When I was 13 I was in a hurry to dump something disgusting out the back door. In my haste, I didn’t see the broken glass sticking out like a tongue, and barely felt it until the blood started to pool at my feet. I cursed and swore as I hobbled into the kitchen, trailing blood like carnage behind me, a gaping hole visible in my leg.
I never had stitches. My father refused to take me to the hospital, telling me it would heal without them, that I could bandage it and keep it closed, hidden and safe. I wrapped it in gauze, a tensor band, watched it bleed through and through for hours, a slow ooze. The next day I unwrapped my leg to change the gauze, and yanked off the scab. The blood flowed free again, and for the next week, I danced this waltz, the pain fresh, the blood copious and frightening until one day, the scab just clung to me instead of the gauze, and my leg could begin to heal.
There’s been a scar there ever since, faint now, but if I run my fingers ever so gently down my leg, the nerves change, the skin hardens and twitches, and I remember the dark red pool sticky under my foot on the chair my mother had so carefully upholstered before she died.
Here’s the thing about grief, and healing.
There’s no secret recipe.
It’s not like the Caramilk bar. It’s not like those cookies your grandma makes at Easter, ingredients stored in her head, only parsed out when you’re older. It’s not a 4 year term like school.
It is forever. And it’s ok.
You don’t feel healing. Not in it’s slow crawl towards the door, it’s lego block skyscraper of better. It’s imperceptile, feeling better, until you realize that entire days or weeks or maybe even months have gone by and you don’t feel quite so broken, and maybe you haven’t cried except when watching The Notebook. You don’t feel someone crazy gluing your heart back into place, and might barely even feel the sigh you heave late one night when, looking at the stars in their rabid glory, you make a deal with the universe that you will merely accept what you’ve become and what you’re lost. You only feel the loss of an ache until eventually, you realize the smile you’ve plastered on is real.
You will be better, someday.
But someday isn’t a train in the station, and it isn’t a fucking self help book waiting to take your 29.95 cdn and it isn’t a list you stick on the fridge between “pedicure” and “buy more mustard”. Someday is what you become, and you alone, your fractures and fissures slowly closing between your own hardened hands.
I cannot make you better. I cannot order you ‘Woman! Heal yourself!’ anymore than I could instruct the me at 12 or 19 or 25 to just fucking accept things, accept loss and pain as part of my humanity and to just move on. I couldn’t get there until I could breathe through it, and past the porcupine of ache and loss I held in my lap. I do not believe myself deluded or assholish enough to believe I have a right to dictate to you the terms of your grief or your own acceptance.
My hands have no right to your pain.
I hear the words you have spoken and I want to find you, and make the hurt yours. I want to crush your heart into a glass and watch you drink it, aware of each sliver that slices your throat and leaves you breathless and mute.
I want you to feel this pain, this terror and helplessness. I want you to devolve for a hour, a week, a year and become the howling pit of fucking horror.
Then I want you to try and lay hands. Then I want to watch what nonsense scratches the surface of your lips when you find that all your words have become lost and meaningless in the face of a world absolutely bereft of someone you love.
We are, none of us, experts in living. We are frail human creatures, all of us, and we are fragile beyond measure, even in our strength. But my frailty spits in the face of your repugnant pity.
All scars heal in due time.