First the searing, unstoppable grief.  It so happened that I ended up spending the day alone, away from all family, all children, unable to reach any of the latter, apart from the initial, “he just took his last breath”.  How could that be, that on the day when the world seemed to stop, I was alone, with no one to grieve with.  Then meeting two of the children up north, and no conversation, despite my attempts to talk about it.  Back home, all three of my children with me for a brief period before one left for college–and still, no conversation. 40 days have come and gone; the official mourning period is over, and sometime between the abating of the sudden tears and the start of school, came the shakes.  This strange and weird feeling of a loosened guitar string that vibrates a little out of control.

The shakes are there when I wake up.  As I fold the laundry, do the dishes, feed the dog and cats, make my breakfast, take a shower.  By the time I get to school, I wonder, how will I teach?  What will I say? Somehow I manage the small talk with colleagues in passing, attend forums and meetings and say things publicly, face a roomful of students and adult auditors and get through a lecture, get to the bank, return a video shown to class, stop at Trader Joe’s for milk, take the frisky dog for a walk, open the mail, put out the recyclables, putter about, attend to e-mail, prep for the day, week, month ahead.  Who is this person who does all these things while I quietly freak out?

In all of this, the loneliness of going through what feels like a massively sustained hurt is the most baffling.  Why won’t the kids talk to me?  One had the grace to say, “I’m sorry” when I told him. End conversation. It probably never even occurred to the other two that I, too, lost someone.

They just won’t talk.  They won’t receive comfort and they won’t give it.  All I can do is be patient. And hope that what my youngest said when I asked, why won’t you talk about it? “we’re each dealing with it in our own way” is exactly what they each need right now.

To keep from falling down the vortex of loneliness, grief, and despair, I walk.  I meditate.  I reflect on the bright spark of life that lasts about as long as a firefly’s transient brilliance.  I tidy, I clean, and do all the things that I must do in the ordinary course of a day.   Bits of remembered conversations float in and out of my consciousness:  let go, life goes on, now you’re free, free to make a life, live with an open heart, treasure the moments you had, not the ones that got away, bless him, let it rest, carry on.  How is it possible to feel so desperately lonely in a time of grief when the circle of love that is your family, that you gave birth to, is around you but not with you?  It seems that they, too, are just doing the best they can:  making art, teaching, studying, watching tv, hanging out with friends at every opportunity, hanging out anywhere but here.  It’s what they need to do to stay sane. And their sanity and ongoing joy in life is my first concern.

Deep in the stillness of night when all moorings have been cast off I recognize that this is the path to madness.  One needs moorings.  The waters are too deep here.  The lines are just not long enough.  I have to trust, trust that the ocean will carry me.  I have to open myself to the elements and trust, just as I had to trust when he left me (my story, not his) that I would somehow survive in a strange land in a new job raising the kids all by myself.  Embrace it, all of it, a trusted friend said.  Embrace the fear, the anger, the betrayal, the loss, the finality of death, the brevity of life, the choices ill made, the lack of courage, the loneliness.  By chance I happened upon this: and I understand now:  the loneliness belies “the tenderness of genuine sadness.”

Christmas Day 2010