Monday, July 9, 2012
The Historics of Hysterics
The dirty secret about grief that no one talks about is how out of control it can make you feel. The subject of grief has been on my mind for a while now and I've had the opportunity to talk about it with a friend who is in deed grieving, although no one in her life has died. A couple months ago I had acupressure and the spots that were most sensitive were the ones that carry grief. The doctor had said to me, "This is unprocessed grief. Most brides don't recognize the 'jitters' as grief and so it comes out in unexpected ways." He told me to try to remember that there is grief in becoming a married woman and saying goodbye to your single life, grief that has nothing to do with doubt or fear, just the passing of a certain time in one's life. Since then I have been thinking about grief both in terms of actual loss and metaphorical loss, even the loss of an idea. But the thing about grief is that it comes however and whenever it pleases. Sometimes in big, snotty hysterics and sometimes in the sudden gut punch we get when a word is said in a certain tone.
When my grandparents died, I was shocked by how hysterical I became when I heard the news but also how debilitating the grief was that followed for the next eight months. I was not very close with them and if anything had a very strained, often absent relationship with them. But that's the bitch about grief. I was not only grieving for the loss of their lives, but for the loss of what could have been and for everything that had happened in the past that I never grieved for. I beat myself up for never acting on an invitation to tea with my Grandmother. I grieved for the Christmas I sat in my mother's car refusing to go inside their home. I grieved for all of the hurt and misunderstandings and grievances we held for far too long and for all of the summer cookouts and pool parties we would never share. Where I once used to hold my breath at the thought of what it would be like inviting them to my wedding, if I would invite them, where would I seat them, I now feel a special sadness for the place card that will never get written. There's a special sadness for the middle name I never shared. There is no longer that person in the world that I can say, my middle name is this and she is why.
When grief comes, it does not come in one hail storm of ice, sleet and snow. But rather more like rolling thunder storms, flash floods, or one drop of dew on a silk blouse. You are driving in your car along Coldwater Canyon and suddenly you are overcome with sadness- an aching in your stomach for the mornings when you watched the sunrise outside of your mother's Nissan while on your way to Grandma's house. You drive past a lake where there once was an invitation to come dip your toes in the water and instead it was declined, and suddenly you cannot breathe. You sit at a table where someone once told you look just like your mother and instead of feeling the pain of that moment, you cracked a joke. Eight years later you can't remember the joke, but you can remember the look on her face when you refused to go there once again. We cry not only for the people and relationships we lose, but the cups of tea we never had, the dips in the lake we never shared, the babies we never made, the words we wished we had said, the time we went for ice cream and on an impulse bought that silk blouse when we were both single and carefree and so damn young. I have come to believe that there is nothing so upsetting happening in the present moment that can make me hysterical. If I find myself hysterical over words it is almost always linked to something historical. If I find myself overcome with grief when asked if I will change my last name once I am married, it is not really about changing my name at all.
If only we could learn to grieve the small losses in between the big ones. But so much of this American life is about sucking it up and moving forward and by God, you better be making money. It's hard to sit still. It's hard to sit through the rain when our instinct is to run for cover. But maybe the more we let ourselves get wet, the more often we are reminded that it can't rain forever. The more we run around in the mud, the more uneven we make the ground before us. That eventually the sun will come out and the the ground beneath us will once again dry and become firm. Our hair will dry even if our clothes get ruined. But most importantly, we will experience the warmth of the sun again in moments when there is nothing else left to feel.