The other day my Facebook status was:
I keep asking myself what I should be learning from this experience. There is no way something as raw and as painful as this doesn’t leave us a little wiser with a new life lesson
What I’ve learnt in the last few days is humility and empathy – not everything is about me and I need to understand that everyone affected is grieving differently. I must let my ego move aside and approach things without a chip on my shoulder. No one (in my family) is out to offend or upset me, we’re all just doing our best to survive and trying to get through this, somehow
With my mom very suddenly dying on me, my world has fallen down around me and my heart lies shattered. There are days, no minutes or hours, where I feel ok. And then out of nowhere I’ll remember her face after she had died. There is no way to describe the colour or the icy touch.
I can’t explain the wanting to see her and the scary idea of seeing a dead body. And then seeing the body and suddenly knowing that the person is no longer there. The body lying there, half covered with a sheet, is literally a shell.
Yesterday morning I woke up feeling fine. I wasn’t too fragile and I sat doing some work. As the day carried on I started feeling worse and worse. By 6pm all I could do to not kill someone or myself, was go for a walk. On my own. No cellphone. Nothing. I just needed to walk. But then I wanted to speak to someone. Anyone. I wanted someone to ask me if I was ok, and be fine with me screaming or whispering “no.no I’m not fine!”
Which brings me to lesson #2. Since my mom left I have been on my own. Alone. Except for three days. The day of her memorial. The day a friend popped by with flowers. Her mom died a few years back and her dad’s very sick at the moment, so she’s been there, done that and almost knew what I needed. And then on Sunday I met up with three sisters, girls I had known from my childhood. Forgive me for not knowing exact ages, but one is 50ish, the other I would say is in her 40s and the youngest, in her 30s. The youngest is my mom’s godchild. Over all these years they’ve stayed in touch with my parents, mostly my mom.
They’ve lost their mom and dad in a short space of time, and at the service, when people were sitting sipping tea, I sat with them and remembered life in Hammond Road. And we laughed. And laughed. We wept over stories about our parents and the stupid things we had gotten up to. We howled at our moms’ mannerisms and our dads’ standard responses. I even saw my dad laughing, which for that day (or ever) is a very rare sight.
We created a whatsapp group and have met up once since. They’ve kept me sane. You’ll notice a few things when a tragedy happens. I’ve noticed that I’m not close to my sisters in law at all. I’ve also realized I’m not close to my brothers either. Not once have we sat as a family and laughed or cried. My mom was that invisible thread that kept us together and now, well now we’re not held together by anything.
Back to lesson #2. People are scared of death. Not Death as in the proper noun. That’s a given. But people aren’t comfortable being around someone who has lost a special person. And I say this without judgement. Because I am, was, possibly still am, one of those people.
As a rule I don’t attend funerals. I’m scared Death (the proper noun) sees me and thinks “oooooooh that one looks good. I think I’ll come for her next!” And I’m uncomfortable around sadness. I don’t know whether I should say something, say nothing, put my arms around them, cry, pretend nothing’s happened and talk about the weather.
A friend of mine summed it up perfectly in a whatsapp:
Contrary to popular belief, misery does like company. I would love to see a friend, have a coffee and a chat. And have that person be ok with whatever emotions wash over me. To not be awkward with my grief. To not sqirm around in their chair as if their g-string’s caught up their ass.
I want someone to not take offense when I say I don’t feel like meeting up but at the same time not thinking “oh fukkit! Now what?” when I say I’d like to. My mom died. I haven’t.
So the lesson I’ve learned is to not hide away from Death or death. To not be scared to spend time with somebody who’s lost someone. Once again it’s about the ego, isn’t it? It’s about putting my feelings, my discomfort, aside for an hour or two and being an ear, a shoulder, a friend, a whatever-they-need-me-to-be. It’s about reaching out at a time I feel like it’s the last thing somebody needs or wants…