Grief is a different monster for every person. To some it is robed and silent, watching from a distance, for others it is hulking and ever-present, pushing in on every breath. Everyone experiences it and it’s lifequakes differently. There is not a right way to go through grief and until you get into self-harm and self-destruction it gets blurry as to what the wrong way to deal with it is. You just – deal with it. The best you are able to. The last thing anyone can do is tell you how to go through it. That amounts to telling someone with their eyes closed how to navigate a room with no light. Sure, you can point things out and give ‘tips’ but in the end the person has to find their way forward for themselves.
The thing with grief though is it isn’t an enemy.
It isn’t a villain.
Even though we see it that way it is but a pale sheet in the form of the thing we loved and lost, ever with us, step by step and hand in hand. We can embrace it or fight it and it’s that decision which forms what it becomes to us.
It is as featureless as the pain we feel, forming its face to match our hearts.
The masks it wears countless as our hearts cycle through a dozen emotions a minute.
For me, it’s avoidance. That’s how I deal with it.
I avoid dealing with it.
I know that in time, ounce by ounce the reality will sink it, the absence, and I will have no choice but to deal with it.
I take it in small bites because I fear what will happen if I take on too much of it at once.
In losing my mother I lost the person that believed in me more than anyone else in my life other than my wife. The person who made me love scary movies, and reading, and being artistic. The person who suffered for my depression and emotional cataclysms. Losing her brings on a wave of shame and guilt at how immature I was towards her and the world that it’s hard to face. I understand that I was damaged and trying to figure out why and what it meant but I took my pain and confusion out on her too often.
But she took it.
All of it.
And she still loved me through it.
Mom supported my writing completely, and had it not been for that support I wouldn’t have believed in myself so deeply with it.
The hell of it with mom was in how she went, and how slow it was, and how the grief became a shroud you had no choice but to wear, heavy as it was, as you try to love this person into peace.
All you can do is love them as much as you are able and remember them.
And deal with the grief.
And the regret. So much regret. So much that you never said, never did, or which you did say and did do.
The things you can’t wash away.
And those things fill a suitcase for you.
That suitcase full of bricks you will carry with you for the rest of your life.
The thing for me was that three days after my mother died we received word that a puppy we had adopted just four months earlier had an aggressive form of cancer that was terminal. So now both hands had suitcases as we watched this dear, sweet dog we had fallen in love with rapidly decline to a point where it was a miracle that her temperament didn’t change due to the pain she must have been going through. And here it was the guilt of what we never did, nor ever could do with her. It was the guilt of did we wait too long to let her go or not? It was the sorrow of watching this puppy pulled away so horribly and so soon.
And grief carried the burden, now doubled, but always with me.
And what do you do with that grief?
How do you process it?
What do you do so it doesn’t become a grave for you as well?
For me I wasn’t sure what to do with it. With this darkness I felt in me and pervading everything.
Every day I discover new things to mourn about mom or Banshee.
New doorways leading down dark hallways.
The thing about grief though is it is malleable.
It can be formed into whatever you want.
It can be a noose or a ladder.
A grave or a kite.
There is nothing good in grief but you can choose to use it as inspiration
Choose to use it to remember the love and not the pain.
I chose love, in the way I was able.
I can’t do many things well but I can write.
I can do that.
So I did.
I had an idea when mom was dying of a book, another kid’s book in the same world as my others. I wanted to write about mom as a little girl, a little girl who meets a werewolf.
When Banshee took her turn she entered the story as well and once I was writing it many ghosts appeared, people loved and lost but not forgotten.
Now that the book’s done I can’t tell you if it’s good or awful. All I can tell you is that I love it because of what it represents. And as I edit and add, I love it more.
I don’ t know that it will change the loss in my heart but it keeps them alive.
In some way.
It keeps them alive.
Grief is whatever we see it as.
Partner or foe.
It’s up to us to make that decision.
Ya get on to living, they say, or you get on to dying.
You can’t follow those you lose into the grave.
That is to disrespect them and yourself.
You can get better.
You will get better.
It will always be hard but that is the cost of love.
The awful, beautiful cost.
And it’s worth it.
But you have to decide what to do yourself.
What you will do.
I just know it’s a lot easier carrying this weight knowing that brother grief is there with me, side by side, heading in the same direction.
Knowing we’ll get there together.