on grief, joe biden and pop-tarts
Today marks two whole years that I’ve lived without my darling, and the truest description of grief—mine, at least—remains a speech from none other than Joe Biden. It’s easy to forget that the jolly, bawdy ol’ meme machine survived the unfathomable loss of his wife and infant daughter when he was just 30 years old. (Though his crazy passionate second marriage gives me life. OMG.)
But I digress. Here’s what Uncle Joe said, four decades after losing his partner, and a mere three weeks before I lost mine:
Just when you think, maybe I’m going to make it, you’re riding down the road and you see a flower and it reminds you. Or you hear a tune on the radio. Or you just look up in the night. And you know, you think, maybe I’m not going to make it. Because you feel, at that moment, like the day you got the news. …. You’ll find that your down days are just as bad as that first day. But here’s what happens: they get further and further apart. That’s when you know you’re going to make it.
Grief is not linear. That idea has brought me comfort as I’ve navigated its ups and downs. It released me when I felt “too OK” too soon after my husband’s death. It soothed me when I woke up one random Wednesday—not a birthday or a day of any significance—and knew I’d fight off tears all day, even if it would ruin my meticulously applied eye makeup. It grounded me this morning, when I seriously contemplated just hiding under my desk for a little while. Because I knew it was just going to be one of those days, and it would get better. And maybe worse. Or the same. But then better. And so it goes.
I’m not really sure why I’m writing this, except maybe the magazine editor in me feels compelled to offer some kind of service-y tip. Because as much as I wish it weren’t so, everyone reading this will lose someone in his or her lifetime. So here it is, the most important lesson mourning has taught me: Ask for help. Be specific.
I’ve learned that, though they are incredible, no one in my support network will magically intuit that I’ve just crawled into my bed at 5:30 p.m. with my dog and a pop-tart because that’s all I can manage. Even if I cryptically Tweet about it. But there’s a 100% chance if I text someone just two words, “I’m sad”
—even 700some days after the fact—
they’ll say, “Come over” or “I’m coming over” or “I’m putting the baby to bed and I’ll call you in 20. Put on a funny TV show until then. Hang on.”
And I will.