I'm one of those rare people who looks forward to Monday mornings.
Part of the reason I look forward to Monday is because it means I got past Sunday, the hardest day of the week, a that used to be so full of tears and remembrance in the earlier stages of my grief.
But last night I noticed I had another Sunday that wasn't so bad.
Welcome, fellow travelers on the grief journeyI've written before for TGR about my problems with Sundays. Sunday evenings were hard for most of my life. I think I might've picked that up from my mother. One of my earliest memories is of overhearing her tell someone that she used to get sad when Bonanza came on, because that meant that Monday was coming and it was time to go back to work. So I may have picked up a Sunday=sad vibe from her. I don't know.
and a special welcome to anyone new to The Grieving Room.
We meet every Monday evening.
Whether your loss is recent, or many years ago;
whether you've lost a person, or a pet;
or even if the person you're "mourning" is still alive,
("pre-grief" can be a very lonely and confusing time),
you can come to this diary and say whatever you need to say.
We can't solve each other's problems,
but we can be a sounding board and a place of connection.
Unlike a private journal
here, you know: your words are read by people who
have been through their own hell.
There's no need to pretty it up or tone it down..
It just is.
Sundays back home in Washington DC we would go to her sister's house where my grandparents also lived, and have a big Sunday dinner in the late afternoon. Sundays were family time. I was an only child who spent most of the week alone: waking up in an empty house and getting myself ready for school because mom had already left for work. Coming home to an empty house making my own dinner and going to bed because my mom was working overtime. Sunday was the day of the week when I knew I was going to have company. Not just my mom's company but other relatives. We would go to my aunt and uncle's house and my cousin would be there and my grandparents would be there and other relatives would come by or drop in for dinner. Sunday was a time to be with people before going back to a week of isolation again.
Other Sunday childhood memories I've written about include watching TV with her late on Sunday nights: me lying on the floor in front of the TV while she was reclining on the sofa. Both of us warm under blankets with pillows under our heads. Potato chips to snack on and Mission Impossible on TV. Sunday was a time to be with mom.
When I went away to school and moved away from home, I called her at 11 PM on Sunday nights. No matter where I was, no matter what I was doing. 11 PM was when the long distance rates went down. (yes, phone calls used to cost a different amount at different times of day, kids! And long distance calls cost more than local ones! Damn I'm old.)
She would not have cared if I called person to person collect in the middle of the day. She would have paid any amount to hear from me. I think the (false) economy was mine. And it stings to realize that I called her at 11pm on Sunday nights when I knew she had to get up at 5 AM in the morning to go to work. She put up with that because she wanted to hear from me. And if I was feeling bad or if I was upset with her and I missed a week, I know that she was watching that phone wondering why it didn't ring. I still have a lot of regrets about that.
So many years later after she moved in with me, I tried to make Sunday special for both of us. I had to leave her alone in the apartment for hours while I went to work but when I came back I would always bring her fresh flowers and put them on her bedside table. I would stop on the way home and buy something really good for dinner, some favorite dish I would cook for her, or something from one of our favorite take-out places. We always had "special dinner" on Sundays. And then after special dinner, after the dishes were in the dishwasher, after all the personal cleansing was done and we were ready for bed, I would light a candle and we would have a time of prayer and hymn singing. We had a nightly bedtime ritual during the week too, but Sunday was extra special. It was like a home worship service. Church for two.
Sometimes we didn't get to it until very late. I got home from the 6:00 service at about 9, especially since I usually stopped at the store for flowers and food. Then we had a late dinner—and often that was my first/only meal of the day because I had been so back to back busy since sunup. I was always exhausted by the time we were ready for our service, even when we got to it earlier in the evening, but our Sunday ritual meant a lot to both of us. We couldn't skip it. She struggled to stay awake for it no matter what time it was, but she looked forward to that time with me. I was so frazzled during the rest of the week that Sunday night was the only time she could have my undivided attention. The phone didn't ring and nobody sent an email and all the errands were done and there was nothing to take me away from her. I was all hers even if she was half asleep and I was just sitting at her bedside holding her hand reading quietly to her. I think she enjoyed our Sundays.
I know she did.
So as I've written before in TGR, Sunday nights were very hard for me after she died. Our phone calls, our TV watching, our special dinners, our prayer times, the one candle burning, the fresh cut flowers in the glass vase—I ached for those things. For a while I tried to do all of it without her. I tried to call other people on Sunday nights. Family, friends. It wasn't the same. I tried to have special dinner, but it just made me sad to cook for one. When I moved to my new apartment, I lit a candle on Sunday night and bought myself fresh flowers and tried to make Sunday special, but it didn't work. It only made me feel worse.
This went on for years.
So yesterday it wonderful to notice that I had another good Sunday. And I had had a really long day on only 3 1/2 hours sleep, including a long meeting after church, and then traveling to another meeting in the suburbs, a three hour meeting, after which I had a two hour bus and subway ride to get myself home on public transportation. Normally a day like that would be a recipe for disaster, emotionally.
I think one reason Sundays are going better is because there is better television on Sundays than there used to be. When I first started trying to do Sundays without my mom, I don't remember anything good being on TV on Sundays. In the last few years, it seems there's been a deliberate effort by the networks to put good things on on Sunday nights. Or maybe that's just me. Maybe they were always doing it and I just didn't notice in the midst of my grief. I remember The Tudors was one of the first shows that started giving me something to look forward to on Sundays. Mad Men helped too. Downton Abbey, even though it has that depressing theme song and lots of sad plot twists, has also been a helpful Sunday escape. Right now The Good Wife is really good. And I love me some Neil deGrasse Tyson. Cosmos is a real spirit-lifter.
Last night when I put my key in the lock after a long day on short sleep and two long meetings and no food since breakfast, I was "hungry, angry, lonely tired". I had been holding back tears on the subway, desperate to get home. But I had left the TV on, and as I walked in the door I saw The Good Wife had just started. I turned on the heat, got into more comfortable clothes, warmed up my dinner, and played some computer games with the TV on in the background. After The Good Wife went off I watched my recording of Cosmos. And by then I felt pretty good. Even though I was alone, and even though it was Sunday, and even though I'd had a long drawn out day. I felt pretty good and went to bed thinking it had been a good day overall.
I've been isolating on Sunday nights. I could stop doing that. I could go back to buying fresh flowers. I could buy them just for me! I could be more consistent about having special dinner. I could call my relatives on Sunday nights. Or call some of my other friends. I could do more to help Sundays be better.
I definitely do NOT want this to sound like I'm telling anybody to "do more" about snapping out of their grief. What I mean to say is that I'm noticing a willingness to do more for myself. And that by itself is an indication that my grief has improved. I'm not saying that people who are deeply grieving should give themselves a hard time for not making extra effort. It's the willingness to make extra effort that shows the healing has begun. I do not think that extra effort by itself can force healing to come ahead of its time, because I certainly did try very hard when things were at their worst and it didn't make things better.
But now that things are better, a little bit of trying harder pays off a great deal.
I had a bad week last week. I was isolating. I did try to reach out to some friends. I sent out an email saying "I feel bad". And my friends answered me with inspirational poems, and other words of encouragement. And yesterday was a pretty good day for a Sunday. So I'm trying a little harder to hang on and fight back. Spring is coming and light is coming and I have to believe that things will get better.
Do you have a hard time with Sundays? Is there a day of the week that is harder than the other days? Are the the weekdays easier than the weekend? Or maybe it is the other way around? Are you in a stuck place where no amount of effort helps, and you have no energy to fight against grief-induced despair? Or are you at the point where the healing is building on itself and creating more willingness to heal?