Sunday, January 26, 2014
Our Grieving Selves
At a support group I visited, a recently bereaved suicide survivor was distraught seeing how people were still upset and grieving years after the loss. “Does it ever stop?” she wondered. “We’re not always like this,” a more experienced group member explained. “This is where we bring our grieving selves because we know we’ll be heard and understood.”
Our grieving selves—a whole new self for many survivors, who must shed one skin and grow into another. It may feel too tight, rough and unfamiliar. We are no longer who we were. We don’t know how to present ourselves to others with this stricken face, heavy gait or unpredictable weepiness. How to walk the mourner’s path out in the world when everyone else still plies their regular route? We may need to hole up for a while as we get our bearings, feel our way. Eventually, we learn where we can bring our grieving selves and when it’s best to leave them at home.
Eventually, we find that we are more than our grieving selves. We do not always need to give voice to our grief, at least once past the most intense early period. My husband’s co-worker came to the door the other day, face serious, arms out to give a silent hug to a mourning mother. I happened to be laughing about something as I came to the door before I saw his face; I gave him a brief hug like I would have if I had seen him at the office holiday party. The moment was jarring for both of us. It reminded me of how grateful I am when people acknowledge my loss in the depth of their eyes and the strength of their hug or handshake, if not in words. But at that particular ordinary moment, I wasn’t thinking of Noah or needing support. Ten months after his suicide, I am not always grieving, and that both surprises and confuses me.