Years ago, not long after Thomas died, I read a post by a fellow babyloss blogger who was struggling with an overwhelming desire to make herself look as outwardly grief-stricken as she felt inside. She wanted to cut her hair, tattoo her body, cut patterns into her empty stomach - do something radical and drastic so that people would know, just by looking at her, that she was broken on the inside. She wanted the mark of grief.
It scared me. But I understood.
I started thinking about her - and the strange need for grief to be known and recognized - this morning at Mass. I'd made small talk with one of the office staff on the way in - a woman who helps me organize the annual Mass of Remembrance for bereaved parents. We both hate the heat, but wished it was a little warmer today. And isn't that funny, because in a few months we'll both be wishing for a crisp day just like this one. And isn't it a shame that while it's going to be warmer tomorrow, it's going to be rainy too. Blah, blah, blah.
When I finally got into the church, I sat down and started thinking about my dad, as I often do when I'm alone and quiet with nothing proper to distract me. Driving is a particular hazard. It often ends in tears.
Anyway, I was thinking that I display no outward sings of grief. I'm clean, my hair is freshly cut, I wear makeup (a necessity to hide the circles and bags my 40s have gifted me), I smile when appropriate, I attend meetings, I work. I am functional in all the ways that matter.
But inside there is so much grief. And no one knows.
It makes me feel like I'm existing inside a plexiglass dome, visible, but somehow unreachable. And thoroughly unknowable. Most importantly, separate. Always separate.
I started wondering why exactly it is that we need to share grief with others. It's such a personal thing that no two people feel or experience the same way - even if they've lost the same person - and yet we're desperate to find people who will listen to us when we need to talk about the aching emptiness a loved one's loss has created in our lives. We want to share, in explicit detail, what it feels like to be without that person; what it's like not to hear their voice tell us we are loved, what it's like to see the empty chair they once sat in, what it's like to want to tell them a story and forget, for a split second, that they are no longer there to hear it.
I want everyone to know how much I miss my dad. How I still cry for him. How agonizing it is to be separated from him. How I still can't fathom that he's really gone and is never coming back.
How I feel like I'm once again hollow inside, waiting to be filled up with whatever it is that filled the empty space Thomas left behind.
And no one knows.
And I don't know why that matters. Except somehow it does.