Three years ago this autumn, my mom called from Bancroft and told me she'd been to see the doctor; she was getting some tests back shortly for some swelling in her abdomen. Nothing to worry about, she said, but there was an edge to her voice and she seemed distracted.
Within three months, both she and my father – who had been living with prostate and bone cancer for a decade – had died.
She sits with the phone hanging limply off her finger. Your son is dead. Hit by a car. Hit by a car. She strains to make sense of the words. "What's wrong, Mummy? What's wrong?" She looks blankly at her daughter. "Mummy?" "Daddy, Daddy," her daughter runs shrieking up the stairs, "something's wrong with Mummy." The Germans have a word, schmerz, to describe the physical and emotional pain we suffer when we face a major loss. A friend dies after a long fight with cancer. A family dog is put down. You suffer a miscarriage, lose a leg, lose your hearing. Your marriage breaks up. We fear serious loss. When will it happen? How will it affect me? Will I survive it? Grief is the natural reaction to loss. It is an exhausting process that robs us of both physical and emotional energy. Everything feels so raw, so painful. We are surprised at the depth of our grief, at the toll it takes on our bodies.