On Grief (or “When Does This Ever Stop Hurting?”)

Left: my mum and I making cookies 1983. Right: keeping the tradition going with my girlie, 2012.

So Caleb (my 8-year-old) came and saw my show for the very first time (at the Judith Wright Centre a coupla weeks back). I gave him a pretty good pep-talk in the week leading up to it, explaining that he had to show me he was mature enough to handle the fact there’d be some adult words and ideas, and that just because he heard them didn’t mean he was allowed to go ahead and use them!

Anyway, besides it being such a total rockstar joy to see both my kids’ beaming faces in the crowd (and Caleb cracked up particularly loudly, so will be forever noticeable on the resulting DVD!) one of my favourite parts of the whole experience was that they both got to feel like mini-celebs after the show. The post-show buzz was high, everybody was milling about, coming up to us, saying nice things, talking to the kids as well…Caleb beckoned me down so he could whisper in my ear: “Mum. YOU’RE FAMOUS!”

Hehe.

When I asked him if he liked the show, he nodded and said to me, “It was very emotional.”

So sweet. And since then, he’s been saying things to me about how the show made him laugh so much but also made him so sad, because it made him think about Diane (my mum) and how it’s so unfair that he will never get to meet her because he wants to, because she’s his grandma.

It was only a couple of days ago when I was talking to my sister about it all that I really let go and had a big cry. It’s probably been coming for a while. As we hugged each other, I blurted out “When does this ever stop hurting?”

I remember a few years back when I was in Boston doing solo improv coaching with Daena Giardella, this amazing woman. For some reason – probably a combination of jet-lag, missing my kids like crazy, having never been away from them before, plus the intensity of doing what was essentially a one-on-one masterclass in acting – I was an emotional wreck that entire week, with all this heavy grief stuff about my Mum coming up. I couldn’t believe it. I was so angry at myself. Because come on, wasn’t I over this by now? It was so long ago!

But then Daena said to me: “Grief isn’t like a staircase where you work your way up and that’s it, you’re on the upper level now. It’s an elevator. You’re constantly moving up and down the levels, you might stay up at one for a long time but it doesn’t mean you’re a failure if you find yourself back down a few!”

I’ll always remember that.

On the plus side, I know living with grief has made me focus on making the most of life while I’m here, a huge part of which is making sure that I appreciate the time that I have with my own kids, knowing that it’s more than she had with hers.

It does have its ups.

But it never stops hurting.

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