Grief Gab #7 - Sock in Box
A couple weeks ago I had a really rough grief day. Three things happened all on one day that piled up and left me in tears. And a couple of them were things I didn’t expect would happen...ever. Remember those holes I talked about? Grief triggers are weird things.
Thing the first: I have a coworker named Jolie and I started to write an email to her and automatically wrote “Joni”. It’s a woman whose name starts with J-O and BAM, I’m writing Joni’s name.The first time it happened it was a thought like: “Uh-oh. That’ll probably happen more than a couple times.” The second and third times I happened it was harder. I guess almost 25 years of typing a person’s name gets kinda ingrained, huh? (Sarcasm.)
The second thing that caught me was getting in the van (“Joni’s” car) a few days later to take the kids to an appointment. I started the car then proceeded to open up the sliding doors and the front doors to let the heat out before the kiddos got in. I did the driver’s side first then walked around the back of the car to do the passenger side. Something about walking by the exhaust pipe and the sound it made along with the sound and feeling of opening that passenger slider threw me back to taking Joni to chemotherapy. When she was done, I would start the car, open my slider to toss my laptop bag in the car, pull up to where she was waiting so she didn’t have to walk very far, then went around the back of the car to her side so I could open the door for her. Sights, sounds, smells - all familiar. My stomach sank. I told the kids about it and they sympathized and we got on with our day, but it certainly stuck with me.
The third and final thing was a sock. Yup, a single, lonely sock. In my closet, I have an open box of stuff that belonged to Joni. Things that I can’t bear to part with yet. I’ve left it open in case I find more things. (And I know I will.) But I decided to take the box out to our dining room where I knew there was another open box of Joni’s stuff to see if we had room. Incidentally, we’ve had a stack of boxes of Joni’s stuff in the dining room since January. Partially because we haven’t had room in the garage and partially because...I kinda don’t want to touch them.
Anyway, I went out to the dining room, saw that the box was actually full and turned around to go back to the bedroom. I glanced down in the box and saw a single sock that belonged to Joni. It was a quintessential “Joni sock”. I almost called out “Babe! I found your sock!” What followed happened in nano-seconds. It hit me: she’s not here anymore and I froze and was mentally stuck. I was lost and didn’t know what to do. Then I unfroze and went back to my room and started sobbing. “Grief is the form love takes when the person we love is gone.”
I called Belle first and through our conversation identified the need to talk to my dad. I called my dad and midway through the conversation, my youngest comes in the room missing mom. (She and I are on the same cycle or something.) I didn’t feel capable of helping her in that moment so I asked her to see her oldest sibling. I told my dad I didn’t feel like I had it in me to be a support right then. He said: “You don’t have to be a support. You can just sit and grieve together.”
“I’m going to go do that right now,” I said. It felt like the right thing to do and so I did. Ember and I cried in Christi’s room and talked about how we were feeling and what the triggers were. It really helped. And then we found some stuff to laugh at and ended up heading to our beds.
In the show Babylon 5, there is an episode where the stony Commander Ivanova has learned of her estranged father’s passing. She seems unmoved by the event, but when her Rabbi shows up to the station, she has to confront her grief. At first she resists and sends her Rabbi away. But before he leaves, she has a change of heart and allows her friends to sit shiva with her and it’s a beautiful moment showing people she loves just being with her and sharing in her mourning and grief. There is something so healing about that. Not needing anyone to say anything, not dispensing advice, just being present makes such a difference.
So I guess I’m writing about two things: One: something as simple as a solitary sock in a box can be a trigger for grief and two: the importance of just being with others, sharing in their grief, and not feeling obligated to carry their burden - just being with them. Thanks for reading.