A Few Words on that WandaVision Quote on my Dead Wife’s Birthday
When I first saw the quote, I had no idea it was from a show at all, let alone WandaVision. I’d watched the first couple episodes, enjoyed them, and got distracted by everything else that’s going on in this godforsaken world. By the time I regained enough spoons to watch the show, I had absorbed enough of the cultural zeitgeist to understand that it was about grief, and I declined to watch.
I’m not a huge MCU fan. I haven’t watched Endgame because I never finished watching whichever fucking movie came before it because it was boring my tits off. So I initially experienced those words with no sense of context whatsoever.
There are going to be people who read this—assuming people read this—who want to give me that context. I’m going to tell you all right now that I don’t give a shit about the context, and that if you insist on blathering on about it, I’m going to ignore you or worse.
I don’t give a shit about the context because it’s not really about the quote and it’s not really about the show. It’s about this thing we’ve done as a society where we romanticize grief in our art.
It’s bullshit and it should stop. I have no illusions that it will, but it should, so I’ll answer the question.
What is Grief if not Love Persevering?
It is pain—immeasurable, incalculable, incomprehensible pain.
Love is a two-way street. You cannot love someone from afar. That’s admiration, affection, or some kind of creepy obsession. You cannot love someone through the filters of Facebook, Instagram, and whatever the fuck TikTok is.
You have to get close enough to see the real them. The cliché is that you have to take them at their worst to deserve them at their best, but that doesn’t go far enough. You have to smell their farts. You have to comb the tangles out of their hair. You have to rub icy hot on their back when they wake up at 3 AM with a back spasm.
You have to be comfortable with all the mundane ugliness they don’t share with anyone else. And you have to be comfortable sharing all the mundane ugliness you don’t share with anyone else.
It’s a two-way street and it’s not just the most important thing in your life, it’s the biggest thing in your world. It doesn’t just occupy most of your time, it occupies the time you’re not spending on some kind of social performance.
When you’re wearing your ratty sweats and you haven’t showered that day because you just don’t have the motivation, who are you with? That’s who you love, and that’s who loves you.
It’s a two-way street.
Until it’s not.
How Dare the World Keep Turning?
Losing the love of your life is like having the bulk of your life amputated by an amateur surgeon with a rusty hacksaw.
It doesn’t just hurt; it hurts more than those who haven’t experienced it can possibly imagine.
It doesn’t just hurt and heal. It never heals. It scabs over from time to time, but that scab is inevitably ripped off when something reminds you of your loss.
Because it’s not just losing a finger. It’s not just losing an entire leg. It’s losing a trillion connections to the foundations of your existence.
It’s seeing a family of deer in the backyard and realizing you’ll never again hear her delighted little squeal at the cuteness of it all.
It’s waking up in the middle of the night and reaching over to her side of the bed to make sure she’s there—because that makes everything okay—and she’s not.
It’s having inside jokes and nobody to share them with.
It’s like having an answer that nobody has the question to.
It’s feeling relief that the fight is over and guilt for being relieved.
It’s regretting every single time you could have been a better husband and weren’t.
It’s wanting to stop hurting while knowing she deserves your grief.
It’s regretting every single dream you shared that you couldn’t make come true.
It’s knowing that the worst thing you’ve ever done in your life is telling the doctor to take her off life support and forever fearing that she heard you.
It’s knowing that the worst thing you’ve ever done is the only thing you could do and not feeling even the slightest bit better about anything.
Grief is not Romantic
Not with a big R. Not with a small one. It is pain and fear and guilt and shame wrapped in hopelessness and helplessness and taken to an extreme we’d need new words to describe.