I keep trying to write a post for you today.
And it keeps not working.
The dog is crying. I’m not sure why.
He’s been crying since early this morning, pacing and crying and whining. We’ve been for a walk. I took him to the river and let him wander through the woods. I thought it would make him sleep, make him settle down and give me a few hours of quiet to write.
It hasn’t. We went for another walk. I’ve put him outside. I gave him his dinner early. I gave him a special cheese bone. Nothing makes him happy.
Outside, inside, doesn’t matter.
He’s just relentless and inconsolable today, and it’s making me angry.
I’m angry because I have work to do, and I am just as angry because there is no longer anyone else here who can comfort the dog, who can take a care-taking shift. It’s another day, another long series of moments where I need Matt to be here.
I need him, not just in the vague, spirit-filled sense that he is always around me, but in the literal, visceral sense of being able to help.
This is a reality of grief that those outside it don’t – and can’t – understand. That every fiber of your life changes. Mundane, ordinary nuisances are magnified by the gaping absence in your life.
There is no part of your life that is not affected.
Some things are relatively small, like a normally fantastic dog who’s having a whiny, clingy day. Other things are so large, you can’t even find the words to name them. The magnitude and scope of loss cannot be explained to someone far outside it.
It’s the extra added weight that now comes attached to everything.
There’s a scene from the movie Powder that I quoted often in my early grief. If you don’t know the movie, here’s a synopsis: the lead character’s mother (played by Cher) was hit by lightning when she was pregnant, and Powder was born albino. People tease and torture him, especially the football coach and the rugged, macho football players. Powder spends a lot of time in the woods, because the animals understand him far better than the humans.
The whole movie is great, but it’s this one scene that relates so powerfully to grief. Powder is out in the woods one day, and hears gunshots, and boys shouting. He gets to the clearing, and sees they have shot a deer – not killed, but purposely wounded. It’s suffering, and they’re poking at it and laughing – all goaded on by the coach.
Powder walks over, puts one hand gently on the deer, and one hand forcefully on the coach.
And then: Powder makes a circuit between the two. He makes the coach feel what the deer feels. It’s visceral and terrible and beautiful and perfect, and he changes the coach forever – you can see it on his face, as he realizes who he is and what’s he’s done.
So many times in early grief, we just want others to know the reality of our lives. To reach out and touch them, just for 5 seconds, and say: FEEL THIS.
And then let go.
It wouldn’t change anything. Only living through each day as it comes will lighten the way grief lives in you.
But to convey, just for one moment, just for five short seconds, the weight of reality with someone else, without words – it would be a relief, wouldn’t it.
A relief that gives you one moment of respite, that lets you regain your breath, that lets you turn again to face your life with that one key, connecting element missing.
It’s funny, as I’ve written this, the dog has finally settled down. He chose outside, and is now curled up asleep under a tree.
Connecting with each other, connecting with those who have walked this road of grief that you find yourself on now, it’s a way of having your own Powder-like skills. It’s a way to tell us, to share with us how this life feels now.
And sometimes, just the connection allows a little bit of grace. A little bit of relief. Something softens.
Something curls up and finally finds a place to rest.
How about you? Have you had your own moments of just wanting to share that visceral experience of grief with those around you? Are there any ways you’ve found to give yourself that place of rest after a long, inconsolable day?
Share your thoughts in the comments.