“Hi. I’m Your Grief”, she says. I stare, hoping to catch a glimpse of something in her that will make her presence in my life make sense. I love her and I hate her. She’s my constant companion and my worst enemy. I am desperate to try to understand her.
She’s disheveled and she moves as if she is carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders. Her shoulders are slumped forward and her back is slightly bent. Her head is hung down enough that her messy hair is in her face and she looks up at me through her tear soaked lashes. When she walks she drags her feet as if they were just too heavy to lift off the ground.
Her gestures and speech are slow and deliberate. It seems as though she must weigh each thing she does and says to see if it’s worth the effort. She seems to be in pain. Even when she blinks, it seems almost more than she can manage.
“Can I please sit down?”, she asks. “I’m terribly tired”.
She slowly lowers herself onto the dark leather couch and lets out a sigh that seems to come from her very soul. She leans her head against the back of the couch, closes her eyes and takes a moment to gather herself.
I take the opportunity to look her over. You can see that she was beautiful once. Hers is a face that once held hope and love and joy and laughter. Now, although she’s young, there are deep lines etched on her face. Lines etched by countless tears, like deep canyons etched by flowing water. Her cheeks are sunken from her inability to find the desire to eat. Her skin is pale, almost as if she, herself, has died. There are dark circles around her eyes from lack of sleep. Her hair is stringy and greasy. It looks as though she hasn’t showered in a week.
Her body is thin, almost fragile looking. The clothes she is wearing hang loosely on her frame. They are wrinkled and dirty. Perhaps she’s forgotten to change her clothes? Her nails are too long and the polish is chipped. Her socks don’t match and she’s missing an earring. Her entire appearance relays a message that she is hardly able to care for herself.
She opens her eyes and turns to look at me. When her eyes meet mine, she starts to cry. The tears well up in her eyes and slowly but steadily run down the tracks on her face. She doesn’t bother to wipe them. She knows it’s a wasted effort. There are too many to keep up with.
“I miss him”, she whispers, her voice barely audible. “Life is so hard now that he’s gone. Why did he have to die?”
A small moan escapes her lips and she wraps her arms around herself, as if doing so may hold her together somehow. She starts to rock forward and back, ever so slightly. Her breathing is shallow and ragged. Gods, there is so much pain there.
“I’m so tired. I don’t know how to do this alone”, she says. “I don’t sleep. I hardly eat. I don’t remember when I last took a shower. I know I’m a mess but what can I do? Being alive hurts so much. Dying would be a welcome break. I’m lonely and I’m scared and my mind won’t turn off. My body feels like it weighs a million pounds.”
Then she trails off, seemingly distracted by a thought. Her eyes become even more haunted and she stares off, looking at nothing but seeing something in her mind. She holds her breath and then let’s out a wail that sounds more like a wounded animal than a human. She doubles over and weeps. The sounds coming from her are the sounds of pure devastation. You can hear her heart breaking.
Her body is shaking now. Her breathing a ragged and she’s rocking a little harder. She’s wringing her hands so hard it looks as though she will pull her fingers off. The muscles in her jaw are clenched and her face is the picture of agony.
Without warning, she explodes off the couch. She screams and seems to grow larger. Her face contorts with rage as she begins to scream. This scream is different. It sounds like a banshee, a battle cry, a scream of pure anger.
She sweeps her arm across the coffee table, knocking everything to the floor. “IT’S NOT FAIR!!”, she screams. “WHY DID HE HAVE TO DIE?!”
She picks up a picture of him and throws it against the wall, glass shattering and wood splintering. Her breath is heaving as she trashes my house. She is sobbing and screaming and, while I know she’s speaking, the words are incoherent sounds of rage and sadness. She breaking anything she can. She’s throwing things around the room like a tornado of grief and anger. It’s as if by breaking things, she can make some of her pain dissipate.
I’m stunned by her sudden shift from soul crushing sadness to murderous rage in what seemed like a moment. I didn’t see it coming. The violence in her actions, the sudden strength, the need for destruction is startling.
“I FUCKING HATE EVERYTHING!”, she screams. “NO ONE UNDERSTANDS! NO ONE CARES! CAN’T ANYONE SEE HOW MUCH THIS HURTS! I CAN’T DO THIS! IT’S TOO HARD!! I need someone to help me. I’m afraid. I’m lonely. It hurts so much.”
As quickly as the rage appeared, it fades. She begins to softly weep again. She covers her face with her hands and sinks to the floor…unable to stand under the weight of what she’s carrying.
“I’m sorry”, she says. “Sometimes it just hurts so much. The anger comes out of nowhere and takes me over. That’s not me. I don’t mean to act that way. It’s just that sometimes…”. She trails off and melts into a heap on the floor.
She’s in the fetal position, arms wrapped tightly around herself. She’s mumbling incoherently between the sobs. Tears and snot are running freely across her face which is hidden by her tangled, greasy hair. She gags, choked by her grief and her tears.
It seems like hours before she quiets. She slowly raises herself to a sitting position and looked around, dazed. She tries to smooth her hair and she uses her shirt to wipe the tears and snot from her face. She looks at me from the corner of her eye. She looks embarrassed that I witnessed any of what just transpired.
“I’m sorry you had to see that”, she says. Her voice is raw and filled with embarrassment and exhaustion. She’s too ashamed to even look me in the eye.
She just sits on my floor, back against the couch, and stares off into space. She’s exhausted. I can see on her face, as she looks out into nothing, that she’s living her own horror movie. She’s the embodiment of everyone’s worst nightmare.
She begins to speak, her voice hardly more than a whisper. The tears are flowing again but she doesn’t seem aware of them.
“He was my whole life. I loved him more than I thought I was capable of loving. He was my favorite everything. When they told me he was dead, my world stopped. I felt myself dying. How can you be dead and alive at the same time? How can your heart shatter and still beat? I don’t know how this happened. He was so beautiful. He was so gentle and kind and silly and he was mine. I failed him somehow. Why did this happen to us? He didn’t deserve this. It hurts so much. Oh God, the folded flag and the guns and the Taps. How do I live through this? I don’t know how to do this. I’m so lonely. Why doesn’t anyone come hold me? I feel so small and fragile and broken. Why am I always alone? Shouldn’t people want to help me? Why is everyone afraid to be near me? Widowhood isn’t contagious. Holy shit, I’m a widow. My husband is dead. How did this happen? I need to eat but I’m not hungry. How long has it been since I’ve slept. I can’t remember anything. I know there are things I need to do. What were they again? What day is it? I miss him. Oh Bob, I love you.”
And it goes on like this. Thoughts and words tumbling together and out of her mouth, none of it in any coherent order. Her thoughts are clearly fragmented and jumbled. The grief and lack of sleep and trauma have made thinking nearly impossible.
She says she’s staying with me forever. She’s been here for 8 months today. Sometimes she’s manic, trying to do all the things at once. Other times, she’s so depressed that she doesn’t move from the couch. Some days she puts on a smile and tries to reach for a sense of normalcy. Other days she lets her grief and rage sweep her away.
She’s hard to predict, this grief. She’s always with me. She’s always talking to me. She’s constantly trying to make sense out of a senseless tragedy, to bring logic to the illogical. She’s always trying to find a way out of here.
I’d love for her to leave. She makes me so tired. Catering to her demands is exhausting and all consuming. Although, I think she’s here to stay. I think I need to learn to love her. I need to learn to help quiet her fears. I need to learn how to give her some rest, so I can have some, too.