Thursday, May 19, 2011

Good Grief

I have two friends who are struggling thru the pain of losing a spouse - one is a neighbor, a new friend; the other is a man I've known since highschool, a dear friend who saved my life once.

I woke up thinking about the ways we all respond to this universal human "thing", grief.*

My own grief these days centers around children growing up. Because I've missed some years of their childhood, the ending years when they really aren't kids, but are making leaps into the world (college, first jobs) the experience of regret and loss are fresh. Some days knocks me to my knees.

I've learned to let it knock me down and then do what needs to be done. Of course the kids don't know (and I assume don't read this blog) so I get a few Mommy points for dumping guilt and self-pity and just encouraging them :) Some days I pick myself up by the scruff of the neck and remember that I'm very lucky to have such good kids, smart funny and kind. So get over it - they are fine, I'll be fine, and while I'm not the sun in their universe, I'm a powerful moon. Their job is to get a bit further out of my gravitational pull anyway, right?

Grief, I've always said, is a strange animal. It has a life of it's own. We hate it, but it is one of the most powerful waves that will ever hit us, and it comes again and again.

I remember the sensation of first hearing about loss (brother, dad, etc) and how the mind freezes, time stops, the universe shifts. And then there is that sense of shock and, if you've been thru it a few times, you think, somewhere in an addled brain "Here we go".

The shock and denial now seem like buffers to me. The frantic struggle of the mind to reorganize your personal galaxy into a recognizable form is met with resistance from that part of you that can't believe it. There is suddenly someone or something missing and you aren't sure whether to fight or flee. I did both in various ways and also tried laying down, playing dead to see if it would go away.

Nothing worked of course. You can push the grief back, and it comes back harder next time. You can give into it, and it still comes back. The finality is so freaking... final.

Those first days, weeks, months of shock eventually wear off and then there is a weird struggle to decide what the hell now? Now what?

Most people get up, do the dishes, feed the children, go to work. Routine helps, right? Work takes your mind off it. You just have to know there will be moments when grief suddenly joins you in the car, and you will pull over for it and cry.

In college I fought the "moving on" stage - and I can hold a fight longer than anyone I know. ug. Months of anger and bitterness and despair. I'd lost a really close friend and man was it ugly.

Now I see it as a part of my indominable spirit - the girl I was. It was me against G-d and the inevitablity of death. I fought that fight like a madwoman. Mad doesn't begin to cover it. (I think I at least made G-d throw up his/her hands and walk out of the room. Death, I'm pretty sure, laughed; which still pisses me off.)

Funny at 17 I already knew somehow that I didn't want to move on, just "get over it". I didn't want to lose my friend by letting go and accepting that he was gone. That would make it worse! I'd start forgetting! I couldn't stop time but I could fight like hell. I guess Death and Time won. Like doctors and nurses, G-d lets them do the dirty work.

Now those big losses are smaller - I orbited along, slowly moving away from each loss and now they are something I have to pull out intentionally, most days. The deaths and divorces, they are part of my past but don't define me (as they did for a while).

All this had been filed way back in the "Stuff that Happened Long Ago" file until my friends lost their spouses. All I can offer them is some small things I cherish - some time, some attention, a listening ear, reading and writing. Meals. Cookies.

Yeah so I don't have any brilliant ending to this. There is none. Life happens. Death happens. You are small. We are small. Don't sweat the small stuff.

Grief: n. from the Latin kick your buttus. Part animal. Unpredictable, known to be entirely independent. Especially provoked over loss of toys in the young, youth in the old and potentially at any human death.

No telling how you will deal with it, when it will come along, when it will bite you in the ass, or just rub against you to remind you of someone you love. Best to remember, as my Dad once joked about a dog**, it gets smaller. Whether you want it to or not.

*btw, elephants grieve too, but I think they are the only ones - ha, in our limited knowledge.
**referring to a small poodle. When my new boyfriend, petting her asked "Will she get bigger?" Dad answered, "No, she only gets smaller." Boyfriend nodded, "Oh, ok." Best Meet the Boyfriend moment ever.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Keeping an Eye on the Working Poor

Here is a good site to keep us informed about the problem of food insecurity in this country. I noticed that the increase need for food assistance had been increasing even before the economy tanked. It's not okay to let our elderly and children go without food, as wealthy as this country is. Add a catastrophe like the tornadoes in Alabama and across the South last week, and you have an even bigger disaster. This is, in my opinion, what Katrina taught us - yes, we have to prepare for disasters, but we can't turn away from the poverty that is pervasive.