The only formal writing class (if one could even call it that) that I have ever taken was by listening to a book on tape in my car, sometime in the early nineties. I don’t even remember the author of the tape series, but I’ve always remembered one statement, “If you want to write, and write well, you need to do only one thing, even with fiction, even with a horror novel. ‘Tell the truth.’” She went on to give an example: “Was it a ‘blood-curdling’ scream your character heard? Do you think your readers would even know what that means? Do you? Probably not. So close your eyes and think about it, ‘How do YOU feel when you are that scared?’”
I’m closing my eyes now to ask, “How do I feel when I AM IN that much GRIEF?”
Where is my . . . ? If I hear my own voice speak the words, “Where is my ‘fill-in-the-blank’” one more time, I’m gonna lose it. Seriously. Lose. IT. Even that which is attached to my own shoulders.
It forces the “HOW-TOs” and “WHERE AREs” of easier tasks from my mind.
“Why haven’t you written that story, or made your travel arrangements for, or washed your clothes, or washed your hair for that matter. Why haven’t you ‘fill-in-the-blank’ yet?”
It makes me procrastinate. It consumes the breath for my words.
Some days I manage to actually avoid the act of grieving. Lately, I’ve been mostly able to avoid it all together because I’ve been working on so much to get the Foundation going – so much paperwork and forming a diverse board of directors, etc. It takes a lot of work. I haven’t been immersed in that act of grieving, consciously or unconsciously, but I am so deeply familiar with it. Although not physically and mortally wounded by mesh, I have wondered often why the body has no mechanism for death by grief, death by emotions that incapacitate a once-vibrant spirit, a once-sharp mind, now dulled so much with an interior, invisible pain. Dull tools aren’t useful. They eventually rust and turn to dust. Anyone who’s ever lived in a coastal environment knows what I mean. EVERYTHING, even stainless steel, plastic, titanium – it all rusts and disappears in a year or two if some human force isn’t there to dwell among the inanimate.
People tell me, “Aaron, slow down; you can’t keep up this pace.” My own body reminds me of it daily, but I JUST. CAN’T. STOP. I push through, and I don’t know why, except that I can’t stop. The gravity of the grief for those whom I love and the weight of the loss around me is some kind of fuel pushing me beyond what I thought possible – pushing me somewhere better than HERE, but where? Closer to the truth? Closer to God? Closer to the reality of this life? Over the edge, perhaps?
It makes me ponder and “think too hard” about things. I’ve been accused of thinking too hard about things more times than I can count.
The literal definition is:
1.keen mental suffering or distress over affliction or loss; sharp sorrow, painful regret. 2.a cause or occasion of keen distress or sorrow.
That definition seems a bit inadequate now. Maybe it’s time for a new definition. New words are added to the English dictionary yearly. The English language dictionary has about twice the number of words as the Spanish dictionary, even though Spanish is a language of antiquity compared to the nouveau riche status of American-English. Mainly the additions are due to American invention – words that never existed until the “Internet” came alive, or because Hollywood manufactured 1,000s of “moviestars.”
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, the American psychiatrist, first introduced the concept of the Five Stages of Grief in her 1969 book titled, On Death and Dying. The now-famous sequence of feelings, while grieving, are widely accepted as truth: DENIAL, ANGER, BARGAINING, DEPRESSION, ACCEPTANCE. I think maybe it’s time for an update on the model. Kübler-Ross did not assert that every person goes through every one of the above feelings or that any one person would experience them in the same order, commonly referred to as the acronym (DABDA) but that, in whatever order, we all experience GRIEF in response to one or more of the following profound losses:
Kübler-Ross originally developed this model based on her observations of people suffering from terminal illness. She later expanded her theory to apply to any form of catastrophic personal loss, such as the death of a loved one, the loss of a job or income, major rejection, the end of a relationship or divorce, drug addiction, incarceration, the onset of a disease or chronic illness, an infertility diagnosis, as well as many tragedies and disasters (and even minor losses).
But what about experiencing all of the above and all of the above? AT. THE. SAME. TIME. Is there a word for THAT?
I think it’s time for some new research. People did not live so long in 1969. Loss of job, divorce, drug addiction, incarceration, onset of chronic illness, infertility diagnoses were not so common, and our knowledge of (thanks to worldwide news) tragedies and disasters, wasn’t so intense.
What’s my point?
GRIEF ISN’T THE SAME ANIMAL ANYMORE. IT HAS MUTATED, MORPHED. IT HAS EVOLVED into something more potent.
It’s difficult for me to bring to mind someone, anyone who isn’t experiencing all these emotions AND all these situations AT THE SAME TIME. So most of us are in denial, yet angry over the acceptance that our bargaining with God did not work, and we are now all just perpetually depressed.
Someone should really get on inventing a new word for GRIEF in the 21st century – and stat!
And while we’re on this topic of updating things . . . .
- I’d like to bring up that it’s really time for someone to invent better ski boots. Those things are archaic and they hurt like hell. Will someone please bloody do something about this world catastrophe of shin-shredding ski boots! It’s more than I can take!!!!!
Now back to GRIEF.
It makes me think about the things I don’t want to think about and not about the things I do want to think about…
I can’t eat, and when I do, I don’t really like the taste of the food.
It has stolen my family and many of my friends. I guess it is contagious. That needs to be added to its definition.
It’s so messy. It’s not nice and tidy in five easy steps. It’s all over the kitchen and the bedroom and the living room and the extra bedroom and the dogs and the husband – and me.
Why wasn’t there a “Griefy Smurf?” Just giving such obviously brilliant people useful ideas for dealing with their own grief in, perhaps, a more therapeutic way.
It’s not lethal, and yet, I don’t know how or why it’s not.
It’s how I tell my truth to you now – as a writer, as a person. And it misses deadlines, and says the wrong things and does the wrong things and has a blank stare about it, and it has no answers.
I still miss my mother, and I still miss Robin Williams.