Grief doesn’t take a day off.
I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a blog post for a while now and I know it’s been months since my last one. With so much going on lately, good things and tough things, it’s hard to put things into words sometimes. But it all boils down to one simple phrase: grief doesn’t take a day off. It’s always there, looming in the shadows, waiting to pounce at the most vulnerable moments. Grief is raw. It’s ugly. It’s a beast that torments day in and day out. You think you’re doing “okay” but then there’s a memory, something to remind you of what’s been lost.
We lost mom last May. And if I’m honest with myself, and everyone, it’s been a level of hell you can’t comprehend until you’ve been there. I thoroughly entrenched myself at the stage of grief known as “anger” and never left it. It’s not made any better by hospice, which almost ten months later, still tries to “help” with their “grief counseling” which is really just a useless pamphlet that reiterates the same thing the last four have that they send you every few months. “Grief takes time. Everyone grieves at their own pace.” Yes, we know, it’s boilerplate, it’s standard. You have to mail these things out to families that have lost people. It’s your “job.”
Let me be real with you all for a moment. Grief doesn’t take a day off. No amount of pamphlets will heal what is broken, what’s no longer there. Grief doesn’t care. It just doesn’t. They talk about the stages of grief. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Let me tell you about the one they don’t talk about: Fear. Fear that you’ll lose another family member. Fear that your world is falling apart around you and all you can do is hold on and hope for the best. Fear that worst things will happen to you and your family. All perpetuated by grief.
Cancer wrecks lives. It instills a sense of fear you cannot even hope to understand until you’ve been there. I was a caregiver for four years during all of this. My father and sister were also caregivers. We saw the front lines and sat in the trenches while the world ended around us. There are no amounts of tears that I can cry to make things better. Mom is gone and with her a part of our hearts.
It’s hard because grief doesn’t care. It doesn’t care that you’re trying to make the best of things. It doesn’t care about the empty seat at the table. The fact that you wake up in the middle of the night thinking you have to check on someone who died ten months ago. Looking at a calendar that last year this time was packed with appointments, only to see, well, nothing there this year.
Grief doesn’t care. The stages of grief don’t care. You can accept things all you want, but it’ll never fix things. It’ll never heal what was damaged. I put my efforts now-a-days into writing my books, trying to scrape out even a small sense of normalcy. But the house is quiet while dad’s away at his job, save for a furry four-legged "toddler" roaming around from time to time, but quiet none-the-less. I used to talk about my books with mom. She listened to the days when things were tough. When the rejections kept piling up. When things weren’t going well. She listened and she was there. Now, well… it’s quiet.
Cancer robbed us of so much. It took so much. I won’t even make excuses for the poor quality of the last book in my Snow Spark Saga, or even the poor quality of the first book. My heart wasn’t in it. I wrote it on autopilot, because grief doesn’t take a day off. And while I’m sure it’s passable quality for what it needs to be, it’s just not where it should be. It’s not a happy occasion I’m celebrating with the ending of this series. It’s bittersweet. It’s the end of a time when cancer wrecked our lives and stole so much. Not one book in that series was untouched by cancer. The first two books were written during the time when mom was initially diagnosed. I officially edited them for publication as she died. The two that came after, were written during the grief period of time in my life. It’s only fitting the series closes out this chapter of my life so I can start a new chapter.
Because grief never takes a day off. And this is once again where fear comes in. Fear that this nightmare will taint the new series I’m working on. Fear that the cycle will somehow repeat. Fear that, like the first series of books I wrote, this new one will also be wrecked by something as destructive as cancer or loss. Grief doesn’t care that I’m trying to start over, pick up where I left off before cancer happened in our home. Grief doesn’t care about your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. Grief only cares about reminding you day in and day out of what you’ve lost. Of that empty chair at the table, of that quiet house.
Everyone grieves at their own pace, in their own ways, on their own time. And right now, I’m not sure where I sit on the spectrum of grief. Whether it be anger, bitterness, resentment, a whole stableful of emotions I don’t have words for because there are no words for them in any language. And it sucks. It really truly sucks. Because grief is complicated. All I can really do is try to keep moving forward. Throw myself into my projects, try to keep a more hopeful outlook on things. No matter what life throws at us with this thing called grief, we’ll find a way to keep going.
We always do.