A short list of how you behave in grief
I wish I could write a small primer for the next person who experiences this. Hand it to them, hug them with my infamous enveloping hugs and walk away. It’s very hard to maneuver. This. Particularly some sort of traumatic loss. If I had had time spent anticipating her dying I think this would feel different. Not less, only not as hard edged. I get it now that something major happened to me. I still have the paper my therapist gave me on Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s Five Stage of Grief. I unfold it and fold it and stick in my glove compartment and carry it around in my bra. I read it and crumble it up and then smooth it out and try and look at it like an expedition I’m going on. Only it’s a shitty trip up or down the mountain. It’s not glamourous. There are no roadside attractions you’d want to visit.
I research complicated grief. It’s a recently recognized condition that occurs in about 7% of bereaved people. It’s a disorder and I get worried I have it. But then I can find moments of joy and I can actually understand that my mother is gone. She is on the other side of somewhere and I can’t touch her anymore. I can pull myself out of this depressive pit and seek joy still. I know I can. It just doesn’t stay afloat. I drift. It’s worrisome for people to know what’s normal. What the fuck is normal? We are only repeating these motions we know. We are only doing what we know. And here where we live, we are completely removed from death. We are only a living society. We are alive and beautiful and fast. We do not acknowledge death. We run away from it. We shut our eyes.
No one taught me how to die yet.
No one taught me how to live after someone dies.
Some things I know 180 days after
You may feel disconnected from yourself and life feels like a music video all slowed down. I feel like I am a photograph with gaussian blur. I felt for a bit that I looked different. Maybe I still feel that. Sometimes I want to call you up and ask you if I look blurry. If my face is still the face you loved?
You may act out and be angry AF and some of you may self-sabotage. People pull their darkness up and over them like a security blanket. The parts you hide away most of the time could possibly come out to play in grief. And it can be shameful and it’s difficult to remind yourself lovingly that this is not who you are. Not all the time.
The world could feel hostile and uninviting and places that once were of great comfort could be triggering. Crowds. Your childhood home. Your favorite bar. A person. It’s sad and confusing. You pep talk the shit out yourself but nothing changes.
You will cry in public and at the most inopportune times.
You will carry this fear around. You are so tender. You are white hot with love. You will learn to pull yourself together immediately. You learn.
And you will pick and choose the people who make you feel good and who are safe havens. This could be hard for other people in your life to accept. This could be hard for those people to accept too. Some people just feel good. So fucking good. Some people remind you so much of her.
You will wonder when you are going to be the person you used to be. You will ask your friends when this will happen and they will feed you and hold you and lie to you. They don’t know either. Or they will tell you the only truth they know. You are different now. But they may not grasp just how different it feels to you. How you want to unzip your skin and step out into the light. Shake yourself clean. You want to rebuild an exact replica of the person you were before this. Before that. You draw an imaginary line in the sand with your toe.
You will want everything to be ok with you and the world. You will want to tell everyone you love that you love them. Pay off any debts. Walk around like an alcoholic in AA. You ask for forgiveness. It is currency now. You are on borrowed time. You worry about yourself and everyone else. You want to live harder and faster and be bold with your love. Only not everyone is ready for that. They want you to laugh like you used to. They want you to be practical. They want to not be afraid of you. You are fragile and it scares them. It scares you more.
You will have to become patient. And it feels like it will kill you.
I have more to say. But I’ve said so much. I always do. I just need you to know that me being able to write it down is saving me. Me imagining you over there in your cozy chair or on your barstool or you at work or you on your bed late at night is comforting. You reading this and being a part of my journey is how I am able to make sense of this beautiful, terrible life.