Here’s what I know about grief — my own — that I did not know five weeks ago.
Doctrine doesn’t. It certainly doesn’t hurt – and perhaps the absence of belief in an the afterlife would hurt. And perhaps my faith it will help more, later. But the well-meaning words of scriptural comfort at the funeral floated past the hollow ache and never really floated back.
But prayer helps, me. Most afternoons, my car steers itself to the monastery near my home. I sit in the empty chapel and listen to the nuns sing vespers and I empty my soul in prayer. I sit quietly, I speak to him, to Them, to guardian angels, to Jesus.
“How are you?” helps. Especially from the two or three people who ask it almost daily and really are checking in, keeping tabs.
Pretending doesn’t help. I will have a headache all day, a fever even. Both of which break after a short, good cry. After I share a memory with my husband. After I say aloud, “I’m sad.”
Moments help. Pausing to look at a beautiful leaf. Remembering that the water between love and pain is shallow, and I’m wading in it, and that it’s OK to feel it, right now where I am.
Music helps. I had five versions of “Ave Maria” that I kept on repeat in the morning for a week. Dar Williams and Cheryl Wheeler and John Gorka are helping out this week.
When I was a senior in high school, I taught a creative writing workshop to a class of fourth graders. Topic: Setting Descriptions. Colton’s first attempt was a few flat sentences about “sunny Aruba.” But at the end of “sharing time,” he asked if he could read another. I kept that poem in my wallet for years because it said something about my grief for my grandfather that I could not. I memorized it, misspellings and all.
sad sad very very bad
black black I am mad
mad mad I pist off,
I miss him in the Light
it becomes dark slam
I will allwas remembr
–Colton, age 9
He stands blonde, 4’2
and tough like silly
putty and when he says he is
pissed off, twenty-eight eyes check me,
giggle carefully, blush.
The tilting of my hair asks how
did this come from this boy
who bounces all the wrong time,
and when I almost know I ask
“What is this place?”
He says, “My grandpa’s casket”
and waits for me
to say good job,
to say you can sit down now,
But I remember
(I was nine too, then, pissed and waiting praise)
and answer, “I will too, yes.”
What has helped you (or not) find peace in grief?