At first, it’s a party. People come over. They bring food and flowers and booze. They clean. They cook. They bring books and ask you to go on walks. They help plan the beloved’s memorial. They stay by your side on that day of celebration. Like a birthday party, a memorial celebrates a life.
And then. Then people start drifting. They start floating. They must get back to their lives. They must get back to the people in their lives. The front door stays still. The phone is less noisy. The walks—shorter, scarcer.
The carefully wrapped casseroles stop appearing in the kitchen. The flowers start wilting. Like snowflakes and people—flowers melt. How are you doing? The soft voices begin to evolve in tone, speed, intonation. Topics. Conversations evolve into the talk of life. The lives of the living.
I see them on instagram. I see lakes and trees and, locally grown produce—smoking grills. I see lots of plates of food. Their worlds are still spinning, spinning, spinning. I view their worlds through my iPhone.
Now. For whom do I cook? Who do I cook with? How do I comfort others? How do I adjust to a new life without their existence? In the beginning—the disbelief, the shock, the phone that is a brick in my hands—numbs me from grief.
Then, things start seeming kinda normal. I cry less. I lol. I listen to my books. I begin to move without that encompassing emptiness-—loss, grief, memories—that is when I start to bleed.
I no longer have shock or disbelief to numb me. I no longer have the fresh, bloody cuts to bandage. All I have are what’s under my now scarred skin: severed arteries and punctured organs and smokey images.
I think about my latest loss. Darlene died last year. She will die again, in my mind. I’ll wake up and I’ll forget she’s dead and I’ll process her loss again. Again. Again. Again.
Once—I had a mother and a father and a sister. I had a first husband. I had a baby in my belly. I was in love with a soccer-playing waiter. I had a friend who always checked on me. I had a dog. I am overwhelmed and on the floor—no ceiling and everything is tall. Floating in my ether.
I’m showing not telling but nobody’s watching. I feel like I’m washing away. I feel like a melting pile of snow. I feel like I should be in the forest, climbing redwood trees. I feel like I need a nap but I can’t sleep. I want to feel because I don’t know. I want to die. I want to live. I want to live a different life. I want to write something good. I want to write something well. But I don’t know what good is, and I’m convinced nobody knows what is God. Good.
I can not return to my life because now that life is an older version of what was my life. There will be new versions. And more new versions. My life—my war zone—keeps getting blown up. Loss is a grenade. Sadness is shrapnel.
I wonder if it hurts to live –
I measure every Grief I meet Emily Dickinson I measure every Grief I meet With narrow, probing, eyes – I wonder if It weighs like Mine – Or has an Easier size. I wonder if They bore it long – Or did it just begin – I could not tell the Date of Mine – It feels so old a pain – I wonder if it hurts to live – And if They have to try – And whether – could They choose between – It would not be – to die – I note that Some – gone patient long – At length, renew their smile – An imitation of a Light That has so little Oil – I wonder if when Years have piled – Some Thousands – on the Harm – That hurt them early – such a lapse Could give them any Balm – Or would they go on aching still Through Centuries of Nerve – Enlightened to a larger Pain – In Contrast with the Love – The Grieved – are many – I am told – There is the various Cause – Death – is but one – and comes but once – And only nails the eyes – There's Grief of Want – and grief of Cold – A sort they call "Despair" – There's Banishment from native Eyes – In sight of Native Air – And though I may not guess the kind – Correctly – yet to me A piercing Comfort it affords In passing Calvary – To note the fashions – of the Cross – And how they're mostly worn – Still fascinated to presume That Some – are like my own –