This afternoon a taxi driver beeped at me in the car park outside the supermarket. It was my ex's stepmother and I was so happy to see her that I jumped into the passenger seat and gave her a huge hug. Her partner, Stormboy's grandfather, died in November. Here is a link to that story. The air conditioning inside her car was an alien environment. It was so hot outside and quite chilly in the cab. I hadn't seen her since her partner's funeral. "I still go out there in the afternoons and have my glass of wine," she said. "Xxxx keeps telling me I should stop going out there. That it's just making me sadder. That I'm revisiting the past and to move on. I should stop going out there, she reckons."
She's in her seventies. She's driving cabs and looking after her kids and their kids. Her life (and our conversation) was consumed with the problems besetting her family and the whole time she was dealing with this quiet, unconsecrated grief. Stormboy's Dad said that when he rang her after finding his Dad's body at the farm, her first words were: "What am I going to do now?" He said that he found her reaction strange. I don't.
This is a morbid post (sorry) but I've been thinking a lot about grief over the last few weeks. The initial work of clearing someone's house for the/ tip shop/ op shop/ contacting people you don't know to have 'that' talk/ organising a funeral/ selling their car/ listening to every other friends' feelings about the whole thing ... these small acts of love can gobble up any emotional reactions you may have, while you just fucking get on with it. And then suddenly, when it is all over and you have done everything that is expected of you, the grief hits. And that kind of shit is just not fair.
So when my ex-step-mother-in-law was speaking about her family's censuring of her grief process, I was thinking about fair play, about justice and judgement, and I errupted, "Just do what feels right. It's no one else's fucking business how long it takes or how you do this thing at all. Fuck them! They can all fuck off, the fuckers."
There is hope for all us griefy people. My ex-step-mother-in-law hates my sweariness at the best of times because she's old school but today, sitting in her taxi, she just nodded and smiled at me.
And then there are the poems like this one:
Those who will not slip beneath
The still surface on the well of grief
Turning downward through its black water
To the place we cannot breathe
Will never know the source from which we drink,
The secret water, cold and clear,
Nor find in the darkness glimmering
The small round coins
Thrown by those who wished for something else.
David Whyte, 'The Well of Grief'