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Two things happened yesterday. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a speech about LGBT rights as human rights. It was awesome, moving, logical, articulate, passionate. At the same time, President Obama signed an order directing all US agencies to promote and protect the rights of gay people.
And a friend of mine lost her partner.
I cried when Secretary Clinton said, “Gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.” and again when she said, “It is a violation of human rights when people are beaten or killed because of their sexual orientation, or because they do not conform to cultural norms about how men and women should look or behave.”
I cried when I learned of the loss of my friend and fellow writer, Mari SanGiovanni.
I don’t know why these two things affected me so personally. I don’t understand what they share in common. They both happened on the same day. They both moved me to tears.
I am cynical about political speeches, having heard too many fine words that were followed by no change as promised in the moving rhetoric. I am hardened to loss, having suffered too much of it.
Yet I cried. Still.
The are five stages to grief, as propounded by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I can relate from my own experience that these are not stages but waves, floods, and they do not progress in a linear fashion, but wash over and through you together, all at once, and you can drown in any one of these deep pools. You can get stuck in anger unable to find the waterfall that sweeps you into depression, unable to resist the swift current of denial or the whirlpool of bargaining, and and you can swim as hard as you want to reach the soothing, waters of acceptance, and you just want to float, and look at the sky, and hope that you can rest. Then another one comes, and it is a tsunami, and you are swept back into denial or anger or depression when you thought you had successfully navigated them, and they were supposed to be behind you.
Grief is a snaky, curved thing, with few peaceful eddies, with tall banks that block the view of whatever comes next.
I don’t know why I was so deeply and emotionally affected by a friend’s loss. I never met Mari’s partner. I did not know her.
The five stages of grief are not stepping stones that carry you from one side to the other.
This morning, the anger is back, for me. If it is a stepping stone to something easier to bear, then let the easier thing come. Let the easier thing wash me clean. I want the soothing waters, not this flood.
Kim and Mari.