This post was sparked by the notion of several political analysts that Joe Biden is playing games by not deciding if he’s running for President yet. At first, it infuriated me that they would assume that a father, a few months into his grief, would have the energy to play games. As I marinated on it a bit, I realized that my perspective is a bit tainted. So I thought I would share with the world…. WHAT NOBODY TELLS YOU ABOUT GRIEF, #4 OF INFINITY.
The fourth thing in this series is that NOBODY TELLS YOU THAT GRIEF IS EXHAUSTING! So, let me have a radical conversation with myself to let you know the realities of crippling grief and the toll it takes on your body.
Before Molly died (BMD because I’m a teacher so I live in acronym world), each member of my family was pretty energetic. Sure, we can laze around with the best of them, but for the most part, we brought the party to most any situation. BMD, I didn’t think about the energy expended doing daily tasks like showering and putting on pants that zipped. A (after) MD, the thought of these simple tasks was enough to bring me to tears. BMD, the only time I required assistance drying my hair and applying make up was after a major surgery, hospitalization, or injury. AMD, if the people I was with wanted others to think they hung out with people who had heard of soap, they had to do something themselves to make me look presentable. I even recall a time when Em Wynn had to literally stand at the shower with me and tell me to rinse my hair. When your heart is crushed, and your brain can’t process the situation you’re in, the whole process of, “wash, rinse, repeat” is beyond overwhelming. So, I can’t help but think that the Vice -President is still struggling to remember to condition his luscious locks. He doesn’t have the energy to play games with the media.
Part of the reason that you are so tired in grief is that your body needs more sleep than usual to restore all of this energy that you are expending remembering to brush your teeth. The neat and precious thing about that is that sleep is an impossibility. “What about drugs,” you say? If you are talking about illegal ones, the thought crossed my mind at the time, but I stuck with prescriptions overseen by a doctor. Guess what? Turns out, when your brain has determined that the stillness and darkness of sleep are dangerous, you are more powerful than Ambien. For the first six months AMD, I slept on a twin air mattress in my parents’ room with a Collie, a Boston Terrier, a Golden Retriever, and a cat. That might have been the problem. However, the thought of not being physically close to my parents if they needed me or I needed them was too much to bear. It also was more convenient for my mom and I to start our nightly wailing wanderings of the house in the same room. There’s power in numbers. I imagine that Joe Biden spends his sleepless nights texting his daughter, watching his grandkids sleep, wailing, and praying that tomorrow will prove to be the day that he learns he is not actually in this hell.
The morning that Molly died, the only shoes that I could find to wear to the hospital were my UGG slippers. I arrived at the hospital to see that my mom was in the same boat, twinning! Those slippers aren’t cheap, but we got every penny out of them. We pretty much wore them every day for almost a year. Even in public. Even in April and May. Even though they have like Australian emu fur balls or something inside of them. The thought of locating and zipping or buckling other shoes was overwhelming. I even remember going outside in the snow a few weeks AMD and someone had to walk me inside and slip those shoes on my feet. I hadn’t even noticed my bare feet buried in the fluffy, Georgia snow. (Or gray, slushy ice.) Vice-President Biden is not always sure he has shoes on. He doesn’t care if the media is uncertain of the reason for his lack of decision making.
There is a myth out there that people in grief lose weight because they’re too sad to eat. Not true. Do you know how much energy it takes to put food on a plate? If you’re as lucky as we were, that was done for us. But, then, you have to PICK UP your fork, MOVE your fork from the plate to your moth, and then……. Then, for goodness sake, YOU HAVE TO CHEW! CHEW????? That is a repeated motion that you must think about so that you don’t choke. That’s too much. Seriously, not even being sarcastic. The best thing that happened to us in that first month was a fresh pot of fried okra a dear friend brought over. My mom and I could sit in front of the pan, we didn’t need a fork or plate, and each kernel only required an average of 1.576 chews! Bam! So, when the second in command is having to force himself to chew, he’s not calculating how to trick the news guys.
I was lucky, I was able to rearrange and push back my grad school work. My mom was suddenly downsized in her job as Best Mama in the World. My dad? Well, the city didn’t die with Molly. He still had to be mayor. The first of January came as it was planned, the General Assembly’s world hadn’t stopped when ours did. He had to lobby. He told us he was proud that he got up and put his shoes on. He put on a brave face. He went through the motions. If you had just met him, you might not have noticed that his voice was weak, his mind was distant, and the glimmer in his eyes was from a constant flow of tears. He would come home and fall asleep immediately in the recliner. His soft snores, just kidding he is a freight train, were a reminder that the career that had always been an effortless talent, now took every ounce of his energy to perform. I imagine that Ashley Biden also wants to scream at people who want her dad to help them, “Give him a break! Fix your own problem! I’ve never seen my dad weep, and you think that your stupid speeding ticket should be the center of his world?!?!?” But, probably, like me, that would require energy that she needs to put eye serum under her eyes to treat the dark circles that prove that grief is exhausting.
Keep MollyROCK in mind when someone you love is in the depths of grief. Instincts and routines are null. Everything requires thought and energy. Help them. Put their shoes on for them. Remind them to wear pants. Dry their hair. Make them okra. Whatever seems RADICALLY easy to you, is not to them. Your CONVERSATIONS can be wordless. It would be KIND of you to recognize that syntax is hard when you are grieving.
More than meat loves salt,