I spent the last days with bereaved (and so very beloved) family and now that I’m back on my home turf and removed from the immediacy of the experience, I repeat what I always say after these things: GRIEF IS WEIRD. The loss of a loved one is a deeply personal experience. Add issues like complicated grief, trauma, or personal history and regret to the mix, and it gets flat-out surreal. Layer this complexity with societal expectations of what grief is supposed to look like and further jack up proceedings with endless social interaction and just…how do we do it?
Back in April of 1998, my mom died of cancer. Since then, her mamma died, and a super-sweet aunt, and my Dad’s dad, and now my uncle Samir. As a couple of friends have noted, we’re getting to the age where more and more of the adults in our life are getting in line to hand over their coins to the ferryman in black. I’m no stranger to grief and therefore I’m no stranger to just how peculiar it always is. Watching my cousins and aunt steel themselves to receive awkward and/or crushing hugs, condolences, remembrances, and on and on while they tried to reign in their tears or confusion or flat-out shock reminded me so much of how nobody really knows how to handle this. Really, we don’t. Like all human experiences, we make it up as we go along.
Some of us? We laugh. Funeral humor, whistling in the dark, or in my opinion, a healthy release of powerful, almost crippling emotion in the wake of the enormity of loss. Exhibit A, Wedge Antilles. You heard me. Wedge, ace pilot of Rogue Squadron fame (Star Wars reference). At my aunt’s, my hubby and I found him face-down next to a bouquet of lilies. And I laughed–I giggled like an idiot. “Wedge…Wedge Antilles, ” (more gales of idiot laughter), “Wedge and funeral flowers and a deli plate,” etc. It was hilarious. Incongruous. And perfect. It was my family in a nutshell–a wonderful mix of domesticity and nerdery and a penchant for the absurd and for good food. It was perfect enough I had to take a picture–but only after standing him up, because Wedge was a fine pilot and deserves as much.
Now, lilies and Rogue Squadron may not be the model of decorum in grief but in my humble and also correct opinion, decorum is overrated. If someone needs to laugh in the wake of a great loss, let her. If someone needs to go hide in the back room and be alone till that panic attack passes instead of having to put on a good face for others, for crying out loud, let him! If someone is best off doing dishes, losing himself in industry and being helpful, how is that a bad thing? And the girl over there not crying? Don’t judge her for her lack of tears. You have no idea what she holds in her heart.
There is no correct way to grieve. There is no script for loss.
Only, get through it intact. Survive, then soon, get back to thriving.
Samir, you will be missed. And you’re still so very loved. Brenda Jean, my precious mom? I think about you all the freaking time. And my Grannyma. And all those who beat me to the river Styx. And to my loved ones who have suffered these losses, I offer you whatever you best need to get through this. In the meantime, I’ll be over here, posing Wedge next to this jar of mayonnaise because that’s how *I* handle grief.
Wishing all of you readers a lovely day–enjoy all of the beautiful and wonderful weirdos in your life while they are here!