10 March 2011

A few, hopefully brief, thoughts about grief.

A friend posted pictures of her family's celebration of mardi gras. Her children's heritage makes such a celebration very appropriate in the family. She posted a few pictures of her kids with masks, of herself and husband, of the food she made and the table she set. They are simple, lovely, incredibly happy pictures.

I don't have pictures like that this year. The last pictures that resemble that are of David walking the hospital hall holding on to the metal tree of medication being pumped into his body. He has a sheepish smile and Cheshire is beside him. It is not a particularly jubilant picture viewed objectively, but when I looked at Pat's pictures, I immediately thought of that picture of David and Cheshire.

I like having pretty pictures to post on this blog, to frame and put on shelves, and I have scolded myself often for not taking more. Yet, even when I've snapped photos, they are flat, they don't look like those I describe above. I don't yearn to post them for any reason but to mark the time.

Yes, and now I recognize this as grief. Some one out there is probably saying, "duh!"

When I was a teenage, my mother's uncle and then her mother died. It was the first loss in our family, maybe even in the circle of relatives and friends that we grew up with. I think that both my great uncle and grandmother were older, and certainly more battered in some ways, than the older relatives of our friends.

My mother tried to lay down some grieving rules. Lots of black clothes for a year, no tv or radio, no going out to party, and more. There were four children in our very American household ranging from 8 to 17. Adapted traditional Ukrainian, or maybe just any old country, mourning was not going to be our pattern. And I don't remember that she really stuck to her own rules, let alone enforce them. She wasn't going to replace all of our clothes, or her own. She wasn't going to insist on setting ourselves apart with black arm bands. After a week, she wasn't going to separate us from the babysitter-styled tv watching that we did, nor did she really try to tone down Christmas and our holidays. But now I am beginning to understand the impulse of traditional mourning, and although I could never conceive of imposing it on anyone, let alone myself, I see where it comes from.

I remember my mother telling me how her mother had imposed the year of mourning when her husband, my mother's father, died. The girls, my mother and aunt, then 7 and 9 (I think), wore black for the year. I think my grandmother dyed their clothes. They wore arm bands, and I don't think that my grandmother ever wore anything other than black for the rest of her life.

My mourning is different, but I am seeing my own patterns. Boring cooking that is repetitive and easy. Yes, there are comfort salads and soups, and we eat them all the time. Actually, I think that my cooking would suffer a great deal more if it were not for Julia needing to eat.

I have a closet of clothes that I never touch. What I wear is always clean, but it is the same jeans and sweat shirts over and over. I need new shoes but just can't see going to buy them.

We watch movies, but no tv -- nothing that brings reality in to the house. I think I've had enough of the real.

And music, I've only recently begun to listen again.

Mine is an organic, very much of myself way of grieving. Probably not really different from anyone else's way, probably not different from much more traditional rules. But only because it comes from the inside do I understand what my mother tried to force us to do so many years ago.

A-ha! Now I get it.


Mike said...

Thanks for the glimpse into your heart. It can't be easy but I suspect sharing thoughts on grieving is a good thing for the soul.

Suz said...

It is, Mike. It is.