Words that delivered
In her memoir, Lucky, Alice Sebold said, “No one can pull anyone back from anywhere. You save yourself or you remain unsaved.”
It is true.
You have to save yourself (no one can pull you back from this place). You have to trust yourself. You have to be the expert on you, and your grief.
In my case, after the sudden death of my son, I withdrew, cocooned from the world, and ignored those who told me to do otherwise. I was the expert on my grief. This was my way.
I let myself die. Almost die. One needs to grieve to almost death before they can live again. And then, after days of almost dying, of starvation, I took a bite of a sandwich. A sip of something hot. Then wrote down a memory. Then almost died again.
There was no light at the end of my darkness, then. I was done. My life, my son’s life, did not turn out the way I wanted it to. And yet, I was the only one who could save myself, and rewrite my life—our life. Somehow, on some level, I knew this.
So I took another bite. Another sip. Then wrote more words. Then lay dead. Asleep. Then awake. Curtains drawn, hidden away, watching memories. And time passed. Days continued. Eventually, I ate enough, slept enough, and wrote enough to venture outside, breathe, walk, and even talk to a therapist.
Months moved on, then years. This “save yourself” cycle continued. I was a castaway on my own dark island. Barely surviving. Losing weight. Talking to a page, the way Tom Hanks talked to an indifferent, macabre-faced volleyball in Castaway. On a cave’s wall, scratching the days that passed. On a paper, writing the words that came. In a book, reading the words that delivered.
No one can pull anyone back from anywhere. You save yourself or you remain unsaved.
So . . . remain unsaved . . . for as long as it takes . . . and then . . . and then . . . save yourself.
Listen to yourself. Trust yourself. Withdraw if that feels right. Venture out in the world if that’s what you need to do. Talk to a grief counselor. Ask for help. Or take one bite of a sandwich. Sip something hot. Then ask for help. Take a nap. Go for a walk. Eat a piece of chocolate (preferably with almonds). Call a friend. Say, “I’m trying to save myself, but I’m having a hard time. I know you can’t save me, but can you listen . . . ?”
Meditative, laser-focused talking
I have found that putting pen to paper can be a saving force. For me, writing is meditative, laser-focused talking. Edited, perfected conversation, and counsel, with the only one who can pull me back . . . and save me. Whether anyone is going to read it or not.
Now, today, this moment, I am throwing you a line. I can’t pull you back; I can only throw you this line. When you are able, and when you are ready (you will know when), use it to save yourself.
Hold on, and when you feel up to it, try writing. Maybe keep a journal. Write. Now, or tomorrow, or whenever. And know this: the quality of your writing doesn’t matter. Just spill your grief onto a page. Focus. Listen. Write down whatever comes to mind. A word. A memory. A poem. A letter to your child. In detail, what your child’s laughter sounded like. What it feels like to be drenched in pain. Or, just these words: “Save me.”