Where’s My Grief?

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops an image of a dog figurine as she wonders where is grief.How’re you doing, people kept asking, cocking their heads and squinting at me, like they expected to find me keeled over, buckled up in pain since my mother died.

I’m good, I assured them. Actually, I was feeling like the Queen of Sheba, merrily doling out all my mother’s earthly belongings. The car, the beds, coffeemakers, the jewels…. Mom’s caregivers and cleaning lady and their families came by to help clear out her apartment. Take whatever you like, I proclaimed, Take it all before the Jiffy-Junk man gets it. The place was bustling. No time for grieving.

Years after my daughter died I thought I was an expert in grief. That sinking squeezed-flat feeling, the hanging heaviness, the painful emotional triggers…. You have to embrace the pain and let it consume you for as long as it takes, I’d tell bereaved friends. But now I was distracted by people and the long list of things to do. And I had just squirreled away my Mom’s huge hand-painted Italian bird-bowl I’d long coveted. Not to mention other, mostly practical (as opposed to sentimental) things of hers I’d chosen to keep for myself. I was feeling no pain.

Exhausted at the end of the Great Give-Away Day, I went to sleep on the inflatable airbed since I’d gifted away the couch I usually slept on. In the middle of the night I woke on the hard floor, the mattress deflated. Unable to fall back to sleep, I wandered the apartment. Oddly empty, I thought. Not the apartment. Oddly empty was how I felt, myself.

In the dark, the eyes of a flea-market figurine stared at me. It was a dog. A schnauzer. Mom had a thing for schnauzers. Salty. Cozy. Chuckie. OMG, how I loved those dogs. It still makes me cry to think of them. The schnauzer figurine sat on top of a pile of things for the Jiffy-Junk man. With cocked head, it eyed me pathetically, squinting like it was trying to reach through me, imploring me to rescue it.

Rushing out early to catch my plane the next morning, I left the schnauzer. But the expression on its plastic-resin face haunted me the whole trip home, and I knew I’d have to claim it when I returned for Jiffy-Junk Day.

Focus on Mom, I kept reminding myself all week, Mom’s not coming back. I was expecting—no, I was yearning—to be overcome by suffering and uncontrollable keening. I was ready to be consumed by pain. So…. ?!*}(<*! Where was my grief?




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5 thoughts on “Where’s My Grief?

  1. Pingback: Getting Hit With the Reality of Loss | ANYTHING'S POSSIBLE - EVEN JOY

  2. Elaine Mansfield

    There it was, right there in the emptiness, the hard floor in the middle of the night, and the plastic resin face. It’s always amazing, this grief. It doesn’t go according to any plan or what we’ve experienced in the past. Vic’s death left me full of grief, dreams, feelings, tears, longing. My only brother’s death (and we were close), left me feeling lost and empty with nothing other than old photos to remind me of him. So, I’ve had to accept this emptiness, too. I waited for a second act full of intense feeling, but it didn’t come.

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Still waiting for mine too. That grief. It just pops up in the strangest times. You never know what will hit you or when. Yes, it’s different every time. I can’t imagine grieving over a sibling yet but I expect that will be really tough. Your words kinda got me thinking that I should take some photos now. All I have of my siblings are decades, maybe half a century, old. Thanks for pointing this out. Hugs, Elaine. I’m sending you at least a good solid twenty seconds of hugs.

  3. Lynne Taetzsch

    Grief comes and goes on its own terms, I think. When my father died after several years of worsening dementia and disability, what I felt was a sense of relief, not grief. It was almost a “high” that I knew my brothers and sisters would not understand.

    Accept your feelings, Robin, whatever they are.

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      I’m working on that, Lynne. And yow, what a range of feelings. I get the relief. The guilt. Sadness for sure. And there’s this strange other thing – the only way I can describe it is as a sort of freedom. I don’t understand it yet, why I suddenly feel so free.


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