At my pity party, I introduce myself as Meredith Grey or Harry Potter. A vertically and emotionally challenged cosmic joke. Because death, is my best friend.
Have you realized nobody really talks about death? We tiptoe around it. We tiptoe around it, walking on painful eggshells around those ‘afflicted’ with this condition called grief because they are porcelain dolls aren’t they?
They’re porcelain dolls so fragile that society is afraid that a single waft of normalcy will knock them down. So, we tiptoe and use phrases like – ‘He has passed away’ or ‘She’s no more’. Because we’re afraid of the word death. Afraid of its finality.
My father died and I didn’t shed a tear.
My father died and I didn’t shed a tear and society’s stern gaze bored into my soul, pushing me to express grief in their conventional ways set in hard stone or face their wrath.
Seven years later, my grand mom died and I didn’t shed a tear. And society sighed, shook its head and dismissed me as a cold, miserable oddball – an atrocity.
But how do I explain the chilling numbness? Do I sing the famous Linkin Park number? Or explain that it’s the feeling of diving into a freezing lake over and over again, the water so cold that you can’t feel your toes, nose or your soul? It’s like sitting in a theatre and watching your life pass by on a big screen.
Grief is like that ugly scar you got on your knee while playing football as a kid. The scar which dulls in pain everyday but never really goes away.
Grief is that scar on your soul which never really goes away and my body is so full of these scars that my skin doesn’t have room to breathe any more.
They told me I had to grieve.
They told me I had to grieve and suddenly I realized that grief is not an emotion, it’s a 3-act play. I was thrust on stage and asked to play my part of a grieving daughter and granddaughter. I was told to cry, sob, wail, tear my hair out, not sleep, not eat, not breathe, not…exist. For an agreed upon period of time.
You see, grief is a 3-act play. And plays aren’t valid without an audience. My grief wasn’t valid without an audience.
I wonder why they didn’t teach us this in school. Mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell and here, take this book called How to deal with Death 101.
They say there’s no right or wrong way to deal with death. Guess what I discovered? There’s most definitely a wrong way and I stand before you, exhibit A.
They told me I had to grieve by their standards and norms and laws and I refused. I refused to bow down to their pretentious, commercialized rules of grieving.
Three road diverged in the woods and I? I took the neutral, lukewarm, middle road.
I’ll let you in on a little secret – it’s not just fight or flight. It’s fight, flight or hibernate.
I took the neutral, lukewarm middle road and my mind shut down completely. I was a gloomy polar bear, ready to hibernate for the winter. I was a blooming butterfly in reverse, tucking my wings into my cocoon. I was a castle under siege, my soldiers on the defence, I was a dying star, collapsing in on itself.
I began drowning. I began drowning in a mind-numbing concoction of delusions and denial and unhealthy coping mechanisms till one day the lines blurred and I couldn’t see the sky anymore.
And society was happy. I was applauded, patted on my back and songs of my strength were sung everywhere. Because society loved perfect, crease-free neatly wrapped packages of normalcy. So, I wrapped my grief and emotional baggage into a neat, crease free package with a red bow on top and handed it to them.
There’s this thing I call ‘The Look’. When I tell people my Dad died or make a statement about death, I receive The Look – an agonizing swirl of squirm-in-your-pants discomfort and social awkwardness which makes me want to scream at them that I, am not a porcelain doll. I, am not a delicate wooden flowerpot sitting at the precipice of your window sill.
I, am hopelessly human. I am that last resilient leaf, fighting against the torrential rain trying to rip it apart. I am that stubborn ray of sunshine trying to emerge from the clouds on a rainy day. I, am that flame of the candle which burns steadfastly in the eye of a storm.
I, will shun your laws, your mindless rules of decorum and your eyes full of judgment – I need your empathy, not sympathy.
And I will continue to deal with this monster of an emotion in the wrong way. I will fail and fail and fail till I figure out my own path, the fourth path.
My dad died and I didn’t shed a tear.
Society shunned me and I couldn’t have been happier.