Ok, I’ll admit it. I thought I was doing a pretty good job expressing what my grief feels like to me. I felt like I knew it intimately enough to write about it from the inside out. I felt like a competent tour guide on a very macabre ride… and maybe I have been. But this morning I read a post from Patton Oswalt that skewered me. He expressed his grief in such a way, I felt new pain. Or the old pain felt new. It wasn’t a bad thing, in fact I am grateful to get an outside perspective… even when the conclusion is the same. It’s like taking a different route to a familiar destination. And anything different at this point, is good.
What struck me about Oswalt’s posting was how beautifully he displayed his agony despite some somewhat crass visuals.
“Thanks, grief.” He starts.
“Thanks for making depression look like the buzzing little bully it always was. Depression is the tallest kid in the 4th grade, dinging rubber bands off the back of your head and feeling safe on the playground, knowing that no teacher is coming to help you.
But grief? Grief is Jason Statham holding that 4th grade bully’s head in a toilet and then fucking the teacher you’ve got a crush on in front of the class. Grief makes depression cower behind you and apologize for being such a dick.”
I love words. All words. Even the ugly, offensive ones… (actually, I tend to favor those). Seeing emotions with such a jarring example, it kinda reminded me that I am still alive. For a few minutes, in someone else’s grief, I was grateful to be feeling such exquisite pain.
I know I’m depressed. I know I am grieving. I forget sometimes that I am still alive. I get so beaten down by all the sorrow, even to have that heightened sense of … anything at all felt like a blessing.
And, maybe that’s only a part of it.
Patton Oswalt lost his world when he lost his wife.
I lost a big part of my life when I lost Natalie.
Sometimes when I get so caught up in my misery, it’s hard to remember I am not alone. I don’t have to struggle alone. People around me want to help and feel good about being able to help.
“But 102 days at the mercy of grief and loss feels like 102 years and you have shit to show for it. You will not be physically healthier. You will not feel “wiser.” You will not have “closure.” You will not have “perspective” or “resilience” or “a new sense of self.” You WILL have solid knowledge of fear, exhaustion and a new appreciation for the randomness and horror of the universe. And you’ll also realize that 102 days is nothing but a warm-up for things to come.
You will have been shown new levels of humanity and grace and intelligence by your family and friends. They will show up for you, physically and emotionally, in ways which make you take careful note, and say to yourself, “Make sure to try to do that for someone else someday.” Complete strangers will send you genuinely touching messages on Facebook and Twitter, or will somehow figure out your address to send you letters which you’ll keep and re-read ’cause you can’t believe how helpful they are. And, if you’re a parent? You’ll wish you were your kid’s age, because the way they embrace despair and joy are at a purer level that you’re going to have to reconnect with, to reach backwards through years of calcified cynicism and ironic detachment.”
This is one of the things I will re-read, ’cause I can’t believe how helpful it is. To remind me that I am not crazy, not alone.
Thank you so much, Patton Oswalt, for showing and sharing your grief. I am so very grateful.
To read Oswalt’s complete posting, click here: