When my mother first got sick I tried to imagine what it would be like when she was gone. During her first hospital stay after that frantic trip to the emergency room back in the late 90s I remember lying awake at night and trying let myself feel what her death would be like for me. I buried my face into my pillow and felt hot waves of tears burning through me. The sadness was tangible and I somehow convinced myself that I felt it enough without the actual action of having lost her I would somehow be able to handle it. With that in my mind I repeated this countless times in the nearly two decades after. I was practicing at grieving. I won’t pretend I’m not a morbid person.
Then the day actually came. No, that’s not right. The day before actually came and I sat at her bedside in the room we converted out of the garage years before when my grandfather came to live with us. I sat there in the half-light of a closing day and tried to force my voice to have sound. There were things I needed to say to her, but the tears came. These were tears I thought I had worked out of my system and they made it hard to speak. I managed somehow. I told her that I was sorry I was difficult, that I hoped to be even a fraction of the woman she was, and that I loved her so much. The words came out, the tears stopped up, and I got myself together enough to drive the seven hours home. It didn’t occur to me just yet that I wasn’t together at all. That is a reality that wouldn’t hit me for a few more weeks.
Mom’s been gone for a month and a half, closer to two months now and I’m realizing that all the practice in the world does not prepare you. I don’t cry the way I did in my childhood bedroom. Instead? I can’t sleep. I’ve started literally emptying out the corners of my life and shaking it. There have been organization sprees in my house for the last couple of weeks and long sleepless nights. I find it difficult to focus. I have an urge to make dramatic and sweeping changes. Friday I cut off almost six inches of hair. I’m planning a tattoo. I’m questioning everything.
I am at turns okay, not okay, perfectly fine, and utterly wrecked. I don’t cry the way I once practiced. Instead I just feel empty and sad even as I feel free. Grief makes no sense. This is the only thing I know for sure. That, and the fact that I know I will be okay.