I wonder if we’ve lost the ability to grieve. Or maybe just me. Before August 2014, I’d lost only a few people, and those very spread apart.
The past two weeks, I lost three.
The first was Michael Swartz, last week. I didn’t know him well, but his wife, Emily, was one of my best friends through Stonecoast. She would talk about her Stonecoast friends to Michael, and he would call me her “creepy friend.” He loved creepy things and this was a high compliment, Emily assured me. I got to meet him at graduation last January, and he was so friendly and clearly a great husband and father. His family adored him. Emily texted me in July saying that he was in the hospital with abdominal pains. While I was in London, I heard that it was aggressive cancer, and that he had days to live. Then he was gone.
The second was my father-in-law on Tuesday. I wrote about him yesterday. He died a few hours after my husband Jim arrived to see him. He had a long battle with Parkinson’s and had been in the nursing home for a year or so. It wasn’t a surprise but we still grieve.
The third was my podcast author friend, PG Holyfield. Patrick was one of the first people to step forward to help out with the ISBW forums back in 2006, offering his moderation help. He then went on to write a compelling fantasy mystery called Murder at Avedon Hill, make several podcasts designed to help people (NanoMonkeys!) or talk pop-culture, created an SF website, and generally be a cool person to be around. I heard on Sunday that he, like Michael Swartz, had been suddenly diagnosed with very aggressive cancer, and had days to live. He died last night.
Around 15 years ago I took a seminar on animal kung fu. I think we were studying crane, or perhaps mantis. I got into a grappling position with my partner, and we waited for further instructions. As Master Ward spoke, I noticed a specific pain shooting up my leg. My partner had been training in Iron Palm, a strict regimented program to toughen the hands and strengthen the grip. During training, you’re not allowed to touch injured people or babies, as you are unaware of the strength in your hands.
(By the way, this is not woo- you know how you can stand in a doorway and press your arms out for 30 seconds and then you step out and your arms rise up on their own? This is the same concept. Squeezing flesh is easier than squeezing sand, and when you squeeze or punch sand for days, it can mess with your perception about how much strength to use for things.)
So shooting pain. I looked down and my partner had my ankle in a very painful grip. We weren’t grappling at the moment, remember. We had gotten into position and were listening to our master talk. This was just him holding onto my leg, or so he thought. I pointed out what he was doing and he let go, horrified.
His thumb left a bruise on my ankle for over a week.
I’m not weeping. I’ve cried a little, but mostly I’m just walking around, numb, not sure what to do. Part of my brain says, “you’re not crying and you’re not mourning these people 100% of the day, so you’re obviously fine.” People ask me if I’m find and I say yes, clearly I’m not sobbing and I’m not dwelling on everything, so I must be fine, right?
I even feel weird writing this post. It wasn’t my husband, or my father, and while I liked and admired PG very much, others in our community were closer to him. Do I deserve to grieve?
I don’t know what one does while grieving. Sitting here feels wasteful. I don’t know what to do.
Instead of feeling punched, something that can definitely cause me to cry, I feel as though something has closed around me and left a thumbprint of a bruise.
A few months ago someone I know had a cancer scare, and we had a few tense days. I wasn’t crying, I wasn’t weeping, I wasn’t sitting around fretting. I went about my day and tried to be logical and practical, what can we do if the bad news comes? When the news came in that it wasn’t cancer, I expressed congratulations, got off the phone and lay on the couch and fell asleep for two solid hours. I didn’t know I was that stressed, but my body did.
I tried to learn something from that, that even if I’m not going OMG ANGRY or OMG SAD or OMG TEARS or OMG STRESS in the conscious brain, the subconscious is probably boiling merrily in the background and I should be kind to myself regardless.
Strange to think of grief as boiling merrily. Bad metaphor. Right now it feels like concrete hardening.
I think it’s bad that we lost the concept of mourning clothes. I was thinking about them today; they were a signal to the outside world that even if I’m not weeping and I’m not screaming in rage, I’m grieving. Yes, I’m able to go to the grocery store or do my job or take the kids to the park, but this black outfit is the signal to you that my soul is bruised, that my concrete is hardening. This is my “baby on board” sign, only it’s grief, and it’s letting you know that I’m hurting and maybe you can be a bit more kind to me today.
Times like this I wish I were religious. Not to search for god, but because many religions have mourning practices and rituals.
I miss my friend PG. I ache for my friend Emily, miss the opportunity to get to know her husband. I grieve with my husband and his family for his beloved father.
It’s been a tough two weeks. Hug your loved ones. Remember those who are gone.