loneliness, are excruciating and most certainly, erratic. I’m at a point where I have no idea what’s going to trigger these feelings. I’m a ticking time bomb. Yet, when you break it down, none of this is necessarily unhealthy. It’s simply part of the mourning process for any type of loss (divorce, abandonment, and death) so I don’t need to speed it up or impede the process.” My BFF purses his lips and asks, “Yes, I agree but how do you know when you are going too far, when you are sinking rather than ‘feeling’ these emotions?”
“Ah, yes, that’s a good question and one that I had to ask at the beginning of my quest for self-betterment, years before my mom’s diagnosis and death. When I first started working on emotional balance, I had unrealistic expectations for myself and my feelings. I didn’t allow myself to feel sad, disappointed, lonely, and etc. However, healthy isn’t about being happy and bubbly all the time. It’s about being honest.
In the wake of my impracticality, my therapist taught me a trick that I find useful in almost any emotionally difficult situation. I ask myself one simple question, ‘Do I feel helpless and hopeless right now?’ If the answer is no, then I’m in the healthy range of emotions. If the answer is yes, then my feelings have gone from organic to toxic and I need to do some deeper work. It’s my cheat-cheat and grossly simplifies the extremely complicated gamut of emotions, but hey, it works.”
I pause as my BFF looks up from his coffee. “I’m no Buddha on the mountain top. I’m just a girl trying to make it in this ridiculously convoluted world and finding myself failing more than succeeding. However, it is my failures rather than my successes that have created the most beautiful and dynamic components of my personality so I must be doing something right. When it comes to my mom, I have no guarantees that it will get better. In fact, I am presently walking in the unknown and it’s rather scary, but that’s usually a sign that, whether I like it or not, I’m growing. I simply hope that what grows in the wake of her death will help this world and leave an imprint of the unconditional love that she showed me every moment of my life. In the end, that’s all I really got.” My BFF smiles and we both look out the picture window knowing that seasons may change, but love is eternal.
Dedicated to my Glennie: "Grief shared is grief diminished."- Rabbi Grollman