An Onion Life.

by Lori Dwyer on December 8, 2011 · 24 comments

‘This is what we Japanese called the “onion life”- peeling away a layer at a time and crying all the while.’
Memoirs of a Geisha, Arthur Golden.

Some days I just cry.

It’s not anything in particular that sets it off, makes it worse. It’s just the way it is, some days… some days I live through a veil of tears that I am unable to stop. Holding them in just means they release themselves in a symphony of hiccuped, breath drawing sobs, rather than a silent flowing river of silver pain.

“I’m not buying you another box of tissues,” my mother jests gently. “Pull your socks up, calm down and get on with it.”

I am getting on with it, I tell her. My socks are so high they suffocate me. As I speak to her phone, I am folding a load of washing fresh from the dryer, tears coursing my cheeks as I do so.

This is, I think, the way of those of us who are grieving deeply, keening over losing the loss of someone so close, be it a husband, baby, someone else who kisses your soul… you keep living, you keep doing things, shedding a thousand tears as you go.

The onion life, as they say. Stripping away a layer at a time, crying all the while… not financially, or with material possessions, as in the book it’s quoted from. In this context it’s layers rubbed off my poor, weary soul, exposing the flesh underneath all over again, before it’s even begun to heal.

So, those of us who mourn as I do…. we cry as we go on with life. We sob as we fill out paperwork for mundane medical medical matters, we keen softly while we mop our floors. Tears run down our cheeks as we make rumpled beds. A river of pain and sadness and regrets wells on our cheeks as we take the meat from the freezer from dinner.

Why…? Because there is simply not enough time to cry, to mourn, to grieve and wallow. Life goes on far before we’re ready, far before we’ve had time to process the damage that’s been done, cry all the tears we need to.

A life punctuated by crying. It can’t be like this forever… surely it’s just the grief, washing itself away, over and over and over again.

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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

K December 18, 2011 at 3:25 pm

I hear you in this post and the next. Divorced. 2 young boys. Things and I will never be the same. Tears in the car, cooking, folding washing, looking at housework. Never ending. Resentment. Struggling to find joy in the children. Impatient. Pain. Wondering every day what is it all for? Mean to myself. Dislike. Cynical. Regret. Loss. I don't think I'll ever be the same and I hate myself for it.


Livi December 13, 2011 at 7:09 am

oh sweety *hugs* one day it will stop xxx


Angela (Solo Mum) December 10, 2011 at 1:53 pm

Lori I remember the tears and they do seem like they will be a new forever companion to random daily activities – folding washing, doing dishes, driving, walking, sitting, thinking, sleeping. And for the longest time, they are.

Let the tears come and then let them go too <3 The level of emotional clensing required after what you've survived is such that its gonna take a *lot* of tears… so many tears that you will probably forget/give up hope that there will be a time when your spirit is truely renewed.

But by stealth it will happen and one day, your spirit will sing and you will realise that renewal has happened and your are living in yet another *after*… one you will reflect with surprise is quite ok, quite agreeable, and even regularly beautiful.


Kelloggsville December 9, 2011 at 6:50 am

Today I had a hospital procedure. When the nurse said 'why are you crying' I could only answer 'just a little worried' and looked a fool. I could not say because the last time I was sat in a booth like this I was holding a dying man's hand. My onion layers. Thank you for voicing something I couldn't and helping me to let it out xx I think the other comments you've had will help you more than this but thank you for helping me xx


Anonymous December 9, 2011 at 4:35 am

Cry yourself a river, then dive in, do some back strokes, float around a bit, enjoy the salty water. You are certainly allowed to grieve for as long as you need to. But I do agree with your mom, that at some point you must put the big girl panties back on and well, try your best to make the rest of the short time we get to be on this earth as wonderful as you can. But for now, you are entitled to be as sad (or happy)as you like. What Tony did was CRAP. But you loved the man so very much, you must grieve him and the life that once was. My heart goes out to you and your kids!!!! Lisa


Anonymous December 9, 2011 at 3:36 am

Lori, I have been reading for a while also but this is the first time I have posted. Not sure why it's taken me so long? My heart aches for you. I am so, so sorry for your's & your babies loss. I wish there was some way I could help you through this, even just some small way. Thinking of you. Natalie x


Melissa December 8, 2011 at 10:51 pm

Oh Lori. Yes. Yes. Yes. I can't help but think of this in medical terms. Your body knows something is deeply wounded inside of you and the tears wash it away, a teeny bit at a time. Keeping things clean, moving forward, healing.
Love love love.
Cry all you need to.


