Figuring out how to cope and function with grief has been and continues to be one of the most difficult trials, every minute, of my life. It seems I can’t find a way that really works long term. At least I’m at a functional point, I suppose. I’ve always had a busy mind. My husband says I always have too many tabs open in my browser. I suppose I’ll play off of that metaphor.
This is what has really been on my mind and the thing I haven’t been able to admit. I suppose it’s easier here because I get the thoughts out of my head, know others are “listening” (hopefully learning and perhaps finding support), but I don’t know exactly who all is reading it. Not every single person, at least. It’s kind of like a real stage production. Many people watch the show, but only a handful come to the stage door. Some of whom you know and others you don’t, but it’s so nice to have the support.
I believe I’m either human or not as I walk this path as of late, feeling or empty. Luckily, I’m a good actress. I can play the well composed, functional part of daily life quite well. It’s exhausting and I grow resentful of that part sometimes. It’s not a part I ever wanted to play. I didn’t audition to play the grieving mother who holds it all together for the greater good. I was simply thrust through the curtain, center stage, with a hole in my heart, and the show had to go on. What bothers me (and believe me, I’m trying to find a better way), is that to play the part requires a certain level of detachment. All those open tabs in my grief browser can’t be closed, but the entire computer can be put into sleep mode. So that’s what I do.
It’s hard to pick and choose what feelings we will feel at any given moment. I can’t decide ahead of time that the sight of a little, blond boy won’t make me cry in the grocery store. I still can’t put away his last stack of folded laundry, for heaven’s sake! I smell the last pair of socks he wore that remain on my nightstand. I can’t breath when I walk into the nursery and see where his bed used to be. I avoid looking into the backseat when I’m driving because the very act of glancing back from the driver’s seat floods my minds eye with the sites and sounds of that night. I watched my son die and I have nightmares that would torture even the strongest of people.
That is, when I let myself feel.
So, I generally keep my computer in sleep mode. That allows me to function, but it infuriates me, too. I can’t find the words to describe what it’s like to be, naturally, a deep feeling person and then to be forced into a place where survival dictates turning off emotion. There is no turning off grief alone, or at least I haven’t cracked that code. No, I am just void. I suppose I’ve gotten quite good at acting “okay” or “normal”. I mean, let’s be honest. When people greet one another and ask how another is doing, rarely does anyone actually want an honest answer of a discussion to come from that question. “Good”, “Fine”, etc, are the customary answers. I say and do the right things, dress and appear how I should for certain occasions, and often pull from the memories of who I used to be to more convincingly develop my character. That is, until something or someone shakes the mouse and the computer wakes up. Ugh!
That’s when the performance for my family and myself begins. I still ugly cry. I still heave with sobs that come with a sound no parent should ever make. You just won’t hear or see it. You will see the gentle, composed tears that roll softly down my cheek. Yet, if you listen and look closely, you’ll see the flushed neck and chest and hear the lump of the ugly cry catch in my throat just before it’s swallowed.
Make no mistake. I play this part for my family and myself. This is not for anyone else. This is for the greater good. The good that comes from standing in the light. This is what it takes sometimes when everything is so damn hard. The performance of a lifetime for my life, my sanity, my freedom from the depths of grief and pain that would have me spend every minute wallowing in darkness and anger. And yes, some of those open tabs are filled with peace, comfort, joy, and happiness. I just have stretches where I need to fake it ’till I make it so I can remain in the light and only camp in the dark. Because sometimes, when the computer is awake and the tabs are all open, my ability to function is what goes into sleep mode. I’m just glad I know that that’s still okay, too. I hope you do as well.