I have a dear friend here in Kona who recently lost her mother. She was a new friend when Mike died, but had met him, and after discovering we were both writers we decided to get together every so often to write and support each other. She has since become a good friend who saw the rawness of my grief right there in the beginning, but since I’ve been gone for so long this year, and so busy since my return, we hadn’t connected in a long time. So I called her the other day to express my condolences and catch up.
She is one of those wise people who, despite her own pain and fragility, comes out with these statements of realization that really make you think.
During our recent conversation she put a name to something we all as grief sufferers can relate to. I had been telling her how appreciative I am of my job right now because it gets me out and about and social and a little money coming in. And she said she was glad to hear I was in a good enough place to be able to step into that public face. Because for a long time after Mike died, I wasn’t. And right now, she is having trouble with her own public face, due to her own loss.
When you are in the throes of new grief, the public face can be very difficult to put on. You cry at the grocery store, you don’t want to go to parties, you can’t answer the phone. But as time goes on, you start to get better at it. It’s a process, but one day, you realize you just went grocery shopping without crying. You decide you’d actually enjoy seeing those friends at that party. And when the phone rings you answer it.
Going back to work after a loss is a thing. For some people, they go back as soon as possible because as I said – it’s something to keep the mind and body busy and away from the darkest corner of grief we would otherwise be crawling into. For others, the public face is harder to manifest again, and facing the job at the office feels like torture. Like every other aspect of grief, it is individual. We all react differently based on our personalities and situations. I couldn’t imagine working again for a long time. When I was offered that job at the little dress shop a few years ago I first wondered whether I could really put a smile on my face at all.
I’ll be honest. I have been feeling down about my prospects lately. Things have shifted once again with my dad’s care, and the family finances must be considered. My old dog here is getting older by the day and I can’t bear to think of leaving her. And the house negotiations have been delayed once again. I had thought I would be already moved to a larger city before starting my new health coaching business this year but now realize I may have to reconsider how I will go about that. It feels hard to figure it all out. To determine what I really want, where I want to be, how I want to live, what I want out of my life, now that Mike is gone. To be in a place to help my family in the right way, for them, and for me.
I adore my friends here in Kona, and my musician, and yet I know I want to be in a bigger city not so isolated from other family and opportunities. I feel torn, in a way that makes me feel sad. I can’t afford to live both places, as many people do. I wish I weren’t so far away, and yet, leaving permanently will leave its own scar.
So, I go to work. Getting ready, driving, I am alone with my thoughts, all these thoughts I just described. But the second I’m there, I put those thoughts aside. I am busy…too busy, to ponder my fate. So many new people to greet, so many people to smile to and say nice things…I am grateful for the time it gives me with that public face. I am grateful for my now, even though I know soon enough my world will shift once again…soon enough I will need to decide, and things will change, one way or another.