My best friend Candie Flores and my husband do not read books. They just don’t. So when one of them says “hey, I’m reading this book and it’s really good”, I listen.
Last week Candie texted me about this book called “The Year of Magical Thinking” by Joan Didion and told me that it was really good. It’s about grief and how so many people feel the need to shove their grief down for the sake of others’ happiness. Also how we as a culture reward people who seem to “move on” and be “strong” which makes it seem as if that is the right thing to do. It isn’t. Not facing grief is unhealthy, it comes back up. In this age of social media it’s easy to sugar coat what grief looks like. We can post all these positive thoughts and affirmations while suffering all alone. On the outside it looks as if we have healed, but when we are all alone in the dark, we know better.
I am not even remotely capable of that kind of fakeness. Not because I am better than those who are trying to hard to cope the best way they know how, even if it’s smiling and saying “I’m fine” as they put on a brave face, but because I am still in total shock and completely broken. My brain doesn’t even cooperate to remind me to eat much less filter my grief to make sure I don’t upset anyone.
Also there is losing a loved one and then there is GRIEF. Grief makes you lose your breath and your mind. You can’t concentrate on anything; the loop of what happened and how you can change it plays over and over in your mind. You make bargains with God that if He just brings your person back nobody will even know. You can’t work, you can’t eat, or you eat everything, you think about the most insane things like digging up your person just to make sure it is really them buried in that grave and not someone else. It is ugly. It is crying at a cemetery with a cup full of whiskey as you water roses that are now the only representation of your child who you once cared for the way you now care for these stupid flowers. It’s easy to hide that insane grief in almost any situation. It’s in there behind the “I’m fine”s screaming it’s head off, but it’s still hidden. Sometimes not even that well, but it is hard to face so most people are happy to accept the not so well hidden “I am not fucking fine!!” yell in someone’s eyes.
I’m not really sure what makes some deaths cause this kind irrationally insane form of grief and others don’t. I lost my best friend in 2008 and I was a mess after that. My Tio’s death was traumatic in its own way. I really thought that was going to be the worse grief of my life, but as Didion says is her book, that kind of grief didn’t come with a life stop. I was still able to live my life, even in the sadness and loss, I was doing life. I was figuring out dinner, holidays, going to Mass… I could remember to shower. I fixed my hair and put on make-up. I gave myself room to miss him and cry, but it did not create this break in the timeline of my life. I thought it was bad and then Anthony died.
Now there is a break: before Anthony died and after Anthony died.
When I sit in Mass I can feel the Love of God so intensely that it hurts. I feel Him seeing right through me pretending to be ok so deeply that I feel naked. It hurts.
Like a burn, there are degrees of grief. I am severely burned. There is a lot of pain during the healing of a horrible burn. God staring at me like only God can, seeing all of the stuff I keep hidden from everyone else, heals and hurts all at the same time. I feel really exposed to everyone around me during Mass.
My only option is to let Him heal me.
If you look at someone who has had a painful loss and they are smiling and saying all the right things to be brave, to seem to have such faith in God, to look put together, to smile for the sake of not bringing negative vibes into the sunshine of other people’s lives, and you think “wow, that is really brave”, think again, it is survival. We all choose to survive the best we can. For me, it is falling apart in front of everyone because I do not have the mental capacity to pretend to keep it together. My brain, as well as my heart, is completely broken.