I received a note this week that threw me back into my childhood days and came from a close friend whose mother was killed in a horrid automobile accident when we were all very young. Her path, an unusual one, she moved far away and eventually landed on the other side of the planet where she raised a family and is now teaching. Her aunt attended one of our book signings and asked me to inscribe a copy of ‘Griefland’ for her. A few weeks later, when I received the note, her words chilled me to the bone. She spoke of never being allowed to cry for her mother, of being instructed not to shed a tear or whimper. Implored to be strong and stoic for her father’s sake (to be a brave little girl), she buried every ounce of emotion. Her note hinted at the deep trauma surrounding her inability to grieve out loud. She described herself as a prisoner now – trapped, numb and frozen, devoid of feelings. My heart aches for her tonight, sensing a tsunami of emotion stirring inside her, a riot of noise and color assaulting her very essence. She said reading ‘Griefland’ brought a lot of unfinished ‘stuff’ to the surface. Tonight, I want to wrap my arms around her, grant her permission to cry, scream, and wail.
Last week I also heard from nurse who shared with me an Oprah book club episode she had recalled from years past. During this particular show, they were discussing Toni Morrison’s book, “Beloved.” The women were all sitting around a large dining table and Toni was reading an excerpt from the book when one of the women began to cry. The excerpt had brought back memories of a loss to her. She was trying to restrain her crying, apologizing, trying to explain when Toni Morrison got up, walked around the table, wrapped her arms around the woman and, as the woman continued to apologize, Toni kept repeating, “Doesn’t matter, doesn’t matter, doesn’t matter.”
Let’s settle this once and for all: grief has no statute of limitations, no expiration date. We must all embrace the pain and give it permission to just be. Tonight, that is my wish for all of us.