The third of each month is going to clang like a discordant bell for some time, I think, as a marker of time passed since June 3, when Mark died.
Hospice has written to me: “It is not uncommon for people to describe their grief as ‘getting worse’ or describe their grief as ‘stronger’ three months after the death. People often report their natural supports have begun to fade away, which may intensify any feelings of loneliness after a loss.” They ask me to call if I want to talk.
Right now, I don’t want to talk. What I want, of course, is to have Mark back. I want him to walk through the doorway and give me a hug, and I want to realize that this has all been a long bad dream, one of those dreams that make you shudder when you wake up, cold all over from the realization that in your dream state you believed the horror was real.
Last night I dreamt that I was on a wide beach struggling to run away from the ocean, but I was mired in sand and couldn’t make much headway. Behind me, I could sense massive dark waves mounting and climbing, coming my way, but I didn’t dare look back. I didn’t want to see them. I just kept pushing ahead, until I woke up.
Most days are better now, because the passage of time has started to work its inevitable magic. I’m no longer constantly surprised at the turn my life has taken. I can’t say I’m used to the changes, but I’m following this path with my eyes open, sometimes trudging with determination, but there are many intervals when I feel, well, normal—my new normal.
I’ve found comfort in the poetry of grief. These poems are not new to me, but they have a different resonance now. Rumi’s “The Guest House” urges me to be open to all the feelings that sweep through my life. Rilke’s “Pushing Through” reminds me of the universality of the experience of grief. It begins:
“It’s possible I am pushing through solid rock
in flintlike layers, as the ore lies, alone;
I am such a long way in I see no way through,
and no space: everything is close to my face,
and everything close to my face is stone.
Perhaps it is Rilke’s poem that is the inspiration for the observations by the grief counsellors that the only way out of grief is through it.
There is still so much to be done, and so much of it still seems impossible at the moment. I picked up Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing because everyone seems to be talking about it. My first observation is that Kondo must be a trifle insane. I don’t really believe that the socks in my drawer can’t rest because they are balled up together. Nevertheless, serious decluttering probably is life-affirming. I just don’t think it’s time for me to do it yet. Mark’s half of the closet remains untouched, except for the items Chris has taken to use. (Fortunately, Mark and Chris shared the same size in almost everything.) I started to fuss over what to do with some of Mark’s clothes. Mark had a large collection of absolutely beautiful designer silk ties. Chris may be able to use one or two, but what should I do with the others? When I mentioned this to the counselor I was seeing, she asked me why I felt I needed to do anything right now. Just pack them away, she advised. You don’t need to deal with them now, she said.
She’s absolutely right. There is a lot more pressing and immediate business to address than disposing of Mark’s ties. Now is a time to triage, and to only take on what needs to be taken on. The rest can wait.