This week closed on a sad note as another friend died too young. Of cancer. Of course.
I went to the visitation, but couldn’t do the funeral.
It was all so familiar. The family so composed and calm, getting through the handshakes and condolences. I think back to when we held Kevin’s funeral, and how you do what you have to do. It doesn’t register, not right away. The death happens and then there is so much more to do. The decisions have to be made, arrangements made, telephone calls placed; and you do it. Even for the first couple of weeks afterwards there are still things to do, but unlike the funeral arrangements, they aren’t pressing. This was the time that I felt the slide. I was surrounded by family and friends, and despite all their good intentions, I disintegrated into a million tiny little pieces. I was still functional on the outside but empty on the inside.
One of the handouts that I received from the grief group is a sheet called “Helpful Hints When You Are Bereaved”. Under a column labelled “When you are bereaved it is all right to”, it states:
Scream in the shower
Yell in the car
Cry anywhere you like
Misplace your glasses
Lose the car
Forget your own name
Beat up on a pillow
Stomp on the ground
Wear one black shoe and one navy
Have tearstains on your tie
Eat French fries for breakfast, toast for lunch and peanut butter for dinner (as long as you eat)
Smell his/her clothes
Celebrate his/her life on his/her birthday
Leave his/her room the way it is, for as long as you like
Say his/her name just to hear the sound
Talk about him/her to others
Tell loved ones what you need
Say NO when you feel like it
Cancel plans if you want
Have a bad day
There were more, but the list above gives a pretty good idea of how disorienting and debilitating grief is. The world becomes a shaky, scary place after someone dies. For me, I worried about my children and the rest of my family. What if something happened to them? In the early days after Kevin’s death, for me, the solution was simple – the key is to die before anyone else can. This is not an off the wall thought, in fact, it is fairly common. I remember after Kevin’s nephew died three years ago, Kevin sat at the side of the bed and I watched his shoulders heave with suppressed sobs. He stated at that time that he would not have another family member die before him, it was too hard.
It is too hard, that’s for sure, but at some point we all have to go through it.