Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Excerpt from "Stand-by for Grief"

I have ended up using this term of Creative Non-Fiction to work on a long piece (so far 30 pages but I feel about halfway there as far as a rough draft goes) helping me process the passing of Blake's mom--as someone who has never lost a parent or a close friend, as a daughter-in-law and mother and wife. It's been really helpful for me to not only to process the rich and difficult feelings around it but to slow down and document the unfolding of post-death experience for those that are left to sort out the "pile". The following is a short excerpt.


I've been waiting patiently for death, like an operator in a quiet room expecting the phone to ring. As a writer, I've stopped and started more than one piece about the lack of grief in my life. I've only lost grandparents and none of them close. It has left me feeling like my palette of human experience is missing an entire color family (blue, naturally?) I have at times fantasized about how I would react to having a death of an immediate family member—I am convinced this is not odd, Joan Didion admits to doing this in her book, The Year of Magical Thinking as well. Who would come and fill my house, how long the kids would stay home from school, if it was my husband who died, how long until I had sex again.

We imagine that the moment that will test us more severely will be the funeral...when we anticipate the funeral we wonder about failing to “get through it”, rise to the occasion, exhibit the strength that invariably gets mentioned as the correct response to death. I would have a friend bring me selection of black dresses from Anthropologie a few days before the funeral, I would be too grief-stricken to shop but not out-of-it enough to not look put-together. Attendees would remark at my positive, loving spirit of acceptance, but my friends would know how I crumbled in sobs and fits of rage when the day turns to night. I would need lots of Valium but not too much that the process of grieving would be stunted--just enough to sleep. I would not drink alcohol for six months, to avoid it become a crutch. This would be my chance to model appropriate grief behavior to my children.

My husband's mother's death is the natural next step in this labyrinth walk that brings me closer to my own front and center seat to True Grief. Is it a little strange that I feel some satisfaction that I am finally getting to put a little experience into my pocket, a smear of blue on my canvas? Ring, ring. The phone is ringing but it is in the next room.

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