Grief? Are you there?
Because I’m right here. Like always.
You, on the other hand, have been quiet. Distant it seems. After your raucous months 4 and 5 where you thrashed me again and again against the stormy cliffs and the rocks of despair and despondency, it’s like you have fallen away or something. I can’t find you like I used to, affixed to the lenses of my eyeballs and painted on the insides of my eyelids so that when I am awake and when I sleep, you are there and everywhere. I can’t find you in the mirror when I check my hair, and you aren’t stretched out across the landscape of the sky as you had been. Are you still in every star and every blade of grass? I’m not sure anymore because something is different.
Are you there?
Sometimes in the past months I have even wondered if you left, because my heart came back to its resting place, as opposed to flying all about my body as it had been for those first several months. I could feel my feet on the ground again, as opposed to feeling sometimes like my body was independently resisting the pull of gravity; at times, I felt plum upside down.
Are you there?
These past two months, visits to shul (synagogue) to recite Kaddish (the traditional prayer said by those who grieve) have had a new kind of ache. “Yisgadal v’yiskadash shemei rabba” (how great and sanctified is God’s name) is no longer a plea, it is a prison sentence. Praising and praising and remembering and the burden is so heavy to honor my father, but I do it like I’m walking through silly putty – one foot after another, tired, slogging through, shackled to a memory of Grief and of a man who was my father.
It’s been different. So maybe you left me?
Social events have held a new anxiety; I have replayed everything – even the way I had held my fork – for days after an event. But at least I was trying to go out, right? So that was different. Maybe you were gone.
I took up exercising pretty much daily these past few months which helped my energy and my sadness, but my body betrayed me again; my immune system protested and grounded me. But it’s different, right? So are you gone?
Although I am not listening to music in this year of mourning, I still hear it in malls, in restaurants, in other people’s cars and homes; and the pit in my stomach grows with each bar of music, swelling into a ball of hurt that cowers in my belly and sticks to my ribs. But I am not instantly brought to my knees when I hear music, so that’s different. So maybe you’re gone.
Oh. Oh, darn it. I get it. You’re not gone, are you? You’re still there. You’re just different.
Damn you, Grief.
When I hear people say, “My mom died 5 years ago and it never gets better,” or “My dad died 15 years ago and I miss him every day,” or “My brother died 30 years ago and I feel it like it was yesterday,” I understand it now. I get it. It’s always here. It’s my new identity. You have allowed that understanding. You are here, but you are changing.
You are my new address, aren’t you, Grief?
“Come to me and you will find me, care of Grief.” That’s what I should tell everyone I meet from here on out: new friends, new co-workers, a new assistant, a new cat… the ENT I visited for the first time last week heard about you, because Grief is where I live now permanently. I had to tell the dentist about you. You are inside of me now; we live together. You’ve taken our relationship to a new level without my permission.
I know where I live now. With Grief.
And I suppose, Grief, you have an infinite expansiveness. You reside wherever you find us and you are the guest who won’t leave.
Of course you are still there, Grief. How foolish I have been to imagine otherwise.
And I’m right here with you.
(This is part of an ongoing series by Mayim Bialik chronicling her journey through the year of mourning following her father’s death in April 2015. For previous pieces in this series, click here.)