Eccentricess December 8, 2011 at 9:39 pm

Mourning seems to have become a privilege. What you said about crying as you go through the motions of daily life touched me. Yesterday, while stretching in class, the tears welled and overflowed and I just kept stretching. Then onwards to the dancing, with red eyes and everyone facing front so no queries.
We live and we mourn and we laugh and it is the now.


Veronica @ Mixed Gems December 8, 2011 at 9:05 pm

This is a powerful post, full of pain, yet with hope too. It leaves me needing to say something but almost speechless as well. You have a beautiful way with words reaching deep into the heart and soul of your readers.


Miss Pink December 8, 2011 at 8:02 pm

Are you still getting councelling? Or was that a temporary thing??

I like the onion thing. I think it can explain a feeling well, the suffocation of having emotional pain piled up.

I also think it's so brave you cry. So so brave.


Donna December 8, 2011 at 7:51 pm

Oh you take my breath away with this… I can imagine it must be the simplest acts that can cut the most… Grief is a beast that knows no bounds. Your tears are allowed, you do as you need to x


Vicky December 8, 2011 at 7:46 pm

salt water – be it the sea, or the tears you shed is healing… You are healing my love. x


Amanda December 8, 2011 at 6:39 pm

So beautifully (and accurately) written.


Jane December 8, 2011 at 4:59 pm

oh lori,
grief has no fixed form…it is what it is. Cry, go with it, take action, keep living, cry, reminisce, cry, resent, cry, feel the missing pieces, cry, laugh, cry, keep living.
Everyday doesnt have to be positive to be successful.
much love


Shelley December 9, 2011 at 1:23 am

Your right, there just isn't enough time to mourn, life just keeps happening, going forward. Its good to cry, cry as much as you need for as long as you need. Huge hugs Xx


Lynda Halliger-Otvos December 8, 2011 at 2:16 pm

Lori-it has been three and a half Years since my sister dropped dead at 49 and I still cry every single day .. usually more than once.

Added to my only sister's death are co-workers: three from same job, patients, first circle friends, neighbors, and the son of dying patient…

My only younger brother too, just barely six months ago.

Does living get better or easier for me? It's different but no better since that Sunday night in July when a ringing phone sounded hours too late for good news.

Hope your psyche settles down as time goes by.


Darnie December 8, 2011 at 2:16 pm

Have been following your blog silently for a while Lori. The onion thing is grief, layers and layers of it. Every time you cry you peel away another tiny layer and make it smaller. Crying is so good for you. The loss of dreams may never go away but the intensity of your feelings will gradually subside until one day you will be able to think..the grief is gone. But the whole process can't be hurried and you need to take your own time and be gentle with yourself. You are obviously an incredibly strong person just to be able to look after two little kids with what you have been through. I am a 62 yr old mother and grandmother and I say … have a good cry and you will feel better. Xx


Martha December 8, 2011 at 1:59 pm

Turn this up loud:
(Holly Cole: Cry if you want to)


Wanderlust December 8, 2011 at 1:40 pm

"We keen softly while we mop our floors." God, that, exactly. You nailed it. Sending you peace and hugs. x


Amy xxoo December 8, 2011 at 1:14 pm

And if you remember the end of that book Sayuri ends up a survivor. She may not get everything she ever wanted, but she comes through the other side and she survives.
And so will you.


enlightned-one December 8, 2011 at 10:39 am

Sad but beautiful xxxxxx


Krista December 8, 2011 at 9:26 am

Yes. Just yes. I believe it's just washing itself away.


Claire December 8, 2011 at 9:04 am

Sending love your way as you work through the onion life, my dear.



Toni December 8, 2011 at 10:58 am

Oh, Lori, you expressed that perfectly. There ISN'T enough time to mourn.


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