Grief is a mess. A big steaming pile of … spaghetti soup.
I remember being told that her days were numbered (as I returned from a honeymoon break no less) and feeling utter shock and disbelief. Was this really my life? Her life? It was like some kind of dystopian reality where nothing made sense anymore. Arriving at the hospital, I tactlessly announced that my phone was about to die. The irony of that was lost on no one. Everyone else seemed absurdly calm whereas I was not. The days all blurred. Bizarrely, there was laughter and comfort and games of scrabble. One afternoon, I laid my head next to hers and picked up her almost-lifeless arm and draped it around me. I fell asleep there like that for a while, at peace where I had always felt at home. I never got to talk to her but I know she knew I was there.
Months after her death, LJM2 and I had a few conversations about how grief was not what we had feared. The fear of death happening was worse in many ways. It didn’t mean that it wasn’t significant, that it was not bad (believe me, grieving a parent is horrific); we meant that we were surprised by our ability to cope and adapt and to still live. Like she said in a radio interview just before her death: when asked “how do you cope?” she said,
You just do; you have no choice.
It has now been six and half years since she died. You will notice that I refrain from using euphemisms which soften the harshness of death words. I always do. She’s not sleeping, with the angles, she’s not passed. She is dead and that is the reality we have to live with.
In that time, we have lived through many stages of grief, even seeking answers as to when this will feel better. The truth is: it won’t. There is a new grief every day. We mostly accept that but it feels impossibly hard with every new experience. Every new moment brings her absence to the fore. She is not there. She does not know her grandchildren. I struggle to understand how some of the people who I love most in the world have not met each other.
My children will not know how the tip of her nose always felt cold, how her body always felt soft, how she made a little click noise when she gave a kiss, the concentration face that she pulled. Furthermore, each time the little LJMs do something amazing I want to tell her. I ask questions that will never get answered. Just this week the biggest little one tried out school. Was he like me? Was I that brave? Her absence is felt so profoundly each day.
Others seemingly forget. Others move on (and that is ok). Some expect you to be over it. I’m even imagining all sorts of eye-rolling at the mere discovery of this project and blog. However, this is our reality. This project is helping. It’s helping us and it’s helping others. The last stage of grief?
But that’s the thing about grief. There is no last stage. The grief dies with you, leaving someone else’s new grief in its wake.