Friday, December 18, 2009

Behind the Veil

Behind the Veil,
originally uploaded by Next Chapter Photography.

Today has been a day for me to bear witness to the collective pain and sorrow being experienced around this world by those who grieve. There was once a time when all of us were separated by mountains and oceans. When we grieved privately in our homes, and we came to know isolation better than our closest neighbors.

These days we are all connected in ways our ancestors couldn't even imagine. We can have immediate connections with someone across the world. We can write about our pain and sorrow, and send it floating into cyber-space like a note in a bottle. Eventually, and sooner than we thought, our words will find a home on the screen of a willing companion. If we are patient, empathy will begin traveling our way.

So why is it so hard for people in close proximity to sit with our pain? Why is it that those near us want us to be better sooner? Why is it that we feel the need to wear a smile in order to attract a willing visitor?

I ask these questions not just for myself, but for people who I know are really hurting today. The winter holidays are here, and it is an unbearable reminder that, for some of us, it is not a time of comfort and joy. I make no attempt to hide the truth here, people I have come to care about are feeling very isolated, alone.

For those that have an extra burden beyond the emotional darkness I have come to know, I offer myself up as proof that we need some gentle kindness. I am willing to stand before you and lift the veil that shields the face of one who mourns.

originally uploaded by schramcrackers.

I may have the look of someone who is functioning well, but it is all a charade. I get up each morning and polish myself to a shine. What you don't see is that I have the benefit of having two wardrobes to choose from. I haven't done my laundry in weeks, so I have been digging into Michael's things rather than muster the energy needed to do my own. On the chair beside my bed is a pile of clean clothing, and soiled clothing, it's all the same to me. My house is clean, but not because I have kept it that way. I am fortunate enough to have a house keeper who comes in every couple of weeks. In between her visits, nothing is getting done. I haven't cooked a meal in a few weeks either. It's been take out, drive through, or microwave. My garden has gone uncared for, and is mostly dying off. The fountain that I once cherished is completely dry, and the motor still running, I suppose. I haven't bothered to check. I have many neat piles of mail gathering around the house. I gather the mail each day, but never open any of it. This is a new development. I'm not quite sure why I don't, I just don't. My bills haven't been paid this month, not for the lack of funds, solely for lack of motivation.

Now to the casual observer, this may just seem like ordinary living. But to those that know me well, those who know the person that was previously known as Dan, I no longer seize to exist. I am one of the most type A, compulsively neat and orderly people you will find. I pride myself on always having it together. For the past three months, I could really care less. What is the point of it all? It's all meaningless to me.

My lover is gone. I am left with an enormous hole in my heart. Everything around me feels like it is falling apart. The lives of my children have become reflective of their suffering as well. We are all trying to stay afloat, but sinking more than swimming. I have lost my perspective. I am tired of caring, tired of trying, just plain tired. Where is our comfort? Where is our joy? I no longer feel equipped to fully keep my family properly nourished in body or soul.

So here I am for your observation. This is someone in grief. This is someone who has lost their source of joy. This is someone who is unfortunately not unique. If you know someone who is grieving, reach out to them. If they are not very festive, cut them some slack. And know this, they appreciate the simplest of gestures.

Give them comfort until they are once again able to know joy.


  1. very eloquent and very honest. thank you for sharing this. all of it is true. when i am so sad that it is either a choice of going to bed or writing here, i first try to write here convincing myself i have reached out. as you know, i am one of those who has no one to call on except two worried adult children who really want to see me back to my old self yet understanding that i am going to be different. losing your soulmate changes you in every way one can be changed.

    i hope others read your words here and remember those of us who grieve, who not only may not be able to join in the festiveness of this holiday season, but may not, because of our grief, be included in the holiday. choosing to be alone on Christmas and being forced to be alone are two entirely different things.

    thank you again for writing so beautifully about this sensitive subject.

  2. yes, very honest and a post that I very much identify with. I just can't be bothered. I write to do lists and it takes me weeks to get them done.

    I also think that we are blessed to have found each other, all of us through blogging, and also for those one or two people who in our lives have the patience for us grieving, for, as you allude to, the most simply wish for us to get over it, because they find it awkward, or worse, they don't have the patience for it!

  3. I still have not come up with an adequate reason as to why so few people are able to relate and be there for us in our grief. The only plausible explanation I have is that there are fewer of us and unless someone else has been there, they truly do not recognize the depths of our losses.

    I too have been on a soap box - to encourage people to reach out to those they know are grieving beyond the first couple months after the loss. You say it so well here in this post.

    Your words have made me smile to myself today in recalling how the three bottom floor bedrooms in my home became "junk" rooms after my husband died. I just started throwing and tossing whatever it was I couldn't deal with or didn't have time for into one of these rooms. In the end, two of them became so packed I had difficulty opening the doors. But by all appearances I was a decent enough functioning widow, getting the kids dinner and to all their games. Too bad no one took the time to look behind the veil to see what was really happening inside me, demonstrated pretty well by those cluttered junk rooms!

    It wasn't until I started blogging a year ago, that I really felt understood and able to form firm connections with others who knew where I was coming from and were not judging me. The first time I read a post and said, "They know exactly how I feel" was very validating for me. Likewise, for the first time someone posted a comment to my blog saying, "You explained what I have tried so hard to put into words."

  4. I thank each of you for having the strength of character to blog about your experience. I feel such an afinity with each of you because you are willing to engage in the discussions that we do.

    I can't help but marvel in the companionship that a shared identity can bring.