His eyes. They hang in those moments between words, lost. Nowhere do they find rest or comfort, or even familiarity. He shifts constantly for new position in his seat never settled for more than a handful of minutes. He’s not nervous. He’s hiding, moving back and forth to break the emotion looking to free itself from his holding. He shifts again as not to cry as stories of survivors and victims, the only thing familiar, are brought forth in memoriam and confession; recountings of their loved ones dead.
The wedding band still wraps around his finger. “She’s only been gone since June,” he struggles the words out. And then he fades back into the chair and the stories shared from the others sitting in the circle.
It’s been awhile since I’ve listened to someone new in our grief support group speak of their loss so recent and fresh. Usually, their words are few and plain, partly guarded and mostly numb still. Two emotions gripped me in the six grueling words he shared: familiar and sadness.
I know the road he has suddenly found himself on. I remember, all too well, the disoriented feeling to every day, how my feet ambiguously shuffled forward because the day behind ripped through me, how my thoughts sank even in smiles and words rattled safety because I didn’t really want to be found. No day stretches too far to forget and no night rests soundly in dreams giving harbor to relentless grief.
It’s a sacred haunt, one lurking in memories and love and life belonging to a day that has come and gone without approval and despite a fight.
He’s in a bad spot. But at least he’s here.
What I want to tell him as my chance to speak in the circle draws near is that he’s okay, more than he can know right now. He’s not forgotten. He’s not alone. And most of what he thinks right now is untrustworthy; he will make it.
He’s gazing at the floor most of the time, but I notice his eyes break and look up briefly as the each person shares of their loss. At least he’s listening.
Rather than tell him what and where he’ll be one day soon as he continues his grief journey, I tell the group humorous stories of my struggles (and surprising progression) learning to do my daughters’ hair, painting fingernails and shopping for clothes. I then reminded them that this month marks two years since my wife’s death.
He’ll get there, here and further, if he only continues through pain and loneliness and the deepest of sadness.
On the drive home from our grief support group, I talked to the girls about what they learned and discussed in their groups. They talked about memories. So many of their memories of Marianne are amazing ones. Dancing in the living room until they were too tired to have fun, summer days lazy at the pool, cooking cookies at night, friends sleeping over waiting giddy for Marianne to inspire another hair brained scheme of adventure, bedtime jokes and prayers... Some are haunting and even undefined. They speak of those more and more infrequently at night, but I know those haunting thoughts exist. They must in order for their hearts to heal. It’s a sacred haunt that I can help them and support them in, but they, too, must continue through into a day new.
Do we ever stop grieving?
To a large degree, I don’t think we do.
Grieving is growth through the greatest pain and rising from the deepest loss.
I really hope and pray I see him again next time.