"You ought to be ashamed of yourself," said Alice, "a great girl like you," (she might well say this), "to go on crying in this way! Stop this moment, I tell you!" But she went on all the same, shedding gallons of tears, until there was a large pool all round her, about four inches deep and reaching half down the hall.
Lewis Carroll, Alice In Wonderland
It's been years since the eighties and early nineties, since the dark days of AIDS and loss after loss of too many beautiful people. And yet, there are times when those dark days are with me as freshly as if they were yesterday.
I don't suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). From everything I've read about it, PTSD has very specific symptoms and I don't have those. What I'm calling it is "accumulated grief" - where I've held the grief inside and it compounds over years. Some memories from the past are lost, but the grief is in my bones lying dormant until something triggers it and it bursts through my skin.
And as I've grown older that original grief is added to by the deaths of others: my mother, my partner, other people I've known, even celebrities that I have some connection to. Grief upon grief upon grief until it seems there's no more space for it in my mind.
But there's always more space...
"... I think there are many of us that carry our losses just under the surface and that at any point, something might be the right trigger to let it loose."
When Whitney Houston died I found myself listening to her songs and weeping for 2 hours. The grief bubbling up and coming out. The pain of so many losses spilling over because the cup can't hold it any longer.
I wonder how many of us suffer with accumulated grief. The more people I talk to the more I think there are many of us that carry our losses just under the surface and that at any point, something might be the right trigger to let it loose. For those of us who work in HIV, we may feel this even more sharply - and not just those of us living with HIV, but HIV-negative people as well.
I think that the weeping is good. It's a release of sorrow in a world where we're often faced with being "strong" and pushing forward no matter how much pain we feel or how much we just want it all to go away - or we want to run away. Then again, running does nothing, because that grief comes with us wherever we go.
The triggers for me that allow the release of pain are many and varied. I can cry over commercials at Christmas, a song, news of someone's passing, a memory that surfaces from out of nowhere. And for each of us that allow ourselves that space to weep to the depths of our souls the triggers are personal and unique.
I have no clear answer about how to deal with that accumulated grief. Each of us has to find our own ways to allow it to manifest and how we move through it. And in a way, I suppose I'm thankful for that grief - it reminds me that I'm human and it reminds me that I still care and feel deeply.
My pool of tears, in a way, are precious to me.