Other people’s grief has always made me deeply uncomfortable. Averting my eyes, and scurrying out of the area as quickly as possible.
Grief was this grey-jacket loomer, an insurance salesman with faded hat — pushing his pamphlets, with a concrete-block hand flopped on his customer’s shoulder.
Seeing their eyes, their tears, the megaton-emotion radiating — I accelerate and ghost out of the room. Relieved and glad as the sun and wind found me on the outside, and away.
But then, one day for all of us — the knock at the door.
Grief slides in through the keyhole, looking for a place to hang its hat and dripping rain on the linoleum. It smiles a greasy smile and guides you to a chair, water and paper spattering on the kitchen table.
Now it’s your grief.
Now it’s my grief.
He visits each of us in turn. Sometimes rarely, sometime with pop tart regularity — sometimes he moves right in, propping his big rubber shoes on the ottoman, ruining the fabric with rain, and stays and stays. A few find a way to love their Grief, holding him close in the fish-clammy darkness of their beds.
Grief is a devoted husband.
Grief will break you, if you let him. Gum you slowly into oblivion, catfish jaws working and dripping dripping dripping.
My Grief is mine. If I try to explain what brought him to my door, you will nod and seem to understand — but you won’t. Just like I won’t understand if you tell me about your grey-fish insurance man. We all lose souls, and only the client knows what brings the pamphlet-pusher.
All I want to say, as I get heavier with rain and concrete — is that I’m sorry.
I’m sorry I ran out of the room when your Grief came to call.
And some advice, that a very wise friend once gave me. The Three Rules of Grief.
Every day you must:
1. Take a shower.
3. Go to work.
That’s it. That’s all you should ask of yourself. If you do those three things you can feel as bad as you want, for as long as you want. If you don’t do those three things, you will follow them down into the grave.
If you need to break the rules, you will. That’s okay – it’s the Fourth Rule.
Handle it as you can, when you can – and recognize that you’ll sometimes snicker, or sing a song, or smile in the sun – and your Grief will sigh, and look very importantly at you over his glasses. And you’ll feel like you should cry a little harder to make up for forgetting that he was in the room.