It had been three days. Just three. Over the course of three days in any other week, I would've been to countless meetings at work, loaded and unloaded the dishwasher at least ten times, and been to five different kid's sport practices. Instead, it had been three days and all I could do was just lay on the couch. The television was a 24/7 companion of reruns, movies I'd seen a thousand times, and provided background noise to stoke the sounds of when I'd cry late at night. I avoided being alone with my own thoughts at all costs. I knew everything I should've been doing to keep the nonstop wheel of our family life turning but I was completely put out of commission by grief.
"How?" I'd ask myself. "How can I just keep going? How can I just go back to normal? Back to school projects, replying to emails, and making meals like I'm not broken and lost?" My inner voice had no good response. Instead of offering get-up-and-go encouragement, I was given the directive of "don't do anything".
So I begrudgingly did nothing.
I laid there, still in the same sweatshirt as when I got the news my mother had passed. I had finally managed to drag myself to the bathroom to take a shower but didn't even bother to get a new outfit on. I was so completely exhausted just doing the bare minimum. There was a basket full of clean laundry that had been sitting, getting increasingly more wrinkled and it had plenty of options to choose from. I couldn't even muster the strength to shift through it for a fresh shirt. Changing my clothes wouldn't change the fact I was grieving. I could put on a ball gown and a tiara or a different pair of sweatpants but it didn't matter. I had no interest in eating for the scary potential it would be enjoyable. I didn't feel like I should be experiencing joy or pleasure when my mom couldn't any longer. We had a vacation planned for months and was all nonrefundable that turned from a much needed time to get away to an obligation. How unfair it all was.
I was not this person. I wasn't lazy. I was diametrically opposite. Most days I couldn't even sit down long enough to relax before something needed to be cleaned or someone needed something from me. I didn't understand why it felt like every limb was packed full of concrete.
In the very early hours of my anxiety ridden insomnia, I was scouring the internet looking for some kind of logical diagnosis. Then, I saw a quote on grief from C.S. Lewis' " A Grief Observed" that provided the exact rationale on how I had become this sloth-like alter ego. His collection was writings about losing his wife. Suddenly, it all made sense to me.
C.S.Lewis wrote "...and no one ever told me about the laziness of grief".
This daze I was in wasn't me; it was just an altered version of me made from confusion and fear. I was emotionally paralyzed. There was nothing I could do now to change what had happened. All I could do now was process. In order to actually process everything, I had to be suspended involuntarily from activity. Removed from the constant distractions that I no doubt would've poured myself into to dodge this unbearable angst. And those hours of just being? They were extremely painful and uncomfortable but necessary.
If I had just kept on going full throttle those first few days, I'm sure I wouldn't have given myself time to reflect and assign labels to my feelings. Down the road at some point, it's possible the grief would have manifested in some really unhealthy and unexpected way. Grief is incredibly powerful and isn't linear; it needs to be proactively, actively, and preventively dealt with or it can be tragically consuming.
Little by little, the realization came that the monotony of life was not dependent on one person's existence. That realization was jarring and it all just seemed so unfathomable that everything could just keep going just as it did, but it did. People were still out in the world grocery shopping, commuting, going to the gym and paying bills. They were still falling in love, having birthday parties, watching babies walk for the first time, graduating, getting promotions, having struggled, and losing people they loved. I also realized that on those days when they were in their lazy daze, my normal going about was obnoxious to them.
I had to reactivate. People were counting on me. I needed to be more like myself again.
Coming back from the grief takedown was going to have to happen incrementally. I had to accept the forced lazy, but not let it completely take control. I had to be okay giving an allowance for being lazy. Maybe even reclassify it as necessary rest. Self care even.
I'd had to start small. Try just doing one load of laundry and then retreat to reboot for a while. Maybe the dishes didn't have to be put away as soon as the wash cycle was over. It became okay that my hair was more dry shampoo then not. I considered that even one day, I could go a whole day without sitting down to cry over what I'd lost and could laugh without feeling guilty.
It seemed like an impossible trek back to something resembling normal but several months later, the laziness still creeps up. Those moments, when I've been tackled by grief, I use them to try and remember, reflect and recharge. I honor the lazy now. I give it a window of space. It's part of the enduring process of grieving.