Waking up. Breathing. Thinking. Existing. There is not a single verb that does not hurt during the grieving process. Sometimes sleeping relieves the pain. In the moment the fear awakens, you will have to face the next day.
Losing the one we love is dying a little, even if the heart insists on beating. Grieving makes us a “bad place”. We want to run away from ourselves, borrow somebody else’s life, lose our memory, and change roles. Anything that takes away the pain, that saves us from the horror of feeling that someone has been taken away from us. There is no immediate relief.
Death is a truth disguised as an absurd. There’s no regret, no turning back, it’s over. The real meaning of “forever”. It is a phone that does not ring, a silence that deafens, a nightmare that never ends, a longing that will never cease.
To go through grieving is to move to a kind of armored cell, from which we go out only for an endless and painful sunbathing. A solitary cell to which we want to return soon – even being sad and obscure, it is still the place where we feel less uncomfortable.
I remember wandering around town as if I were in a scene without audio. I looked around and wondered why people smiled, if inside me the lights were out. That’s the way it is until we get used to it. Death repeats itself many times. When we wake up, there is death again. With every memory, another death. Until it happens in fact inside us – and that takes time.
When my son was born it was similar. Only, it was life. All the time, it was life again. At every moment look and see: he was born, he is my son. He breathes, moves, cries, nurses, it’s life. If birth and death are two truths that grow before us, until we can truly believe, it has happened that in my life I have experienced both simultaneously. I was pregnant when I lost the father of my unborn child. It was widowhood, but it was also abortion: the sentence cut in full gerund. When his heart stopped beating, our future died.
The thing that hurt the most in grieving was that I could not make people feel my pain. I spoke compulsively. I wrote in an obsessive way. People also cried. And they cried – more because of their own pains than mine, it’s true, but that too is called empathy. And when each latent moment became a touching and kind text, when the words managed to make others be in my shoes, the sadness became joy: what a relief I felt when I got understood. As a kind of magic, I turned all the pain into smile.
You see how ironic life is: the grieving process is a kind of birth. It is needed to relearn how to live without the person who is gone, just like being born again- and by the way, is it possible to remain the same after going through a beloved one’s death? Going through the grieving process is to be born again – and being born is a lonely exercise. You must look at the world and find your place in it again.
But as a growing child, the grieving process demands time. Meanwhile, I haven’t walked around smiling at everyone. In a world made for happiness, grieving causes embarrassment. Death is certainty too touchy to be discussed naturally.
The least lonely moment may be the first week, the first month, while the farewell rituals take place. A few days go by and everyone returns to their lives. No one else wants to talk about it. Except the bereaved one, who does not want to talk about anything else. Now the pain will begin. And it seems like it will never stop. Maybe it stays forever: loss is stuck in the body, like an encapsulated bullet, until it does not bother you any more. With patience, time changes the affections of place. The beloved one begins to live inside me.
And then the pain takes me to other places. It opens my eyes, teaches me to change the subject. And this way, distractedly, it shows me life again – now another one, because it’s always time to change.
Losing someone calls for retreat as a post-operative period. The wound opens again. It is necessary to respect grieving (and surrender to it without fear) until its time for it to leave. Each one discovers how to set the pain to work in another direction. The lack can then be quite revealing.
When we are little, we learn from children’s books. After we become adults, the people who pass make us think about our lives. They remind us of the urgency of loving those who are alive and close to us. And they teach that making choices does not have to be so painful, nor does it lack the certainty of being forever. None of us is forever.
Yes, life is short. It does not come with expiration date or guarantees. Each end of the year is a unique opportunity for reunited affection – laughter and even crying. Celebrate. Even if there is a vacant place at the table, the family is there. The turkey is mouth watering. The children run outside. The toast to life cannot wait.
In 2008, advertising and writer Cris Guerra released the book “Para Francisco” (for Francisco), in which she introduces her son the father he did not know (Guilherme died at the end of Cris’s pregnancy). She is back to the book to prepare the second edition, with new texts, and she published it here in Let’s Talk About Grieving?
This unpublished article was especially written for this site.