My heart is too soft. It is too broken. Words spoken, and even unspoken, wound me too easily. When I’m tired and ‘overdone,’ I am my own worst enemy. This week, I have been feeling what I like to call “crunchy” inside. It’s a discomfort, a niggling, painful, ache of a ripple that sits in my heart and makes me restless. All week, I have felt rubbed raw, as if my skin were not covering my bones. The world seems too big most days. Last week, I was good. What, I wondered, made the difference?
I’m sure, to my colleagues and friends, I might seem stand-offish (is that even a word?) or distant or grumpy. Inside, though, there is an anger that simmers and cannot be dampened. It rips me apart from the inside out. What is it and where does it come from? Why has everything irritated me? Noise, harsh or condescending words, a misplaced comment or question that makes me doubt myself (yet again). . .all of it piles up inside. Why this week, and not another? Why the sudden tidal pull or sea shift?
Ironically, it was sister Stacy who helped me figure it out tonight. We had supper together and she said. “It’s that time of year again. It affects you even when you don’t think it does, or when you think that enough time has passed to forget about it….” I almost started to weep. Of course. I had thought I had ‘beaten’ grief. No. It seems that, despite my intention to spend this Christmas season surrounded in more light than darkness, grief has had other plans. All week, my emotions have raged inside….so that I’ve pulled myself inwards like a turtle, listening to classical music at lunch in my office to re-centre myself between parts of the day. No point being around people when you’re so raw. Tears spring from nowhere, and then people wonder if you’re depressed or out of your tree. Nope. Just sad. Just missing people I loved….and dreading the empty space of two weeks off, without a routine to distract me from memory.
Driving home after supper, I wondered why today was the hardest day thus far this week….there have been other hard days over the past years, but today seemed harsher than most. It was the date. December 11th. I had forgotten. It marked the beginning of my mum’s final decline. It marked her departure from her life and her entrance into a palliative ending in hospital. It really marked the end of her being able to converse with us. She died on December 18th, but the week leading up to it is seared into my heart and mind. It seems, even though I had forgotten the date’s importance in terms of bookmarking the season, my body had not. It’s been presenting me with ittle sleep, a restless mind, and sharp stomach pains. Not the flu, as I’d imagined or rationalized, but grief rising up.
I think of C. S. Lewis’s lovely “A Grief Observed,” which helped me through both of my parents’ deaths. Maybe I need to re-read that this week. I’m not sure where the anger comes from. It’s not directed at anyone else but me. I wonder if it means that I wish I’d had more time with her, or that I feel angry that I can’t recall the sound of her voice or her mannerisms, or maybe I blame myself for something I can’t understand. My friend, a poet, says that grief is sometimes like a ‘wavelet,’ while at other times it’s a tsunami. There is no rationalizing it. Letting go of that expectation might help too. You’d think six years would be time enough to move forward. I have, but the words we didn’t speak likely haunt me when I don’t even think they do.
Maybe I just need to be quiet inside and try to find Mum again in a new way, where I can forgive myself and her. Maybe, as my sister wisely said tonight, I just need to be kinder to myself….to realize that none of this has to make sense, but that it must need walking through, to air out the memory, to dispatch it outwards so that I can gather up stars again….
Remember to hug your loved ones during this holy season, friends…