pearwaldorf: shepard and garrus on menae (me - s&g menae)
[personal profile] pearwaldorf
Content notes: blithering, grief

Everything remains not quite right.

It was cold this morning, as cold as my grandmother's forehead when I kissed her goodbye. (The subconscious remembers, better than I want it to.)

There was a vague haze over everything today, this underlying current of absence, loss. Not the sort of emptiness that feels like your heart has been ripped out, but the kind where something that has been with you all your life is gone. And it will not come back.

I have added an alarming number of books about death and grief to my Goodreads. I read Lewis's A Grief Observed, and can confirm its reputation is well-deserved. It is terribly raw, intimate in a way that is immediately understandable, if one is or has been in such a state. I started crying at the part where he talks about seeing somebody he hasn't seen in a decade and remembering all the things about them that pass out of memory from lack of exposure, and how he fears that happening to the memories of his wife.

I also read an interview with Joyce Carol Oates and Meghan O'Rourke, who lost their husband and mother respectively, and wrote books about it. This particular bit resonanted very strongly with me:

O’Rourke: It’s interesting that both of our books took shape almost unintentionally, as an organic response to loss — almost as a ritual we had to follow. It may sound strange, but one of the hardest things about a death is recognizing that the person is actually dead. I wasn’t raised as a Catholic, as my parents were, so I had no ceremonies to help me slog through the hazy first months of adjusting to a world without my mother in it.

That work had to happen mostly in my head. Maybe this is one reason you and I wrote about loss in real time, so to speak: writing helped us puzzle through this bewildering change in an age that’s largely let go of the ceremonies that helped bridge the stark boundary between inner sorrow and outer functioning.

Memoir is usually seen as an internal psychological exploration. But I felt that I wasn’t just writing about the personal loss of my mother; I was also mapping the intimate contours of this mysterious transformation we all experience, because that’s what I’d wanted when my mother died: a more resonant description than “the stages of grief” could offer.

Oates: Yes, I’m sure that you are right, Meghan — the act of writing is an act of attempted comprehension, and, in a childlike way, control; we are so baffled and exhausted by what has happened, we want to imagine that giving words to the unspeakable will make it somehow our own.
I need control, I need to understand. Society has equipped me/us poorly for how to deal with such a thing. So I must turn to other people for help.
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