I dreamt of my late grandfather last night. We were on a tube, floating serenely down a river together. P.S. do you ever have a dream and then think to yourself, how on earth is my mind contriving these thoughts? The other evening, I was skiing down mountains of ice-cream. Anyways, in this particular dream, I found myself crying, because I knew that my grandfather was sick. I told him I loved him, and he kissed my forehead. Upon waking, I immediately texted my Nana about this dream, before my reality could morph any aspects of that then lucid yet rapidly fading, precious thought.
Just a few months ago, my aforementioned Nana joined a club that no one ever wants to join. Nora McInerny coins this club The Hot Young Widows Club. Don’t be fooled. It’s not just a club, it’s also a book and a Ted Talk (which you should definitely read / watch). Nora tells the story of her personal experience with loss: a miscarriage, her father’s death from cancer and losing her husband to a brain tumor, all within mere weeks. It was an eventful month, Nora facetiously recalls. She speaks to the isolation and lack of support she encountered during this time. I have witnessed this first-hand. It seems that most human beings have the decency to send flowers, sympathy cards or food when news of the loss initially circulates. But then it vanishes as quickly as it comes. People stop calling as they return to normalcy, probably relieved that death circumvented their own lives this time around. But they forget that those experiencing this loss are lonely, and struggle with a misty cloud that perpetually circles them, or an unfathomably heavy boulder that sits atop their chest, reluctant to move.
Nora uncovers that everyone has a different coping mechanism when it comes to loss. Some drink excessively, while others binge shop. Many immerse themselves in things like exercise, while certain individuals do not stop moving. My Nana uses the latter-most tactic. She. Does. Not. Stop. Moving. Penny (Nana) runs around like a crazy person; gardening, painting, and handling most of the repairs at both of her New York properties. I visited a few weeks back, excited to see her, of course, and to enjoy a relaxing weekend on Saratoga Lake. As you may have guessed, my grief-stricken grandmother did not allow me one minute of relaxation, and was incredibly peeved when I slept until 1 PM after a late night out (in my defense, I didn’t realize my body was sill capable of doing that). I did my very best not to complain as we ran around town preparing for the guests that would be arriving that evening. The minute my Nana had misplaced her wallet (which we later found, of all places, in her purse), I began to plead that she slow down, journal, and take time to breathe. She proceeded to sob, attesting that people go through “this” every day, and get on just fine. I realized in that moment that my Nana felt she deserved an “F” in mourning. Meaning, due to the loss of her beloved husband of over fifty years, she felt pain, and as a result, cried. Meaning, she didn’t have it all together. To her, that meant she was failing. All other widowers were perfect at this whole grieving thing, she figured. However, Nora contends (and I certainly concur) that my Nana merits an A++++ simply for garnering the strength to get out of bed every day (earlier than 1 PM, mind you).
Nora’s career revolves around death and loss, particularly allowing others to feel comfortable with the uncomfortable. And death is really freaking uncomfortable. I don’t mean the open-casket wakes (although I prefer not to attend that portion of the service). The uncomfortable part I refer to here is that no one knows what to do, or what to say. So they oftentimes don’t. Mainly because they know that everyone has their own coping mechanisms, and feel a bit awkward interfering. But what they don’t know, is that their presence, whether it be a warm hug or a phone call, means the world to those grieving. Their discomfort with loss and subsequent absence from the grief-stricken-person’s life only exacerbates the already-existent void.
All day, every day, terrible things are happening around the world. These formative, traumatic life experiences, Nora attests, shape us just as much as the joyful ones, like falling in love or having a baby. Nora says, “You don’t get it until you get it.” Grief and mourning are not a moment in time, but instead something chronic and incurable. These people will surely move forward, but they will never move on. And that’s how the Hot Young Widows Club came to be. This time, not italicized, because I’m referring to the club. Look it up; it’s an actual club. With T-Shirts. And you don’t have to be a female, or hot, to join.
As the members of the club face their own, unique, formidable and onerous battles with grief and loss, they find solidarity in one another. Amidst the excruciating pain, they simultaneously encounter friendship, love, laughter, and a glaring reminder that life is worth living. Despite the speed-bumps, hills or mountains we all must climb along the way, Nora makes it very clear in The Hot Young Widows Club that while navigating mourning is messy and uncomfortable, it is bearable and even rewarding. Nora reminds us all that sometimes, it’s okay that all we did today was breathe. And that while the song has ended, the melody lives on, and we should live along with it.