and in that moment
the weight of the unshed tears
became too much for
one grieving heart to bear
– Untitled Grief by Satsekhem
I have been trying to write this entry for nearly two months now. But every time I sit down with the intention of writing it, whatever I want to say seems incredibly foolhardy. Here I am, someone who tends graves and works extensively with the akhu and I can’t write a damn thing that doesn’t sound like some shitty fable about grief. The thing is that I’m a liar and a fool. I want to talk about grief and how it’s effected my since the death of my Sweet Pea, and how it relates to my work with the akhu, but I have to be completely honest. I don’t deal with grief very well. I never have and as time goes by, I sometimes wonder if I ever will. I lock grief away in a hole in my heart and keep it there to feed the other emotions I have, or I ignore it in its hole until it is so overwhelming that I finally begin to cry for the loss of everyone and everything.
I don’t handle grief.
Thinking back on it, I’ve tried to think of a time where I knew I was grieving. I’ve had a lot of loss in my life over the years. My father died when I was seven. I don’t know if I grieved then. I’ve blocked that entire episode out entirely and have had that block up since I was very young. I don’t remember anything beyond the day he died except to stay with one of my mom’s friends during the funeral. Later, my paternal grandmother died – suddenly, to me – but I know I never cried. I remember running around with the other kids at the funeral home and riding in the back of Papa’s truck to go to the cemetery. I’m certain I did not grieve for her then, or maybe I did but in a child’s way. As the years went by and people died and then later, all of my childhood pets died, I never grieved.
I was always too busy.
There was something else to do; something else to finish; something else coming at me.
But during all that time, I never paid much homage to my dead. When I was young, they went to God. When I was a teenager, they never came back. When I was in my late teens and early twenties, they were reincarnated. I never stopped to think about me in any of these situations. They were unchangeable as far as I could see and my tears weren’t going to bring them back. It seemed foolish to sit around and let myself mourn for the loss of people and pets who had been taken by nature or poor planning.
But, I keep being drawn back to the artwork that I am used to in ancient Egypt. Since I was a child, I’ve been drawn to the “mystery” of Akhenaten and the 18th Dynasty. While I have since grown out of the conspiracy theories that peppered my teenage drive to learn about them, I have found myself continuously drawn back to the scenes of mourning that can be found in the Royal Wadi at Amarna. I look at the scenes of Akhenaten and Nefertiti, mourning the loss of their daughter, and I wonder at it. I’ve always, I’ll admit, been fascinated by the mourning scenes in the tombs of ancient Egypt: they’re wailing and they’re throwing sand in their hair, and they’re sobbing at the loss of someone they loved. I think, as a child, I associated ancient Egypt with the desert planet, Dune/Arrakis, from the series by Frank Herbert and as a child, I often thought that crying was forbidden in ancient Egypt as it was on Dune. (It was a waste of water, on Dune, to cry.) But the scenes show that they mourned fully and energetically.
And I wonder at this.
How is it possible that people could feel so much and let it out?
My mom, when I was a child, never really cried. She blames both me and my little brother for this because whenever she would cry, we’d pester her to tell us what was wrong. I think there’s more to it than that because I find myself unable to cry just like her. And I can’t think of a single instance in which either of my grandparents have cried, at least in public. I think it is a family trait to hide our grief and mourning from other people. I think it is something that I inherited or was indoctrinated into or something with our dour, Catholic family. We keep all of that inside because it’s just not good to show it or something.
And I’m learning that, as someone who works so much with the akhu, this is no longer feasible.
With the loss of Sweet Pea so fresh in my mind, I’ve thought about how her death has impacted me. It’s different from all of the other deaths I’ve experienced. It wasn’t the length of time we had been together. And it wasn’t just that she had been with me through so much change, but there is more to it. I can tell by how the knife stabs me in the heart with every breath I take, every thought I make about my beautiful, darling, wonderful, perfect Sweetie Pea. I dream about her. I cry about her. I fall into my steering wheel with sudden bouts of pain. I miss her so very much. And she isn’t there to cuddle with me when I feel really shitty. And she isn’t there to lick my tears for her. And she isn’t there to give me the look she always gave me, part tolerating whatever I was doing and part irritated that I was preventing more nap time.
Earlier this month, I read this entry about someone else’s pet-based grief. And I couldn’t help but wonder if this was the reason why my mourning for Sweet Pea has been so prolonged. Is it because Jasmine is still here? They were pack. They may not have gotten along and towards the end, they mostly ignored one another. Jasmine doesn’t seem to be overly effected by the loss of Sweet Pea – not like me – but the two of them were a pack anyway. Sweet Pea would nip at her as a puppy and put her in her place… until Jasmine got big enough to put Sweet Pea in her place. (Sweet Pea was a full mini-Dachshund and weighed about 8 pounds on her heaviest day while Jasmine is a tween Dachshund, a mix of mini and standard, which puts her at 15 pounds all the time because she’s overweight.) I wondered for a good two solid weeks if my situation was similar to Cheshire Cat Man.
As I’ve written this entry I have to admit that I think there may be a bit in my situation that is similar to his. But, I don’t think that’s all of it.
I think the grief I feel is what happens when you really begin to work with your ancestors. I think this is just another part of the path I’ve been waltzing down all of these years. And that, in a way, it is a healing process. I will finally begin to live with mourning and grief. I will finally begin to say, “I am grieving for the loss of my beloved.”
And maybe one day, I can cry freely and not feel that showing my grief will devalue who I am as a person, as a polytheist, and as someone who worships her akhu.
