The Things We Carry

So I’m working on another post. It’s a little bit lofty and gnarly, and I have to wrestle with it a little until I figure out what point I’m trying to make.

In the meantime, I’ve been reading little bits and pieces from the interwebs about grief and loss.

(I know, I just had a BABY. I should be over the moon with my darling little boy, and sharing posts about how he is the apple of my eye, cherry pie, cake and ice cream. He is all those things. But I get to talk about those things whenever I want because people want me to be happy about having a baby. They don’t want to hear about how I’m still struggling with losing my mother 10 months ago. They don’t want to hear about how sometimes I cry at the sight of my kid because I know my mother will never meet him. This is, for better or worse, what anonymous blogs are for. Sharing the unsharable.)

Anyway, I’ve been reading stuff about grief and loss. Not in a formal way. It’s been what I’ve gravitated towards. Other new moms want to read about how to get a few hours sleep. I want to read about how to be sad. That seems unfair, but whatever… that’s just what the Universe smacked me with, and I’ve made peace with that.

A friend of mine from high school had a stillbirth several years ago. She was devastated. She continues to be devastated, even though she went on to have another beautiful, healthy, living child. She is open about the fact that she still mourns, and this to me is the bravest thing. It’s so “uncool” to be publicly sad, and I love that she tells everyone to screw themselves by openly talking about her grief.

The other day she shared this blog post, which included this nugget of wisdom:

Some things in life cannot be fixed. They can only be carried.

HOLY shit, yes. I’m tired of people telling me that losing my mother will get “easier.” It hasn’t. Why should it? It doesn’t get easier to lose someone you love, to lose a life you loved, or a dream you had. There are some things that don’t go away. You have to learn to sit next to them and respect that a part of your heart will always hurt. Always.

The next bit of grief-related inspiration comes from a quote round up of Cheryl Strayed. (Ironically, my big gnarly post is also vaguely Cheryl Strayed related.)

If, as a culture, we don’t bear witness to grief, the burden of loss is placed entirely upon the bereaved, while the rest of us avert our eyes and wait for those in mourning to stop being sad, to let go, to move on, to cheer up. And if they don’t — if they have loved too deeply, if they do wake each morning thinking, I cannot continue to live — well, then we pathologize their pain; we call their suffering a disease.

We do not help them: we tell them that they need to get help.

Now that just about gets at the root of my problem with how we experience grief. For every time a person says “Time heals all,” I hear “Your grief makes me uncomfortable. Let’s talk about this in a few months when you aren’t weepy anymore.” Or “You’re weak if you still feel sad. It’s your fault you aren’t over it yet.”

Suck it.

In the olden days, there was an etiquette to how you mourned. You dressed in black for months or a year. Then you would slowly progress into somber colors until you got full access to the color wheel again.

As much as that sounds ridiculous, I kind of get it now. Most people don’t go around mourning my mom. I would venture to say most people who know me don’t even think about my mom that much, nor would I expect them to. She wasn’t their mother. But she was mine. I feel her loss acutely every day.

I wouldn’t mind wearing black so that people might think “Riiiiight… Her mom died. Maybe I should be less of an asshole to her today.” 

I wouldn’t mind wearing my sadness every once in awhile.

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11 comments

  1. labmonkeyftw · October 28, 2015

    I binge-read everything Cheryl Strayed has ever written early last year, including the dear Sugar articles. She has wisdom and pain and light.
    I think being in old-school mourning, where you would also, incidentally, be automatically excused from all events where you would be expected to mask your sadness and participate as a normally functioning member of society, was more humane than our current models of grief. It gave time and physicality to grief, time to consider the space left by the absent person. The expectation was that society would give you time and space, while now a hunt for empathy might only turn up a support group, semi-pathologized, and emphatic through shared loss rather than a general love of others.
    Anonymous though we may be, support we can offer. Hugs.

    • thecommonostrich · November 12, 2015

      I do wonder if some of these traditions were more humane. When I was a kid, I used to think that rules like this were stupid merely because I thought all rules were stupid. But now that I need them, I do see there is a potential upside to honoring rights of passage– even the shit ones.

      I have a book I need to read for a (new) book club I’ve joined. But in between I plan on picking up some Strayed. It’s where my head and my heart are these days.

  2. My Perfect Breakdown · October 28, 2015

    I find this post today so very accurate. I found year two after the my mom died even harder then year one because no one seemed to remember like I did (I’m sure they did in their own way, but it never felt like it because no one talked about her and no one wanted me to talk about her or my grief). I guess what I’m trying to say is that I understand your perspective. I wish you didn’t have to deal with this, but please know if you ever need to talk I’m here for you. Love always

    • thecommonostrich · November 12, 2015

      Someone else said that to me– that it is the second year that’s harder. You still see the hole left behind, while a lot of people have moved on. I don’t begrudge them for it- I just wish it were okay for me to not be “over it.” Dear people who have yet to experience profound loss: getting over it is just not in the cards for some of us. If that’s okay with me, it should be okay with you.

  3. lucy50 · October 28, 2015

    I love Cheryl Strayed. I loved her as Dear Sugar too.
    Also a fan of Tim O’Brien.

  4. g2the4thpower · October 28, 2015

    I couldn’t imagine how you may be grieving. I would be mourning the loss of my mother for a very long time, I’m certain. I don’t have anything helpful to offer other than lots of love. Xx

    • thecommonostrich · November 13, 2015

      Thanks. November is hard because this is about the time of year when she first went into the hospital. So many memories come back, catch me off my guard. So even though I’ll be “fine” for weeks or months, it just takes one little thing and it hits me again.

      • g2the4thpower · November 13, 2015

        that’s completely understandable. xx

  5. hopingforatakehome · October 29, 2015

    It’s so understandable that you having a new baby would make you feel the loss of your mom in an extra big way. You just became a mom and you’re missing your own mom during this huge transition. I think in a lot of ways, our society encourages people to “get through” grief way too quickly, and pathologizes it when we don’t. The idea of wearing black, and other rituals, makes so much sense to me.

    • thecommonostrich · November 13, 2015

      It’s a big ol’ “Screw You” from the Universe, I can tell you. On my best days, I try to do things with Chick that she used to do with me, and feel close to her again. On my worst days, I just marvel at how deeply unfair it is. And curse. And cry. And curse some more.

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