Some people, we choose to grieve publicly.
There’s no right or wrong way to grieve, no right or wrong that dictates who is allowed to grieve for whom in the grand scheme of things. Often people in mourning, especially in those first fresh few weeks, are held up to speculation and exposed to countless judgements– are they grieving ‘properly’, is whatever they’re doing ‘healthy’, are they ‘stable’.
There is no correct way to grieve. No one in the depths of grief is particularly stable, and actions don’t have much forethought… When it’s one foot in front of the other, the struggle is doing anything at all, not assessing it through the filter of societal norms to decide if the behavior is acceptable or not.
I’ve said, many time in the past, that initially I didn’t so much make a conscious choice to blog my way through what happened… I just wrote out of instinct, because it was all I could do, the only constant I had left in a life that had been thrown completely off it’s orbit. But eventually, when the water got hot… I had to make a conscious choice, whether to continue to mourn my husband in the eyes of thousands of people online…. or to stop.
And I made the conscious choice to keep going. To bleed, to grieve, to cry, to keen, all in public, in the shade of a million eyes, some brimming with compassion… others disgusted.
I know there are many people who find this blog distasteful. That’s OK– to be honest, sometimes I question my own sense of sanity with what I publish here. And I’m OK with it… I see the good it does every time I open another message or an email or a comment saying thank you. And, in the ultimate act of selfishness– this web page is my therapy, where I write out my pain. If it ceased being useful to me, I would stop writing it, and maybe not look back.
Back in the Blissful, Purple Before; even before I started blogging, I was a member of a parenting forum. One gorgeous woman was excited and hopeful one day, her pregnancy ticker counting up and up and currently at around 36 weeks…. and the next time I logged on, there was of thread posted by her, announcing her son’s name (Ianto), his birth date… and the aching fact that her little boy had been stillborn (but born, still).
My heart broke for her, in the way it used to back then… I had no measure for her pain, I just knew it must be awful.
And I watched in fascination as she took that pain and held it close… and, at the same time, flung it out into the world.
With assistance from a friend of ours, she created a blog in memory of her baby boy, and wrote out her pain, her love, her longing for her child. She published the beautiful photos that had been taken of her tiny, still little man. She created a memorial for him that took my breath away with it’s raw honesty, it’s amazing way of casting a rainbow on a tragedy so filled with pain it seemed to suck the colour from the very air around it.
Without meaning to, I emulated her and her noble, public grieving. I took my own pain and flung it across the interwebs to be felt by thousands. And it’s not a decision I regret– how can I, when I have no concept of how the alternative, to grieve quietly and silently, would feel?
As I said, there is no right or wrong way to do this. While I love people who are rawly honest, who speak their truth loudly and unflinchingly; it’s not that I think grieving quietly is a disservice to anyone. It’s just my hope that no one ever ever feels forced into silence… that if they wish to speak of their grief, they can, and they do; without worrying about the reactions of people who have been raised in a culture that is inherently uncomfortable both with death and with any expression of untempered emotion.
I watched, and blogged, Kristie’s amazing speech at DPCon12; listened of her scream her son’s name in the agony it was felt every time she whispered it. I remember discussing with my shrink, in the aftermath of Tony’s funeral, how women in some cultures are expected to wail and moan over the coffin of their loved new, to beat their chests and pull at their hair.
Had I have tried that, I may have been locked up. Small minded people with nothing better to do still discuss my behavior at my husbands funeral, how strange it was… but what’s normal, when you’re saying goodby to the love of your life for the very last time?
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One of my blog readers pointed me toward these pictures a while back now. They show the dignified Mrs Nancy Reagan fare welling her husbands coffin… there is so much beauty in them. She holds on to that wood as if it is her man, as if the coolness is his skin pressing her cheek one final time. There is a part of me that envy’s the woman in these photos, part of me that wishes I had done the same… broke the numbness, felt some kind of passion. I remember approaching the dark box that held my husband for the last time. Laying a rose on it. Feeling a surreal pulse beat in my mind… his body is in there. And all I could think was what I had dressed him in. And tried not imagine his body, stiff and cold and grey, stitched in places where organs had been removed.
When it comes down to it… maybe I’m less of of physical mourner. More of a written one. (An email months ago now from a friend, describing the heart wrenching death of her son… “That was the first time I’ve written it down” she says, and that’s such an alien concept to me I don’t even know where to begin with understanding it).
We all grieve differently. We’re uncomfortable with it, in our society, and I see the unfortunate effects of that in my everyday life. But I do wonder if, in those other cultures where highly verbal and psychical grief is required, do people who would rather grieve quietly, embalm themselves silently in salt… do they feel out of place, pressured to mourn in a way they provides no relief?
Probably. Possibly. The deck is always stacked, no matter which way you look it at. But there is no correct way to do this… being in pain, visible or otherwise; it’s always going to make someone uncomfortable. That’s inevitable, and, truly, off the scale of consideration when you’ve lost someone you love.
There’s just that deep, black grief… and getting through it. Any damn way you can.
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