“Grief has no distance. Grief comes in waves, paroxysms, sudden apprehensions that weaken the knees and blind the eyes and obliterate the dailiness of life.” Joan Didion
The music, books and art that I have carried with me since childhood, were all handed to me by my mother. She is also responsible for my absolute love of the Lord of the Rings; the only level above me there, are the people who LARP and speak elvish and so on. I’m saying that now, because the songs in this post, from kitsch to sublime, are directly from her.
An old friend who phoned after mum died said “your mom was always your best friend,” and I thought “bloody hell, she’s right”. It had never crossed my mind before that. It’s two and a half years ago now – many of you held my hand through the second anniversary. Two and a half years is about a week in grief-time, the total despair is no less total, its attacks are less frequent though. The sweetness of my old friend and your kindness astounded and touched me, but idiocy can be astonishing too. I crashed badly after my bushveld holiday, it was manageable at first, and then it sucker punched me. My neighbour walked in on me while I was desolate and crying those hot tears that spill with zero effort required. She bleated at me with panic in her eyes, “It’s gone on too long now, there must be something else she can give you”. She meant the grief and medication. It was particularly fuckwitted given that she lost her true love eight years ago and she understands the weight and longevity of grief very well indeed. Perhaps she just feels it without analytical thought, it’s possible. She rushed off and I trudged back to my couch, holding a little more despair. Thing is, the crash wasn’t all about my mother, it was about loss. Losses. Plus, obviously, I am bi-fucking-polar. I was fine with leaving her assumption alone; it was a logical one and besides, the rest of it isn’t something I’d talk to her about. She’d just look worried and say “oh sweetie I’m so sorry,” and as well intentioned as it is, it would irritate me hugely.
I have solid reasons stemming from a very young age, to be conditioned to being almost comfortable with a certain level of sadness. What I don’t get, however, is the numbers. My family has nearly been wiped out and and many of the other losses, whether by death or by distance, are open wounds. I’ve applied the get over it and get on with it principle to a lot of them, but the rest hurt, and they should hurt; it’s the amount that crushes me. Ja ja ja, my perspective and notion of context are fully functional; there are a hell of a lot of people who have it worse than I do, and no doubt many who handle it far better. Everything is relative though, one man’s hell is as real as the next. The numbers are further confirmation of my disbelief in karma, equilibrium, justice and any god around.
(It’s not a big thing in my life though. I’m still fond of my mind and its logic.)
Unless it’s a death, I fail to cope by failing to convince anyone that I am tough, and gritting my teeth till it hurts. I incubate migraines and tears and the night sweats reek of fear. It triggers my ghosts and oathbreakers and they line up to stare baleful at me. Apparently it also ignite the most purple of prose and florid metaphors. I can’t help it (I don’t want to). It seems logical to me that each fresh loss triggers the old ones.
The ghosts that haunt me / won’t leave my mind (the The).
Nothing has ever hurt as much as my mother’s death, which startled me, because she wasn’t the first close one. It kicked me into immediate nostalgia and a lot of my days are full of fond memories. I’m immensely glad of the fact that past conflicts etc melted away; during the first year, I kept thinking and saying, “and at the end, there is only love.” I still believe it, it doesn’t erase tragedies or grief though. Of course it doesn’t.
I wake up still crying the next morning. I didn’t know it was possible to awaken from a state of sleep in tears, but I do. It is my 34th birthday, but Facebook doesn’t understand that I’m not in the mood to celebrate anything ever again and that all the messages being posted on my wall are those of condolence. Every time I log on, a window pops up with this exploding fireworks graphic and a happy birthday banner that displays all the wall posts about my brother’s death. I tell my husband to take my birthday off the calendar for the duration of our lives. Pieces of Grief
And today the migraine has emerged from incubation to drill into my cranium and make me nauseous. But! I’ve only wept once, it’s late in the afternoon – that’s serious progress. The other day my therapist asked, “did you cry at the time of your mother’s death, or did you suppress it?” I did one of them hollow laughs and told her how the tears waterfalled then. After that she made me laugh by saying, “you know, in black African cultures, it’s okay to throw yourself on the floor and weep and wail and scream, but Caucasians…” It’s true – we are right up our own asses with repression in that respect. Stoic, stiff upper lip… all that crap. I said, “nah, I’ve been in Africa long enough to shake off that sort of Eurohabit, I’m patient and I know how to cry.”
Do I ever know how to cry. And cry. And cry.
I suspect that whatever the grief is about, what is actually being grieved, is the loss of love. Then again, I believe that everything is about love.
Dunno how long I’ve been writing this post, it sits in drafts and I add to it when I think about death, loss, love, grief and goodbyes. It’s not even just people, is it? We can grieve places and stuff too. I’m hoping that, as with the bipolar stuff, writing all this stuff out will bring me more clarity and context. Losing my mother kicked my ass in ways I never dreamed of, and there were important losses after her. I’m still struggling and throwing emotional tantrums about it all in my mind. I have another 20 weeks free CBT too. The Ugandan is my favourite therapist so far. Maybe it’s because she’s almost a psychiatrist. Anyway.
“Time heals,” is bullshit. Nothing heals, grief is like bi-fucking-polar in that respect. The goal is not the absence of grief, it’s the manageability of it. The part time plays is creating wider spaces between each punch in the solar plexus. I suppose you could destroy your memory in order to banish grief, but that’d banish you too. As lovely as that might sound, it’s all too unsustainable. I think I’m over the loss of my purple crayon when I was three, but tbh all of the meaningful losses are still with me. Years might go by without them disturbing me, but then something reminds me. I don’t cry for every single one of them, but the common denominator is a feeling of being covered by a blanket drench in desolation.
My mind quotes the queen at me frequently, “the price of love is grief,” and it’s true. It’s only really helpful for the feeling of injustice that grief brings. I sigh to myself, “yeah, it was worth it”. I try to remember to remind myself of the thing I say to everyone who weeps for a loss, “you honour them with your tears”. Yes, yes, I know I can be a pompous ass. We all find comforting mantras though. I think of my mother every day and miss her. Some days the smallest thing makes me weep, I get through other days with gritted teeth – and some days I’m level about it and free of it. That’s just how it is.