Grief and the problem with tenses

I’m having a little trouble choosing the right verb tenses to describe my life with Benny. Sometimes in these pages I will tell you about a specific event from the past. In those cases, past tense makes sense. But, it’s important that you understand that Benny is still as bad as ever! Benny is, in fact, barking hysterically right now! It’s just as loud and insistent as it ever was. The difference is that — most of the time — Benny’s barking has become just background noise. I am no longer preoccupied with it.

In that sense, it is like grief itself. For people in mourning, using the past tense is an uncomfortable reminder that your loved one is gone. They were. They no longer are. And yet, their ABSENCE is more present to you now than they ever were before.

It doesn’t ever really get better, but you adjust. That’s acceptance.

I read LOTS of books about grief and grieving in the first few months after mama died. Looking back through them now, I see I didn’t turn down many pages or underline anything like I usually do. The books weren’t all that helpful at the time. They didn’t make me feel any better. I did learn things, though. I recommend reading some now, before you are IN IT. It probably still won’t make you feel any better — when you’re in it! But, I strongly believe we need to bring death and dying into our lives so that we may be kinder, more understanding people for others when they are suffering.

One important thing I learned from the books is that the so-called Stages of Grief aren’t really stages at all. They are feelings you experience, but they don’t occur neatly in order or in stages with beginnings and ends. You don’t graduate from one to the next. You just feel them, repeatedly and in different orders, possibly forever. And THAT is grief.

Which brings me back to the problem of tenses. It has almost been four years since I lost Mama. I can still get just as angry and sad as ever. And, Benny’s barking is definitely a trigger. He is a constant, often irritating reminder of my loss and how my life has changed. But, because of Benny, I have learned acceptance. I love this bad dog more than I ever imagined I could or would. I don’t love not having my mom, but I love having Benny in my life.

Mama loved Willie possibly more than Benny!

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