Grief has a way of laying low while you go about the business of living your life and then, BOOM, seemingly out of nowhere rears its way to the surface. Has that ever happened to you? When you least expect it? It kind of takes your breath away.
Grieving and being angry are like cousins: They may look similar, but come from different places in the gut. When I’m angry at the universe, I just want to scream from the mountaintops. It’s often accompanied by a few f-bombs, which is oh-so-satisfying. I scream at the things I can’t do anymore, like anything that requires exerting a lot of energy.
I want to scream at the chronic pain that electrocutes my nerves. I want to scream every time my muscles turn to spaghetti and fail to hold me up so I can walk. I want to scream any time I have to write out my thoughts because my brain forgot how to tell my mouth how to talk. I want to scream at all the symptoms that constantly slow me down. It’s all so frustrating. I just want to live MY life on MY terms and I can’t because functional neurological disorder (FND) stole it from me!
OK … I feel a little better now. Moving on.
While screaming at the universe is very cathartic, I’ve also learned that grieving and surrendering to a good ugly cry can be equally therapeutic. Any “Steel Magnolias” fans out there? Sally Field gives one of the best performances of a good ugly cry when … well, I won’t spoil it for you, but if you see the movie you’ll need at least two full boxes of tissues. Trust me.
About a month ago, I found myself in the midst of one such Sally Field cry. A perfect storm of sorts had formed that sent me over the edge and rocked me to my core. On this particular day I wasn’t feeling great, but I had enough energy to go from my bed to the couch. The house was quiet with all three kids at school. I had coffee and a little something to eat and felt inspired to do some painting. I admit I am not an artist, but I love making art.
Between Pinterest and YouTube you can learn a lot! I set up my supplies near the window so I could soak up the warm sunshine. I turned on one of my playlists entitled “Rainy Days” and chuckled at the irony of listening to such melancholy songs on a cloudless day. Those songs soothe me though and soon enough I was in my happy place, painting flowers and sunsets.
Before too long however, my energy level dropped and my muscles felt heavy like lead so I had to stop painting. I dragged myself over to the couch and flopped down for a nap. Antonio, my youngest, had a baseball game that evening and I desperately wanted to go after having missed so many games, so the nap wasn’t a luxury, it was a necessity. Upon waking after a couple hours of sleep, I sat up trying to shake out the cobwebs. Still determined to not let Antonio down, I fought through the brain fog to try and ready myself. My body was still in agony and my gait was really unsteady. My husband was out of town so a friend was picking up Antonio early.
I had intended on driving myself there closer to game time, but that plan was looking bleaker by the second. The doorbell rang. I opened the door and my friend could immediately tell I was struggling. He offered me a ride, but I told him I was going to rest some more and try to make it there later. I kissed Antonio and wished him luck as he walked out the door. I thanked my friend for taking him and waved goodbye. While standing there watching the car drive away, something started bubbling up in my gut. I felt defeated. Going to his game wasn’t in the cards. I let him down.
My hands became sweaty as the stirring in my stomach rumbled up through my chest. My eyes started burning as they filled with tears. I stumbled to the couch, fell into the cushions and instead of screaming, I unleashed a cry that I haven’t experienced in a very long time. Guttural wailing emerged as the tears drowned out my vision. I sobbed uncontrollably for what seemed like an eternity. In between catching my breath I paused long enough to realize that Rocco, my 13-year-old, was sitting in the room helplessly watching me. He shouldn’t have to bear witness to my good ugly cry, but I couldn’t control the sobbing.
Without missing a beat, he asked me one simple question. It was the one question I needed to hear most in that moment. “Mom, do you need a hug?” I nodded yes as he came and sat down next to me, putting his head on my shoulder while wrapping me lovingly in his arms. Now, I was not only grieving over the loss of a life I so desperately thought I was going to live, but also for the enormous amount of gratitude I had for his compassion and empathy.
He stayed with me until the sobbing slowed down. He didn’t say a word but he didn’t have to. His actions spoke volumes. I will carry that in my heart as I continue to learn how to embrace my new normal.