Today marks nine years since my grandmother died. People say it gets easier over time, but that’s not entirely accurate. It is more true to say that the pain and grief stop being messy toddlers who need constant attention, leaving you yearning for relief, and start to disappear for longer stretches, more like college freshmen heading out into the world with little grace and lots of gumption. But even grown children come home from time to time, and they bring with them the history and reminders of all the years that have come before. And so it is with this sadness. Just when I think I’ve packed it up, sent it on its way, and paid my dues, it shows up on my doorstep with a few bags of dirty laundry.
Before my grandmother died, I’d never lost anyone close to me before. I haven’t since, either. And when it happens again — as it will — I am sure I will be no more prepared for the grieving process. The only thing I can say with any sort of certainty is that it’s a path we all have to take, one that is both not as easy as we hope nor as treacherous as we fear. It’s just life, carried on by human beings who love each other — and deeply miss each other when leave-taking occurs, for whatever reason.
My folly lies in believing that one day the grief will have dissipated so completely that I’ll be able to think of my regrets and missed opportunities and all of the things my grandmother would have loved to have seen without choking up or feeling even a twinge. This sort of thinking has never done me well; it’s the same logic that had me believing grown-ups knew how to be sad without crying or, if they did, had mastered the technique of doing so silently, behind closed doors, where no one could see their pain. Today I know that the best crying involves hearty sobs, curling up in a ball on my bed or in the bathtub, wailing, lots of snot, and a fresh box of Kleenex. Anyone who says different just hasn’t had the opportunity yet. Namaste.
[Other posts about grieving my grandmother include: loss… (2006); springtime grief and longing (2007); and i miss her most while sitting in diners at lunchtime (2008).]