It has now been over two weeks since my grandmother died, and it no longer feels Camus-like to say that. But I wouldn’t say that it feels normal either.
I know that we are all going to die some day, and that your grandparents are supposed to predecease you. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it. Many people ask me how I’m doing. These solicitations are kindly meant, a genuine show of concern by people who care, but I struggle with the answer. I’m doing the best I can, but sometimes that is better done without discussion. (Writing about how I feel, as you can see, is entirely a different matter.)
Lately, it’s been a bit of a balancing act between what everyone else needs of me and how I feel. So how do I feel? The word sad somehow doesn’t quite capture the most intense moments. To put it simply, I feel gutted. Absolutely gutted. My grandmother’s health had been failing, and the end was clearly coming, but I still felt like the rug had been pulled out from under me when I first heard the news.
For awhile, I ditched the mascara because I did not need a raccoon look to go along with my puffy eyes. But that has been the least of my crying worries. In one instance, I cried so hard that I could feel the vein in my forehead press against my skin with such force that I thought it was going to pop out. Forget catharsis. Who knew you could give yourself a throbbing headache from crying?
Now that feeling comes in waves, as opposed to an all encompassing force, and it’s gentler too. I experienced one of these waves while talking on the phone to a fellow writer mama. I had to pause the conversation, until the feeling passed. She compared it to a contraction, how you’re supposed to breathe with it until it’s finished. “An interesting idea,” I said. “But unlike labor, nothing good comes out of it at the end.”
The birth metaphor is not completely off. In some ways, grief reminds me of life with a newborn. You can forget about any level of high-functioning behavior. Simple goals are best. When the Vachette was first born, my daily goals were to bathe and brush my teeth. Some days, my goals don’t get much grander than that. Make dinner, finish the Kindergarten registration packet, and most important of all, try to be the best mother I can to the Vachette. It takes a lot of energy to focus on these things. No wonder I am exhausted.
Sleep has not been as much of an issue as you would think, which is nice, but gratitude is hard. Before bedtime, I like to take stock of my blessings, both big, like my daughter and the fact she’s healthy; and small, like a good workout at the gym or the fact my husband made breakfast. Think of it as a sort of secular prayer. The first night I attempted gratitude, it felt like a sick joke. Having a really good cup of coffee just didn’t feel like much of a blessing compared to the loss I felt.
That said, my grandmother had an uncanny ability to see the positive in life. So, to honor her spirit, I will end this on the one bright spot to this whole experience: discovering Jeni’s Brown Butter Almond Brittle Ice Cream. My grandmother would have found the price to be too expensive. But, if there was ever a moment to indulge in exorbitantly-priced ice cream, trust me, this is it.