My mother’s funeral was held the day before our national election for our new president. As we drove to Millinocket, I said aloud to my husband, son, and daughter, “I’m glad this is taking place before tomorrow”. My son asked why. I don't think I ever answered him.
It’s been nearly two days now since we learned who won the election. I stayed up until 1:45am on election night. Just for the record, I was terribly disappointed as I went to bed. But I didn’t cry. I was sorrowful but I’d lost my Mom eleven days earlier. For me, my inability to shed a tear over the victor’s win made perfect sense. The loss of my only surviving parent had perhaps numbed my emotions for the time being. Or maybe I was simply in a state of shock and disbelief. Either way, the election was to be yet another layer of grief to be added to an already heavy heart.
Taking bereavement leave in the midst of this post election day toxicity has been interesting to say the least. I’ve grown to realize my need to step away from media a bit and I’ve gone back to basics. I’ve spent time outside, listening to the sound of my pups running excitedly through the fallen leaves, and I’ve taken time to talk to Mom and Dad. Inside I’ve watched some tv, cuddling up with my sweet kitty. I’ve napped in the warmth of the sun streaming through my back windows, and I’ve read some books on grief. One of the chapters in Good Grief by Deborah Morris Coryell opens with a familiar quote from Shakespeare’s Macbeth, a quote I’ve found myself saying in my head often over the past several years. “Give sorrow words. The grief that does not speak whispers the o’erfraught heart and bids it break”.
Give sorrow words. This is what so many are doing this week—journalists, political pundits, and the quote unquote ordinary folks on the street or online. Friends, neighbors, and coworkers are engaging in discourse, sorting out their own ideas and emotions as they fervently type up statuses and comments to leave on the posts of others. Some people are growing more and more emotional and frustrated and are beginning to pull away from one another. That’s understandable, I think. But in my humble opinion, everyone in one way or another is giving their sorrow words. And that’s healthy as long as it’s done knowing it’s a part or a stage of grief. It’s a necessary step to healing. Denial, sorrow, anger, bargaining, acceptance….oh, I don’t believe that grief has a linear path, but I do see even self-sufficient adults grieving publicly this week. I am too, but you’ll have to understand that my grief is my own response to a catastrophic loss of different proportions. It’s not everyday that your Mom dies, after all.
Our society tends to rank losses in a hierarchy of grief. This is wrong. Loss is loss and all losses must be grieved in their own right and on their own terms. Grief can be surprisingly deep and painful, especially perhaps when the loss comes as a shock. People feel depressed, resentful, angry, and need help to cope. Their grief should not be mocked. Giving sorrow words is a small step towards healing. When a loss arrives, even one that is expected, the heart and mind still must process the loss.
I process loss, fear, disappointment, betrayal, and other unpredictable parts of life through words—those I read and those I write. I’ve experienced a lot of loss over these last five years, and I have grown to become more self-aware. I say this with gratitude, but it doesn’t mean that this awareness has continued without struggle and vulnerability. Yet, I refuse to give in to fear. A broken heart has more room for all that is important. I may be overconfident and terribly underestimating what’s ahead of us all, but I fiercely believe in my ability to navigate the hardships of life and in my capacity to be courageous.
“Life in its very nature…(has) no guarantees of what will happen next…that very unpredictability holds loss at its center….this gives rise to the question of whether it was ‘ours’ to begin with. Our culture and even our world has become so disconnected from the nature of life that we have come to believe that we can take possession and control it…”, writes Coryell (119). I know that I only have so much control in this world but I’ve learned that I can and I do make a difference in my corner of it. And that will continue, no matter who is living in the White House.
So that’s that. Those are my words concerning the timing of my bereavement leave. Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for me to return to my regularly scheduled journey with grief. I miss you Mom.