V-Grrrl mentioned in her comment that when her parents died (within 6 weeks of each other!Â God, Dad, be careful!), she had to put all photos of them away, couldn’t drive past their house, couldn’t bear to be reminded.Â Not that doing these things helped her to forget, I don’t think anything could do that…but she was too raw to cope otherwise.
Which made me think of the different ways that people grieve.Â My uncle made me a lovely collage of photos of my mom, and I find comfort in looking at it.Â None of the pictures are of her when she was sick, they’re all of her in her prime, and it comforts me to think of her like that, of her without the burden of an aching back, clogged arteries, damaged lungs, diabetes, sleep disorders, etc.
And now I’m reading The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion.Â It’s the story of the first year after her husband unexpectedly died from a heart attack while she was tossing the salad for their dinner.Â It’s the story of her daughter’s illness and eventual death (I think…actually, it may be that her daughter died after she completed the writing of the book…I’ll let you know later.)Â Does it make me cry to read a book about someone else’s grief, while I’m so freshly consumed by my own?Â Of course.Â But somehow, I can’t look away.Â It’s like when you’re pregnant, and you want to read books about pregnancy.Â Or when we were trying to sell our house, I was obsessed with home makeover/real estate shows.Â I no longer have any interest in these things, because they’re not current for me.Â But this book, this woman’s grief, is speaking to me in a sad way, in a way that I guess I kind of need right now.
My friends Leah and Jeff sent me a book when they heard about my mom’s death, Will the Circle Be Unbroken? Reflections on Death, Rebirth, and Hunger for a Faith, by Studs Terkel.Â I’ve never heard of Studs, but it’s fun to say his name, and I’m thinking I might want to read this book next.Â I’m going to substitute it for another book in my non-fiction challenge, I’m thinking.
This whole thing has been so hard.Â Knowing what to do has been so hard.Â I will admit that a lot of the stress left my life when she died.Â That sounds horrible, I know, but really, those last weeks were so difficult, and I was trying everything I could think of to get her better.Â Writing letters to her psychologist about her depression, writing letters to her physical therapist about her PT, writing letters to her doctor about her medications.Â Visiting her and trying to be encouraging, bringing her things she might eat.Â All while watching none of it work.Â None of it.Â I felt so helpless, and like maybe, if I could just get it right, something might help.Â And of course, nothing did.Â It made her feel loved, I hope, but nothing made her better.Â Looking back, I think that she just had too many factors stacked up against her, and a recovery was practically impossible.Â I know other people who have had bypass surgery and recovered nicely, of course, but none with as many factors as she had.Â I think it was just too much.Â And I think at some level, she might have known that.Â But maybe not. She really wanted to get out of that care facility.Â She wanted to go to the farmers’ market with Kate.Â She wanted to visit us and tell stories and write on her blog.Â She still had a lot of living to do.Â Some people will remind me that often people are ready to die, and they let go.Â I believe this can be the case.Â I do not believe it is always the case.Â My friend Rosemary told me, as her father was dying from cancer, that he cried to her that he was NOT ready to die, didn’t want to in any way or form.Â And yet, he did.Â That’s what I think of with my mom.Â I don’t think she wanted to die.Â I do think she wanted to be out of pain, and away from the care facility, but not that way.Â Not that way.
So now, the stress of trying to fix things has gone.Â I’m left with the process of grief, and trying to get her things in order, that sort of thing.Â Things with no real importance, it feels like.Â (Grief is important, but it’s not like if I get it wrong, something horrible will happen.)Â I mean, if I don’t send a death certificate to a creditor in time, who cares?Â I don’t.Â So there’s been a real shift in my perspective, from stress and frustration, to regret and grieving.Â I regret that she’s gone.Â I grieve for her.Â But at least I know that my actions don’t have dire consequences for her anymore.Â That, in and of itself, is a big relief.