Am starting to feel a certain societal pressure that I should be going places as I normally do. I do not feel like leaving my apartment yet. The few times I have gone out, the contrast between my world and the one out there is just too great. I know the expectation others are having, because I think I felt in the past, that when I saw a widow or widower after a few months, they were surely on the mend.
It’s funny though, because when this first happened, I had this vague romantic notion that I was going to travel. I told friends who came or people at the funeral who invited me to come visit them. “Yeah, that sounds good. I think I’m going to do some traveling.”
Like that would be the part in the movie where the upbeat music kicks in- maybe KT Tunstalls’ “Suddenly I See,” and you’d see me packing and getting in a cab to the airport. The camera would pan out on my taxi heading to JFK. Enter new, bright chapter.
But now I don’t feel like traveling at all. At least not yet. I feel like grieving. I feel like wearing a black dress every day like my father’s Italian grandmother did. I feel like wearing his T-shirts and taking long showers. Oh yeah, but I have a little toddler to care for so even those things sound like vague romantic notions.
A friend of Dan’s, someone who knew the sudden loss of a sister, had written me in the first week and shared some of the things that comforted her- some of the ways she grieved. She cut a purple ribbon bracelet she had on and left some in the casket; she scooped up a little dirt from the burial site, she took photos of her sister’s home as she left it, recorded voice mails, and printed emails. She emphasized how little ritual there was left in this country for grief and that those things had worked for her- but I would have to claim my own.
Megan O’ Rourke puts it this way in The Long Goodbye:
Many Americans don’t mourn in public anymore—we don’t wear black, we don’t beat our chests and wail. We may—I have done it—weep and rail privately, in the middle of the night. But we don’t have the rituals of public mourning around which the individual experience of grief were once constellated.
Instead there is the expectation of an organized process of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance, and then a prompt return to daily life. Of being strong, and time healing all wounds.
Well, for now I am staying put- in the same apartment we lived in together, in my bed. I am writing.