My good Catholic guilt rattles in my chest. Because, you see, I’m not good with grief. I can share the sorrow over the loss of a loved one, I can empathize with people’s suffering, but deep yawning chasm grief? Nope. I can’t do it.
I’ve thought about this a lot, because I don’t like this part of myself. I like to think I can give to others, that I’m “there” for my friends, that I can bring love into my relationships and help people heal. I know, in my role as a nurse, I can do it. I can be there as a professional, I can put my nursing face on, I can CARE.
But without that nurse distance? It’s so much harder. Why, I ask myself. Shouldn’t it be easier?
Perhaps it’s because I stand on the lip edge of grief myself, wobbling in the wind. I can cognitively tell myself I have nothing to be sad about, and most days I rattle around quite contentedly. I have food, housing, enough money to buy a book on occasion. I am well off compared to so many.
My eldest child thinks I’m an abusive parent and refuses to make contact with me. I lost my job due to a chronic progressive disease that is more robbing my brain than my body. I live alone. My parents died before I got to know them, really. I’ve been sexually assaulted the requisite number of times. My marriage was a lengthy experience of being ignored. I fight depression and pain and muscle spasms and incontinence.
Blah blah blah blah.
Life is grim, she says with a wink, not taking herself seriously. First world problems, I can hear myself saying to myself. Try living where you have to walk forty miles for water.
See? I can’t even get close to my own grief.
Years ago I was asked to play Ophelia in a local presentation of “The Compleat Works of Shakespeare, abridged.” (There’s audience participation.) My only role was to scream, as loudly and as conflictedly as I could. It was f**king marvellous. I was SUPPOSED to let go, to let all the anger and sorrow and need to hurry forward and deprived hopes and all that crap out, and it felt wonderful.
Most of the time we keep all that stuff in. I visualize it as a bunch of really pointy rocks at the bottom of the chasm, just over that cliff. If I wobble too far…
So I whip my arms back and forth, keep myself busy with arabesques and rhumba moves, throw myself into life, and step back from other’s chasms. Because maybe, maybe, it’s okay not to let myself fall. Maybe I don’t have to feel that pain every day. Because, as archie the cockroach would say: