One of the things I’ve been meaning to talk about for a long time is the absolutely disparity between how grieving people look and behave and how they feel. An insane ability to walk around and have perfectly legitimate, rational and pleasant conversations. To run errands and interact in public places. To even manage a bit of a smile with a cashier and respond in kind when they ask how you are. We’re so trained. We’re so numb. We’re walking around with raw gaping wounds in our souls and it seems impossible - outrageous - that it’s not obvious to everyone.
Even I am duped by this. We went to dinner 2 weeks ago with a dear couple who last year lost their only son to SIDS at 5 days 3 months of age. Obviously, they continue to be devastated and experience very difficult days, leaning on each other heavily as Brad and I do. I KNOW how they feel and yet I found myself rather in awe that the father had a smile on his face as he greeted us, that he and his wife flirted with each other a bit, that we talked without tears for over 2 hours, and that they described a recent particularly bad night matter-of-factly without drama. I thought, “Wow, how do they do that? How did HE do that? He looked so good.” Seriously it wasn’t until the next day that I realized it. My God, that’s how Brad and I often look. My parents. Grieving people look normal. Crap. If I’m fooled, what can I expect of the ‘outside world’ (the term our support group uses for non-grieving people)?
The last time Brad and I were in Arizona at my parents’ place my mother and I commented on this phenomenon. We know the inside of each one of us is in shreds and yet we play card games, golf, talk about friends and the job hunt and health issues and what to get at the store for dinner. It’s like a costume we put on before we leave our respective rooms in the morning. If it gets too hot to wear you must return to the bedroom (the bathroom works too) to find a way to let off steam and regroup. Same thing when we go out and interact in public. It’s like we have to set a time and create an appropriate setting to show our grief with each other.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like we don’t ever cry in public. Those of you who see us regularly know this quite well. Shoot, there might be alot of people reading this who are surprised to hear I ever look or act normal. Still. It happens much more often than it feels like it should. So incongruent to look and act normal and yet internally the only reason you’re even still breathing is for the benefit of your husband and family.
Maybe it’s obvious, but if I’m fooled for heaven’s sake, it seems worth mentioning. Looking good ain’t the same as being good.