There is a scene in “Ordinary People” where Conrad is talking to Dr. Berger after Karen has killed herself. Dr. Berger is trying to console Conrad, but it’s not working. Finally, Conrad explodes in frustration.
“I feel bad about this! I feel really, really bad about this. Just let me feel bad about this.”
This morning I couldn’t settle on a blog topic, so I went outside to help David deal with the two dead trees he felled earlier in the week. He’s become a real Paul Bunyan, except with a chain saw instead of an axe.
Stacking logs and piling up limbs takes physical effort, but it leaves the mind free to wander. I had gone through my prayer list a little earlier and started thinking of all the sad things that have happened in the three weeks since Mom died. Three friends lost their moms, my aunt lost her best friend, and another friend lost her son. At least three friends have parents who are in their final stages, and three more are battling a recurrence of cancer. I could go on, but you get the idea without my dragging you down into a deep depression. The point of my mental wanderings was not the tragedies themselves, but how can I best help and support my friends when they are going through trying times?
When I was growing up, my family didn’t deal well with emotions, in fact, we didn’t deal with them at all. We denied, avoided, and otherwise swept them under the proverbial rug. As a result, I feared emotions and made it my mission in life to be sure everyone I knew was in a constant state of euphoria. I was a champion Pollyanna, the queen of Don’t feel bad. Just smile and it will be all better. After lots of counseling experience, both as a counselor and a counselee, I’ve learned that doesn’t work. The bad feelings are there because it’s a bad situation, and feeling bad is part of the healing process. This morning as I worked, I continued to think about the subject, but I wasn’t sure how to develop it into a post.
After a couple of hours of dealing with dead wood, we cleaned up and went to the Senior Center for lunch. One of the regulars has a beautiful voice and loves to sing, and sometimes she brings her boom box and serenades us. Today was one of those days, and she sang a number of old-time gospel songs, all of which seemed to be about Mama and Heaven. It wasn’t long before the tears were flowing. Some were tears of sadness and loneliness, and some were tears of joy that Mom is “all better” now, but all were tears of healing. Nobody took much notice. My friend across the table shed some tears of her own, partly sharing in my grief but partly remembering her own mother and the child she lost way too soon. David brought me a dry napkin when mine became a soggy mess, and he draped his arm gently around my shoulder. But nobody told me not to cry.
When it was time to leave, I went over and hugged the singer. She had seen my tears and held me in a comforting embrace.
“You know, we buried my Mom three weeks ago,” I said.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”
And then she listened as I told her a few stories about Mom, and she shared a couple of stories of her own. As we bonded in the sisterhood of grief, I felt validated and affirmed.
Now that I’m home, my eyes feel scratchy and puffy, and I feel drained. At the same time I feel strengthened. I know I will cry more tears and feel more grief, but in time the wound of Mom’s loss will become a scar where the wound has healed. For now, I’ll continue to cry and tell my stories. And I will bring you dry napkins, listen to your stories, and offer a shoulder to cry on when your sorrows come.