Friday, October 3, 2014

How it feels

You would think that we all understand how grief feels. We see it in the media all the time and that has to teach us something, right? Watch any action movie and the hero is moved by grief to destroy the bad guys. Characters are knocked off weekly on tv. Books, poetry, music, art... it's everywhere. Isn't it?

Frankly the most accurate modern media depictions of grief I have seen lately are on The Simpsons, when Homer sobs because something painful has happened. We're supposed to laugh at his reaction, at the noises he's making, at his distorted face. I don't laugh. I have wailed like that and will again. In the next moment Homer is fine, whistling and wandering off to another hapless moment. That, too, is true to my experience of grief. When the waves pass I have no choice but to wander off to the next thing I must do because there really isn't any other option. The similarities are minimal and shallow but there.

Homer gets to stop grieving. Minimal. Shallow. Few.

I'm sure if I were a social scientist I would nod wisely and tap my pen against my lip. I would find it significant that the most accurate depictions of grief easily found on television are in an animated show that is supposed to be funny. What does that say about our discomfort with grief?

When Kevin was diagnosed I was shattered. His death has sent me into some kind of transformational process I do not yet and may never understand. I am often still in shock. I find that I am perpetually startled because the idea that Kevin - Kevin! - had cancer and died is blasphemous. Sometimes I howl. Often I am living in a grey world that is utterly indifferent to me and my efforts, rather than the world that I once inhabited where I had some agency. Every once in awhile I feel okay and even that is startling. How can I be okay if he is gone? Guilt sweeps in and the cycle begins again.

That's one of the oddest things about grief. It changes by the moment. Some moments I'm okay. As close to okay as I can be without Kevin. I smile. I might even laugh a little. And in the next? Well.

Here. Try this. Imagine yourself. See your body, your expressions, your movement. Not in a mirror. In your imagination.

When I imagine myself the first thing I see is a flayed skin. Bloody, shapeless and incoherent. Grief means I have lost contour and form. Even in the best moments I am a ghost, grey and transparent, belonging in neither this world nor the world beyond.

That's how it feels.

It's not comfortable. But it is essential.

I would rather live in a world in which I grieve him than one in which I never loved him.

So it goes.

(c)2014 Laura S. Packer

(27 weeks. I don't understand how this can be. I love you. I miss you.) Creative Commons License

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True Stories, Honest Lies by Laura S. Packer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
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