These days I’m surprised at how peaceful I feel about her death. Almost 8 months of life without her and most of the time my grief nags at the edges of my consciousness, but it’s contained. And then something happens like I wake up remembering in vivid detail what her hands looked like with her long fingers and bones and that chipped, orangey-red nail polish. Or I see an old picture of us that I forgot existed (this was pre-kids, when camping was still fun). Sometimes it creeps in closer and I have to put my hand on my heart and try to take a deep breath to remind myself that I am capable of a full, human experience without her.
The only other experience I can compare it to is the pain of a breakup I had in college. I don’t know if that trivializes her death or proves how much that prior loss meant to me, but either way, the pain is in the fact that you didn’t realize you expected forever but now you’re being asked to let it go. I don’t know how to reach her. I close my eyes and I can imagine her perfectly. I can see her looking into my eyes and knowing the truth about me like she always did. I chafe against life change because every step I take takes me farther away from the person I was when she still knew me.
The thing about deconstruction is that it’s an ever-unfolding process. And her death brought this issue to the forefront for me. What do I believe about death? When someone dies, other people love to share their beliefs and project them on you. How many times have I gritted my teeth to stop myself from screaming, “NOTHING YOU DO OR SAY CAN MAKE THIS OKAY FOR ME.” I know I have more learning and soul-searching to do. How do you feel connected with someone who has died? (No really, I want to know.)
In the Spring and Summer, I felt like I was drowning in an ocean of grief. I avoided it and kept trying to tread above it until I finally couldn’t anymore, and it took me under for days, or even a week at a time. I had to play catch up with all the grief I suppressed throughout 2020 and the well felt endless. Now my grief feels more like the tide coming in. Almost imperceptible if you’re not paying attention, and then a wave comes up high and sweeps through everything. But if you’re paying attention, you can give it space, move higher on the beach and observe it, noticing that it’s happening, and you’re still safe.