I first read Kubler-Ross’ On Death and Dying in my 20s, when mercifully death was only an intriguing concept to consider. She explained how the grieving person goes through phases, and then, promptly, mentioned how you can skip the phases, how they can happen in any order, how grieving is really very subjective. Signposts gone mad, showing the way every which way. Still, it was a serious, considered scientific stab at explaining the unfathomable, and a bible on the subject for many years in psychology circles.
When my beloved passed away, 30some years later, I did not turn to books to get colour back into my life. In fact, I pretty much stopped reading. Nothing seemed relevant, and books gave me no energy. My past knowledge brought me no comfort. The most valuable help came from people. Which never ceased to amaze me.
Don’t get me wrong. I am fine with people. My best friends are people. But strangers, with the most tenuous connections to me, showed up at my doorstep and offered their help. They were told of my story and moved to discreetly unburden me. Day in, day out, for weeks on end.
Still, I couldn’t do it. Surrounded by all those loving people, I drew and wrote of “a frightened animal in my rib cage, confused and scared”. Poems titled “Fake it till you make”, Humpty Dumpty my go-to ditty. I came to this new experience a virgin on emotions. Could not rely on the thing that had gotten me through everything before – guts and brain. I had neither, my gut hollow, my brain foggy.
I battled demons I did not know lurked in the shadows. Was urged to express, create, lean on my fellow humans. Did what I was told, and slowly, painfully, the downward spiral slowed down, the hole started filling out, the bottom did not fall as far. The colors returned. They are not the same as before. Everything a darker hue, with grays that I did not see before. They are more complex. They speak of pain and longing.
Lately, I have been reading poetry. A strong woman by Merge Piercy, seems like an apt ending. I will only quote a few lines. The whole poem can be found here .
Strong is what we make
each other. Until we are all strong together,
a strong woman is a woman strongly afraid.