The character of John Watson on the BBC’s show Sherlock as played by Martin Freeman is an exquisite mourner. You cannot watch his experience of grief and not be moved if you are at all engaged with the show and its characters. It’s an overused phrase, but Freeman is brilliant in this role.
There are so many flavors of mourning. Flavors? Yes, because they each leave their own taste in your mouth, one you remember every time you roll it around your mouth. That’s the other thing about mourning – you return to it, weighing and measuring it over and over. As the flavor changes over time, so does your experience of the pain.
Mourning the Past is a cold, hard thing. The more time passes, the more solid it becomes. Your neural network digs deeper channels and, like a needle skipping on a scratched record album, the flavor gets heavier, the pain more memorable. You feel bound to make the memory real enough to take the place of the thing you’ve lost.
Mourning the Present is a timeless, boundless thing. It covers everything in its flavor and consumes less intense experiences and emotions. It is forgetful and expansive and pervasive. The Myth of Moving On, which others often seem to expect almost immediately, is a farce. How can you move on when you’re existing outside of time and space?
Mourning the Future is dynamic and jittery. Weightless and filled with gravity. Ominous. A fear-filled unknown. A dangerous, ancient knowledge of inherent potential. You want to be hopeful; you need to be prepared.
Mourning is a heavy conversation, one I hardly feel qualified to lead others through. My share has been light and still the burden has been comprised of multitudes: Rage, Regret, Terror, Wistfulness, Longing, Sorrow. Emptiness. And there’s never a single path you can count on to make it through – The underbrush is overgrown and filled with the chattering grunts of unseen creatures, the water is brackish and fetid, the sky a darkness that allows true sight only at the final second. Makes aphorisms like “Everything will be alright” and “Don’t worry, God has a plan” fall flat and gasping at your feet.
Mourning is a constant checking: Has the pain subsided yet? The question awakens the slumbering beast of pain. It smells your fear and tenses as its stomach rolls with hunger. It will take your sacrifice without ceremony, without offering anything in return. It is always ready to eat. It’s a burly fucker whose only mission is to ride you to the ground and smash your face in the gravel. Your wounds will form scars in thick, buckled grooves.
Perspectives evolve and my current one is having a hard time finding a break from mourning. Perhaps because there’s not a single death, no solitary ending, no solid line between then and now, before and after. But there will be one tomorrow and I’m not ready for it yet. I’m stuck and my optimism, which once seemed unflagging, has shored itself up in a bunker and didn’t leave me the passcode for safe entry.
Yes, I hope. I hope the changes coming won’t be our collective undoing. I hope that, if they are, that there’s something worthwhile on the other side and that I am graced with the privilege to witness it. I don’t want to cave to historical determinism or divisiveness or fear. And I won’t change anything about my day tomorrow, won’t do anything differently than I would any other day. I don’t want to be seen mourning… Because I don’t want to keep mourning.
But I won’t lie and say that I’m not.