A Dark Day
Grief is a funny thing, it takes many forms and everyone does it a little different from everyone else. I used to be obsessed with a TV show Gilmore Girls, in that series one episode was centered around the female lead trying to make plans with her current beau, Luke on a certain day. When discussing her plans with the town they all separately comment oh that is “Luke’s dark day.” A bit confused the female lead goes about her plans only find out her beau had left town without a word or a trace. Long story short Luke comes back to town early to do whatever the female lead had planned, but also explained to her that his dark day is the anniversary of the day his dad died and he just likes to be alone on that day.
I never really got that until recently, when I took my own “dark day”. When someone dies there is a lot of stuff that has to be dealt with that has more to do with paperwork than feelings. As time goes on you deal with those feelings in your own way. I read an article once on how you should not force children to hug people if they are not comfortable and that even includes close family. The logic behind the article I was reading that forcing children to show affection when they were uncomfortable it makes more susceptible to child abuse as they think it is normal to feel uncomfortable with physical affection. I have no idea on the science behind any of this and I read that article so long ago I can’t even point you to the research used for said article. The point of this story is that it always stuck with me and I have always given children their space, ones I have just met, and those that know me very well. I never force them to hug me or when they grab their parents leg when I say ‘Hi” I let it go and do not take any of it personality. Even when parents say “give Aunt Jen a hug” I tell the child they don’t have too until they are ready and move forward with the conversation. In the end I usually end up a big hug at some point during the day and I get the warm fuzzies a hug from a child gives you, but I also know they gave me that hug on their own and because they felt a hug was needed right then.
I bring all this up because I feel like grief is a bit like that study of forcing children to show affection. Grief is not something that is taught to you, and it definitely isn’t something you should try to do “right”. Some people grieve on the outside and fast, some on the inside and slow, and some (I would say most) are somewhere in between. The harder thing about grief is that it has a tendency to sneak up on you even when you thought you had made it through the process.
Last year at work quite a few of us loss a parent and in one case two parents within days of each other, it was this co-worker that gave me the idea to take the day off. She took off a day or two around the dates of her losses. Her reason “I just don’t think I will be of any use.” The lightbulb went off and I immediately took my day off. I am so glad I did. I turned off notifications on my phone, I did talk to the Old Man because he is in India and early AM is really the only time we can talk. I also talk to my BFF because she let me know she was in England and she will call me next weekend to give me the full scoop on this unplanned trip across the pond (I am a sucker for some gossip). Other than that I didn’t talk to anyone, but the people I encounter during my day.
First stop my happy place the aquarium, I gazed at the penguins for a while, stared into the big fish tank watching the sharks, fish, and Myrtle the Turtle swim around for longer than probably seemed normal to the other aquarium goers. But that didn’t bother me, watching the quiet chaos made me happy and as always quite calming. The rest of the day I just wandered around and enjoyed the nice weather, good food, and a few adult beverages.
When I picked up the dogs from school, I was content with how I spent my day and was glad I didn’t try to force myself to be a productive member of society. I worried I may regret taking the day off, but the reality was grief was there, even if in the background, and it needed to be dealt with and work was not the way. I felt so much relief not talking to anyone or having anything expected of me that I may make this a thing in my life. Maybe Luke had the right idea and just taking a day to remember someone and deal with the feelings you usually push down to get through your every day is the best thing we can do for ourselves.
“Grief is just love with no place to go.” Jamie Anderson. Sometimes that love needs to take a day away from the living world and just float around and do things to heal the person carrying it around.