Some people forget how to smile and laugh. Others suffer from 'survivor's guilt'. Some emanate self pity, bitterness and anger. Somatic retraction expresses the burden of despair and sadness for some, while others just throw themselves into a related cause or their work, relegating it to the realm of the subconscious. There are an evolved few who accept with equanimity and live by what the Indian scriptures propound - detachment. But whichever way you cope - grief is not pretty. We are uncomfortable because of and around it. All that naked unbridled emotion, exposed vulnerability, uncontrolled and tortured suffering without the safety of censure is scary...so we tiptoe around this elephant in the room.
I have learnt that there is nothing right you can say to a grieving person. No words can really make it better. The inner censor takes a back seat in grief and no matter what anyone says the pain is so overwhelming at times that the person who is grieving loses sight of borders - both within and without. Words escape, emotions are like napalm and collateral damage is high.
Words are clever little creatures, aren't they? They slip off tongues, intended to comfort but end up as platitudes. Take the simple question "How are you?" What can one really say in reply? None of the standard answers work. "Time will heal" throws me every time. I live on grief time, it passes differently for me - it expands into painful nanoseconds experienced like the pecks of a bird on living flesh, each moment burdened by memory or what could have or should have been - months and years are too long to consider or put in perspective. "The good die young..." - what does that make me and the boys? "Enough..." - is there a statute of limitations on grief? "It could have been worse" "At least he left you with good memories" "Get a grip..."
I have only recently realized that these words trouble me because of a simple truth - I am not ready to hear them. Some day I will probably look back and know they were true but I am just not there yet. I don't know when I will be...the room is small and I can't seem to be able to get the elephant to leave...
I have no skin
Every breath hurts, every memory is a wound
All boundaries have vanished
I stand exposed, fragile and vulnerable
From I miss me by JSV
" Grief is a most peculiar thing; we're so helpless in the face of it. It's like a window that will simply open of its own accord. The room grows cold, and we can do nothing but shiver. But it opens a little less each time, and a little less; and one day we wonder what has become of it."
Arthur Golden, Memoirs of a Geisha