My first book struggles with grief. A woman who returns to Hawaii after nearly a decade of absence, and finds herself stuck, still processing her mother’s suicide. I don’t have any suicide in my family. But I have heard, over the years, from readers who do. And grief is so familiar. Heavy and daily in that awful boring way.
Eighteen months ago, my coworker’s son took his own life. Since then, she has started a suicide support group in Washington State. She has organized, and grown funds, and reached out to her community and talked about drugs and desperation. She has poured her grief into action, and hollered for help and extended aid and she’s just awesome. Honest about her struggle. Honest about her willingness to do whatever she can to help those struggling around her.
A week ago, Mary’s coworker’s son took his own life. The familiar grief. No, no, not you again. Veterans returning with their maladies, with their brutal experiences. Kids trying to cope with addiction, with bullying. Desperate financial times. Health crises. Denial of assistance for food, housing, mental illness. Need in every direction. Mothers trying to explain to themselves, to their families, to their faith: Why did this happen?
Last Sunday, Mary spent the afternoon and evening in the kitchen making casseroles. The house takes deeper breaths when she’s cooking. I sat nearby, reading. Thinking. Wishing for these families. A friend of mine recently lost his comrade to cancer. And he wrote this gorgeous eulogy about his love and his loss, about his brotherhood. And this is the part of grief that is most familiar. We are, none of us, spared. And for some reason, I keep thinking about that Margaret Cho title, I Have Chosen to Stay and Fight. I tell you these stories about love, these stories about loss because I know you have felt them. In your particular way. I know they are familiar. They are ours. They are all of ours. We can’t save anyone. It doesn’t work that way. We love them. And sometimes that is a task. Sometimes that is our liver, torn every night from our body. We love fiercely. We grieve in pieces. We hold each other together. We unravel and gleam.
2 thoughts on “Mean reds”
Yes. We all experience grief, each in our own way. I keep holding on to mine, long past the time to let go of it. I can’t separate from it. I don’t move on, don’t process, don’t feel it getting better with the passage of time. Instead, the time feels like a shock. I am surprised by the days, weeks, years, that have passed, and still my grief attends me.
As grief stands in attendance, its lesser orbitals also attend, anger, embarrassment. Grief is a shameful secret I keep.
I am trying to quit smoking. This is as shameful to me as grieving my mother’s loss. Not the smoking habit, but the attempt to quit it, to leave it behind.
I am a hanger-on. I acknowledge but do not accept change. It happens, but it doesn’t have to affect me, does it?
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” I don’t know, I think it’s always worse not to grieve. Not to find yourself suddenly undone by the smell of soap, by a slice of Angel Food Cake, by the sound of a creek slipping past. Our hearts ache because we are alive.