Waking up to raindrops tapping on the window panes, the sun nowhere in sight, I knew today was going to be a writing day. And for this I am glad, because I have been waiting for a good day to write about the melancholia that has been overshadowing my mood in the last week or so. It’s a day dedicated to the rainfall.
Normally, rain days evoke sadness and fatigue, and as a result, I spend my time miserably excusing myself from all tasks and responsibilities, (a silent yet complex justification process that occurs in my head, though to an outsider, appears as though I were sitting and staring at a wall). Today, however, I feel a sort of excitement to enclose myself in a gloomy room with the reverberating tapping rain rhythm. My lemon tea is comforting and I am glad to feel sad – or perhaps glad to feel sad with someone, even if that someone is the weather.
Sadness has been a common theme in the last year. Cancer had stolen away a very dear family member, the sort of loving familial figure rarely met with contempt, conflict or even indifference. Hers was a role of peace in the family; in some ways, she brought us all together.
Grieving has put a strain on our relationships. What no one expected was the sort of shapes and forms grief could manifest itself in. Sadness seems to be such a universal emotion, one doesn’t realize how it can express itself so differently from person to person. In a family as dynamic as ours, this has caused enough pain and misunderstanding to sever our bonds forever. Some of us have shut out all associated with the loss, others have fallen into manic depression, and then some have sought change that has turned them into sudden strangers. Some have been angry, others expect more than can be given, and in turn, some feel unappreciated.
“Sorrow makes us all children again – destroys all differences of intellect. The wisest know nothing.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
In many ways, some of us have been behaving, what appears to be, childishly. Society seems to expect families to “stick together” in such times, to support each other and mourn together. Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt makes the distinction “grief is the internal thoughts and feelings we experience when someone we love dies. Mourning, on the other hand, is taking the internal experience of grief and expressing it outside ourselves.” This has proved to be most difficult as there is no predictable and orderly progression to the experience of grief – it is a process unique to each individual. Each of us have struck our own personal chord of pain throughout this long, dark hour, and as a result, our mourning has created a great dissonance that resonates at each moment our family comes together.
Would it be too harsh to say that we lack respect or patience for each other’s experiences? Or perhaps the issue, really, is “sharing.” Grief has not been ‘shareable’ the way we had expected it would be, which has made mourning together nearly impossible. As unique individuals, we have taken our own unique paths to cope, and these paths often diverge. We often find each other misunderstood or disregarded. Our roles in our relationships have also erected barriers – the responsibility of providing strength and a shoulder for another only further inhibits ‘sharing,’ thus creating distance.
In the end, most of us have learned that grief can be a solitary affair, though not voluntarily so. It is not something that is overcome with time, for it changes us. A year has gone by since my aunt’s passing and most of our family can again share in laughter, in our traditions and celebrations – but we are different. Sometimes it is the undertone in one’s voice, sometimes it is the eluding eye contact, sometimes it is just silence or tension. These are the small yet hardly subtle moments of grief that we share. As for the personal grieving journey – that I have learned to share with the rain.