I knew the day Rafe died that I would end up doing grief wrong.
Oh, not wrong to me. And not wrong to my Widow's Club (a wry name for drinking coffee with unexpected new friends with young children, broken hearts in various states of repair, and some very dark humor about solo parenting.)
No. I mean doing it wrong to people who say things like: It's time for closure. You have to move on. He wouldn't want you to be hanging on.
Do people actually still say those cliches? Why yes. Yes they do!
But generally speaking I'm uncomfortable with being told what to do. Which I like to think I got from my mother. I was a little kid when I saw her die at age twenty-five flying her beloved plane. Which she "shouldn't be doing," as a mother of three. She was definitely a no-rules woman.
Growing up I longed to know everything about her, to look at her pictures, and to talk about her. I wanted to know the ordinary things. But the adults were silent like vaults. They never talked about her again.
She was a secret. And that left a hole in my kid-size heart.
Decades later when Rafe died, I didn't even think. An animal instinct made me open a journal and all through the night I walked and cried and got on my knees and wrote down every memory, and detail, every story I could think of. I had a promise to keep. To him, to my mother, to my three-month-old daughter. And to myself.
Don't you want to keep love alive? Old love. New love. Past, present, future love? I do. (Luckily there's not a finite amount of love in our hearts.)
Thank god for my Widows. And the other brave people I know who talk about their loved ones who've passed on. And the little old lady who whispered to me that she still carries her husband's wallet in her handbag thirty years after he died, even though her sister told her to stop.
We don't say goodbye. We say hello. I show up for every ordinary conversation my girl wants to have when she misses her dad, dreams about him, studies his pictures, laughs at his ways, and wonders if she's like him. Just like I do.
And we move on. Because you know what? We don't have to choose: a grief rebel can do both.