Beautiful days hurt. The sky is so clear; the weather is warm but carries the vestiges of fall. So beautiful it’s almost perfect. The kind of day that makes you feel like you should be outside enjoying these last warm days, feeling the sun on your face. I try to get out everyday but I don’t always succeed. Sometimes, I don’t make it farther than my front porch but I know the sun on my face is a healing power. The warmth and light that will help keep depression at bay.
Everyday is not a bad day. There are days when I can leave the house feeling okay. I’ve put on clothes that make me feel good about myself, a little make-up and have a hopeful energy that propels me out the door. On other days no matter how I feel I have to leave the house because of meetings with the kids’ teachers, going to the grocery store, doctor appointments, etc. Even on some of these days I’ll look put together. Nothing about my appearance suggests that inside there is sorrow bubbling under the surface. I met a friend for lunch on one of my put together days. She commented on my outfit and how nice I looked. My response to her was “smoke and mirrors”. I told her that I learned after battling for years with lupus that if you look okay people assume you are okay. Smoke and mirrors are my protective armor against the pitying looks accompanied by the singsong “How are you” you get in a small community when everyone knows your world has crumbled but some don’t want to get too close to the pain for fear it might be catching. Smoke and mirrors however only help for a little while. There comes a point when the sadness in my eyes and the way my mouth unbeknownst to me is downturned into a pout/grimace override any appearance tricks. I have the look of frailty and vulnerability.
I told a dear friend Tom , who has suffered tremendous loss -yet lives a life of hope that includes joy- about my dilemma. I told him I wish our society still allowed public mourning and was more comfortable with death. Joan Didion in her book,”The Year Of Magical Thinking“ quotes Geoffrey Gorer who in his 1965 book Death, Grief and Mourning describes our society’s rejection of public mourning and “gives social admiration to the bereaved who hide their grief so fully that no one would guess anything had happened.” This is the world we live in, wearing mourning clothes are no longer in vogue and yet there needs to be some way the world can know when they are dealing with a person fragile from the forces of losing a loved one. There are t-shirts and wristbands for everything else; mourning should get its own special dispensation. I need a way for the world to know on my truly frail days to please be gentle with me I’m grieving and my heart is so heavy. For me gentle means not staring if you know me and aren’t going to say hello, it means patiently allowing me the extra time it sometimes takes to find my wallet or give the correct amount of money because my hands are shaking, not taking offense if I don’t say hello, especially if I have a far off distant look. I’m learning that there is no timeline on grief and that what I ask of the world I have to respectfully ask of myself. Be gentle, don’t rush, someone precious has been lost. Jackie, be good to yourself.