Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Get a Grip!

I read a lot (or I try to) and I would list reading as one of my hobbies when I can squeeze in a moment of free time. The entire first year following my husband's death, I chose to only read novels that contained in them a character's death. It did not need to be the main character or the subject of the book but there had to be some mention of death within the pages. I grew tired of only reading depressing stories after about a year and was able to move on to other topics. But even now, I would say that I tend to read more novels focused on death than the average person. I have just devoured a fantastic read by Sue Miller who also wrote "Missing Mom," which I read as a tribute to my mother last May (in honor of Mother's Day). This last book, "Lost in the Forest" sat on one of my book shelves for a couple of years. It is about a middle-aged/divorced mom who loses her second husband after he is killed in a horrific fluke accident when a car hits him. I find it interesting that the book spoke about the grief involved with divorce and death so it was a totally appropriate read for me. The descriptions of grief and loss are so accurate, unlike other novels where the writer seems not to have had any actual experience with such emotions.

What really struck me was a passage that I am going to put down here.
Eva is the mom and Daisy is her teenaged daughter. Their exchange is on p. 178 of my paperback copy.

[As they turned onto Kearney Street and approached their house, Eva said abruptly, "Sometimes I can't stand it."
Daisy, who had been thinking about happiness, about Duncan, about sex, was startled. "Can't stand what?"
Eva was quiet for a moment. "Can't stand how hard it seems, how complicated it is - life - without John." Then, passionately, "I hate coming home, sometimes. I hate it."
"God, Mom." Daisy felt that she was being blamed somehow, accused. That Eva wouldn't be saying this to her unless she was still angry. That her mother's sorrow was connected to her, to all that she didn't do, couldn't be, for her. And what this produced in Daisy was the impulse to turn away. She simply couldn't add her mother's sorrow or confusion or anger to her own. She didn't have the strength to carry any more than she felt she was carrying.
"Get a grip," she said, and went ahead of her mother up the walk to the lighted house.]

There is something that strikes me to the core in this beautifully written exchange between mother and daughter. I think it has such an impact on me because over the past week I too have been saying, "I just can't stand how hard it is anymore" in reference to the pain, heartache, stress and confusion I too feel. The "Get a grip" response is one that is so like a teenager and as I have two, I could also identify with it. But really what I have personally found is that the "Get a grip" reply is how most of the world has looked on my situation. As if my friends and family, like Daisy, cannot add to their own personal burdens and it is almost easier to blame the grieving person for not being able to handle it than offer a comforting gesture.

My big problem with all of this is that I just don't know how to "Get a grip." I am overwhelmed and down and feeling tremendous pain. It would be good if all those who tell me to "Get a grip" would follow it with some advice on how I'm supposed to do that. I guess in the end it is just putting one foot in front of the other, or tackling one project at a time. For me this phrase conjures up an image of me trying to get a grip on a big, fat rope but that my hands just keep slipping down. We're supposed to be getting a grip but no one is there holding the rope for us.

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