I was raised Protestant and of mostly German extraction and my immediate family shows very little grief, even at funerals. Having worked all my life in health care and much in emergency medicine i had to remain detached and back then we all drowned our memories in alcohol after work. I could handle the patient’s dying, but not the grieving relatives, especially if the deceased was young. Now that i am older if i see someone crying on TV about some tragedy i get tears in my eyes, so i guess eventually the sadness of life catches up with one. I think i will be devastated when my oldest cat who has been with me a fifth of my life passes, and can see why your little doggie has brought this out in you at this time in your life. Blessings.
My mom used to have to go clinical at work. She worked in insurance claims – she was the one who would either allow or deny the claim to go through. Anyway, she would always talk about how there were days where she hated her job because the person putting in the claim needed that money, obviously, but the rules and regulations wouldn’t allow it. So, I understand going clinical. Listening to my mom as a kid, I kind of was able to follow in her footsteps.
It really kind of helped that she raised me with that silent suffering thing Catholics have going on. XD
I wrote something in the same vein once. I believe that being able to cry, and crying freely is one of the most love-filled acts we can give someone who has passed on. I feel it shows just how much we miss them, etc. Its been something that has been hard for me to learn how to do over the years, because my family was very much against crying. But anymore, when someone/thing dies, I have learned to cry freely.
In most cultures open grief is the norm. But here in America we try to deny death. Gods i hate funerals, where relatives and friends who won’t even answer an email will all of a sudden drive hundreds of miles to see your dead corpse and say nice things about you. We cry sometimes because we have missed that previous opportunity for closure and truth, and now it is too late.
I hate the way it is in America, too. I’d love to be a full-blown and professional grave tender. And they have them in the south, where it seems more acceptable to acknowledge the dead. But up here in the north? We plunk them in the ground and forget about them unless a holiday comes around.
I want to learn to cry freely, no matter the looks and the questions. I just want to be able to be open and honest with my feelings, which may include crying in some vein, but I’m not there yet.
Thank you for the open and beautiful post. After the death of my maternal grandparents, I didn’t know what mourning was — only unfading pain — until Summer 2011. I spent several months in my old home town then. Two, three, four times a week I would go to the cemetery where they’re buried. For some reason I always wound up going around sundown, all unplanned. Anyway, I would pull the overgrown grass and the weeds, wipe the dust and fallen leaves from their joint tombstone, talk to them, cry out loud, sometimes even howl out my grief — there was seldom anyone else there and if there was I didn’t care. Then I would tell them I loved them and would kiss each side of their tombstone. And then I would leave, sobbing. —Those months taught me what mourning truly is and though the pain is still with me, it’s now altered, different, and not mere unmitigated agony. I can’t put it into words, but I thought I’d share my experience, how I unintentionally learned to mourn.
I am completely jealous that you are able to mourn. I’m not even going to deny it. I want to be able to do that.
But when I go to my akhu‘s graves, I am fully aware that I am never alone, that someone may watch, and my pain is my pain and not for fodder.
I am truly sorry for your loss. When you lose a fur baby, that void is indeed a very dark one.
My observation, as a fellow sister in Sekhmet that we don’t deal as well with grief as the world holds up as its model. We don’t show it in outward displays as much, we certainlytend not to wallow in it because I think deep inside we know that its not the end. We will see the loved one(s) again, but we have to worry about being in the here and now on this side of the veil. At least, that is how I came to grips with my mother’s and grandparent’s passing. I think the thing we grieve for the most is that we do process it maybe a bit differently and few understand this. Thank you for risking such vulnerability in your openness.
I wonder if it’s because we are devotees of Sekhmet that maybe that has something to do with how we process our grief. I can’t really see Sekhmet crying at a tomb…
Nor can I.
I’m not sure I’ve ever mourned my bird the way I wanted to. At first, in part, because it simply hurt too much to cry that hard. My brain kind of shut down when I’d approach it, and I literally felt that I could not cry hard enough, I physically locked up. That my other bird, his mate, is still alive – if she had gone first, and then I’d lost him . . . I can’t even imagine how much more wrecked I’d have been. But losing him was like having a light in my heart shut off, and the other bird’s presence did nothing for that. I grew up not seeing grief expressed much, and I’ve always been uncomfortable showing it, or expressing it even in private. A few months after he died, I found an advice column online where someone had written in talking about feeling weird about mourning a particular loss, and as part of the reply the columnist said something about how “grief honors love.” I’ve cried repeatedly over the couple of years since he died, but I’ve never managed the full-scale meltdown I feel he deserves (and I can’t write or talk about it even know without crying).
It’s hard, it’s so hard, and it takes time.
I think Sweet Pea deserves the same – a full-blown, unintelligible sobbing meltdown. And it’s just so hard to be that open about it. And that sucks. She deserves me on the floor, curled into a ball while I let my grief out for her. She deserves to have me blubbering like a baby for the loss. She deserves all of that and yet, because of how I was raised, I just can’t be that open about it.
And I feel like I’m doing her a severe injustice.
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Here in the Netherlands it’s normale for a woman to cry. But the men aren’t aloud to cry for i reason i really disagry with. For me personnaly grief and mouring (?) is a act of respect to the ones who left us. I feel they are still with and around us, in the spirit world. And not only the humans, animals too.
But i can understand that if you are raised like you are, it’s difficult to let your tears go. I hope you will learn that grief and mourning can give you some rest and peace. But there are differend ways to grief and mouring (?)
I hope you will find a way to learn that.
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