“As long as I kept moving, my grief streamed out behind me like a swimmer’s long hair in water. I knew the weight was there but it didn’t touch me. Only when I stopped did the slick, dark stuff of it come floating around my face, catching my arms and throat till I began to drown. So I just didn’t stop.
The substance of grief is not imaginary. It’s as real as rope or the absence of air, and like both those things it can kill. My body understood there was no safe place for me to be.”
(The Poisonwood Bible, Book Five, 281)
*Note: The page numbers on my digital edition do not appear to match those of the print editions. This quote can be found on the first page of Book Five.*
It goes without saying that this quote is a really dark one, but Orleanna Price is deep in grief when she says it. I’ve been lucky in that it’s been a fairly long time since I’ve lost anyone really close to me, but the most recent passing — my grandmother, in 2010 — hit me especially hard. She’ll have been gone for five years this Friday; some days I feel like it’s been 20 years since she died, and other days it’s as though she passed just yesterday. I clearly remember trying to be stoic — I didn’t want to be a blubbering mess at her wake, because I wanted to be strong for her, so I held myself together. The following morning, we returned to the funeral home to say our last goodbyes before her service and I promised myself again that I wouldn’t cry.
And then I realized that, when we left the funeral home and climbed back into the car, I would never get to see my beloved grandmother’s face again…and I fell to pieces. I kept thinking throughout the funeral that these memories, of her in a sealed wooden box, would be the last I have of her. The days and weeks following her burial were very dark for me. Is Grandma okay? I know where her body is, but what about her spirit, her soul? Is Heaven real? Is she up there eating her famous chicken soup (which we buried her with a container of) and dancing with my grandfather, or are these all just figments of my imagination? I was left with more questions than answers, more concern than peace. I grieved hard for her in my own quiet way, though at times it felt as though the grief was suffocating me, much like Orleanna Price.
But like Orleanna, I had to keep moving. As much as it sucks, life goes on after our loved ones die. Time stops for no one. You have no choice but to carry on and keep their memories alive in any way you can. Five years may have passed but I remember my grandmother as well, as miss her as much, as I did the day she died. That’s all that’s left for me to do.
Have you ever experienced grief as deep as Orleanna’s? How did you work through it and carry on? Let’s talk!