Thursday, July 9, 2009

Today, Grief is a very sore hip

Grief is not a one size fit all emotion. It is a sea shift, a personal tsunami. For my mother, grief is a recurring staph infection three surgeries and six months of antibiotics haven't been able to remove. For another, it is a constant restlessness, an inability to give permission to settle into life without that person. For me, grief is in my left hip. Two days after taking the last of my dad's belongings down to the garage in black plastic bags, my lower back started to talk to me. Scream at me, to be more exact. Sitting, standing, walking, breathing hurt. Only after sleep, a wonderfully caring massage and many tears did the pain subside, but a few days later grief emerged again. This time deep in my left hip. A dull ache. A throb. Any touch on its surface and I cried. Deeply.

The pain brought me back to loss. Feeling lost as my body struggles to find it's center, it's foundation. As I lay on my stomach for another massage, my tears fell through the face pillow and all I could think was - I'm lost, I'm lost.

I've had this kind of pain before - 15 years ago when I was training to be teacher in the Alexander Technique. Years of physical and emotional holding were coming undone and it hurt like hell. A simple walk down the street became an act of courage. It took about six months for the pain to resolve itself, which it did and I was a different person, inside and out, after it was done.

As I drove the other day, I was moved by Lloyd Schwartz's piece on "Rivals in Renaissance Venice," the new exhibition at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts. He spoke of Titian being the first to use canvass instead of wood and stone, of the sensuality canvas not previously allowed by flatter, more non-absorbing materials.

Mr. Schwartz's words about the weave of fabric, the small square pores serving as an appropriate surface to absorb paint as flesh, as form, brought me some comfort. I thought about my grief as a kind of paint brush, rough bristled and dry, taking many coats to cover the canvas.

If I were to paint my grief right now, it would be a Seurat - little dabs of color all joining into some form, which I have to stand far from to understand it's form. But I'm so busy painting that I can't stand back. Dab here, fill in the weave there. Red, black, brown, green. I look forward to when I can stand back a little and see what I've created. But for now I keep dabbing.

Pain is a mixed blessing, but it is a blessing. It reduces me to tears, breaks down my normal barriers of fortitude and pushing through. And because I trust that it is temporary, I can stand it, let it in, breathe through it.

Grief is another thing entirely. Because I see no end in sight, only some days where the ache is duller than on other days, I've worked really hard to keep it out. I've committed to the rigors of Bikram Yoga, built up my business, gone back into therapy, but I haven't let grief take hold. Until now. The thing about grief is that it finds its own way in. First in my sacrum and now in my left hip.

As I wait for my mother to come out of the fourth surgery to get the staph infection out of her body forever, the pain in my hip has subsided. It's almost becoming a memory as I sit here and wait.

But despite the discomfort, the pain, the tears, the immobility of the past two weeks, so much of me wants to hold on to it, having finally let it in. I already feel my dad slipping into the realm of memory, his clothes now gone from not only the closet, but from the house, except for the few pieces I captured and brought home.
I resist the memory of him, of my father receding into that slippery place. I want the shape of his life, of his life in my life. But for now, I'll take the pain in my left hip, or wherever grief travels next in my body.


Anonymous said...

Sanctified. That's what this is. A sanctification of the lives of those who came before you, those you carry with you, and those you pass on. Selah

The Mulligan Family said...

Oh Lisa... it does get better - I promise. In my experience, the first year after losing each of my parents was painful - but I worked so hard at staying busy and not allowing myself to "feel" the loss. For me, the second years were more difficult.... THEN, the healing began.

Your description of not seeing an end in sight - and the dull ache - very accurate. But, trust me... eventually the happy memories will take over. That's not to say you won't always have times in your life that the pain briefly returns... but for the most part getting through each day and remembering your Dad without crying will become the norm.

Sending you hugs. Cindy