Some Days, I Don't
It’s dark. I’m asleep. I feel a dark, looming presence over me almost like dread. My eye’s aren’t open yet. It’s just the dog; he wants out. I look at the time, 3:46 a.m. Dread. “Where are my glasses,” I think to myself. I fumble for my glasses, sweatpants, the dog’s collar, and my phone as I stagger out of bed and take the dog downstairs. These first thoughts of the day no longer contain thoughts about my parents’ death or the loss I felt. No, today my thoughts are about the dark, dog, cold, wet, and wanting to go back to sleep.
At some point, I realized my first thoughts of a day were no longer of my parents’ death, the loss, or the very selfish, “what am I going to do now that they are gone?” At first, my thoughts were all about dad being gone, and the care mom needed. Then when mom died, my thoughts turned to the loss of both. When I would wake up at 3: 46 a.m. with the dog looming over me, those would be my first thoughts. I would lay my head down on the pillow; those would be the last thoughts, too. It may have been in prayer, but it was still about them. I don’t know how long I lived in that pattern. No matter what was taking my attention or needing my presence, in my interior world I was still in the grieving landscape. My day was still ruled by mourning. My night was ruled by tears. The dew of my morning were the tears of weeping alone in the dark. After dad and then mom died, this was my life’s pattern for many months, maybe over a year or even two.
I don’t remember when it happened specifically, the day that is, but it happened in the Fall when it did happen. On one of those early morning canine wakeups, and they are all early morning canine wakeups, my parents weren’t the first thought of my day. Getting the dog out, making tea, going to prayer, reading the newspaper, and all the rest of my morning routine went by without my thinking of my parents at all. I know it was Fall because it was too cold to start my day on the back stoop, my preferred starting place when the weather allows, and the backyard maples were in glorious yellow leaves. It was the type of Fall Day my dad would have loved for shelling corn, harvest. It was that thought, the joy of harvest for my father, that struck me: I hadn’t been overwhelmed with tears yet. When I realized I hadn’t yet thought about dad and mom, it caught me off guard.
After I realized my parents had not been the first thing on my mind, and that my grief wasn’t gnawing away the way it had, I was surprised. I felt guilty at first. “I’m supposed to be grieving, aren’t I,” I thought to myself. I allowed the question to stand there, unanswered, unexplained, unexamined: I’m supposed to be grieving, aren’t I? After what seemed like an eternal morning, I came to realize that not having dad and mom as my first thoughts was just as much a part of grief as tears. To wake-up and fumble through the morning routine: To stagger to the door with the dog blurry eyed while turning on the kettle for tea and not thinking about the loss is normal and is part of grieving. We do get to live beyond the mourning. Grief will be with us always, but grieving doesn’t have to be our active way of life. Slowly, over time, I had moved from grieving as the way I was living, to living in a new way informed by the grief I experience.
I embraced the freedom that some days I don’t grieve those who have died. It is freeing to recognize this change. It’s a change in my relationship with and understanding of grief. I still have my days, but to come to a place where grief doesn’t dominate the day-to-day is liberating. Some days I don’t need to grieve; there is no compulsion. This is as normal as having days on which I need to grieve, too. Both are normal. Once I embraced grieving as normal, and removed the value judgments from my own grieving, I was able to grieve more freely, openly, honestly. Once I embraced that I don’t have to grieve, I found another type of freedom, too. Some days, I don’t.