Grief has been a part of my life since my best friend of 30 years took her own life fifteen years ago. I don’t claim to corner the market on it, although sometimes it feels like it since I’ve lost four loved ones in the last 24 months. Why is it so awkward when it comes up in conversation? Everyone has to go through it. Everyone can relate. So why don’t we talk about it, yet? It’s natural and should be discussed as openly as birth and love and sex.
Grief is the underlying theme in my series of mystery novels. And they’re not morbid by any means, I just present it as a part of life. I feel if you write about death, it would be irresponsible not to include grief.
I went to a client’s office the other day and at the end of the consultation she told me her mother had just died. I stayed and listened, then I gave her a big hug. No platitudes, just listened, as I knew that’s what helps me the most. “I just want to get to that point,” she said, “when I think about her and it will be only happy memories.” I told her that you get there eventually. But it’s okay to cry too. I scream, I cry. That’s that only way I can get through it.
I don’t know why it’s still so taboo when we are in a culture that talks about everything else. When I went back to Evanston for my mom’s memorial, one of my friends took me to lunch and said, “Tell me all about your mother and her life. I bet she was an amazing woman!” That was the most healing and positive thing anyone could have ever done for me. Instead of sweeping it under the rug or saying something inane like, “She’s in a better place. Now does this restaurant have good pasta?”
To me, losing a loved one is like experiencing an earthquake–your reality up and until that point is that the sidewalk stays still, the walls stay vertical, the earth remains stationary. And when an earthquake hits it distorts that reality around which you’ve built your entire world. When you lose someone close to you, you think how can they exist one minute and be gone the next? I’ve built my world around this person existing, being a part of me. And now how am I supposed to be? What is my world now? Who do I call when I need to share good news or bad? Your timeline is suddenly divided into before and after. Your grieving mind announces bizarre things like, “The last time I ate broccoli my mother was still alive.”
Grief is selfish. It’s my loss. It’s all about me and my world and wanting it to be like it was before. Nobody wants to live in a world without their loved ones. Their BFFs. My silly wall-eyed dog. I don’t even want to live in a world without Elizabeth Taylor or Robin Williams for that matter! But I have to. And the only thing that keeps me going is that there are people who don’t want to live in a world without me.