Posts Tagged With: bereavement

Can Nothing Feel Like Something?

The pass I’d given myself to wallow, read, sleep, and grieve, expired its “use by” date about a month ago.

“I’m sorry ma’am, that coupon isn’t valid anymore.”

Somehow things suddenly kicked into high gear a couple of weeks ago and my mind and body filled up the space and time I rent from the life library. I went back to the gym, put away my pile of “to read” books, started a new volunteer project, began cooking dinners, even made bread, and made headway with the  stuffpiles that inhabit every room in the house.

photo by Sarang

photo by Sarang

In other words, my life shifted into a new normal. At least I thought so.

Two nights ago, MSH said something completely innocent and ordinary, and with his words the doorknob to my emotional storeroom clicked.

The door opened.

The air changed not in a physical sense, but just as clearly as the temperature and smell in a house changes when a door gets left open in midwinter, I knew something was different.

Can nothing feel like something?

Yes. Without argument. Absolutely yes.

I felt the loss of my best friend as raw and new as January. Instantly.

That emotional door allowed an onslaught of emptiness and loss to escape. I could no more push it away than a person can shove the cold air back outside and slam the door on it. The cold inhabits the room. It takes time and effort to reheat the inside air.

Two days, almost three, and I’ve felt lost again, unable to force away limbo and hurt and sorrow.

It’s not like I’m constantly thinking about her. Not at all. It’s more like her absence inhabits me. How does an emptiness fill something? I have no idea. I just know that’s what it feels like.

There’s a mental numbness involved as well. I find myself not engaging in conversations, barely following the words, the back and forth of it. My body’s in the room, but my mind, my focus, simply isn’t anywhere.

Photograph by Tomasz Sienicki

Photograph by Tomasz Sienicki

What do I do about it?

I don’t know. Keep breathing. Keep moving. Do.

Or maybe I need to not do anything. Maybe I give myself over to the feeling of loss, all over again. Sit in my porch swing and stare, again. Cry randomly, again. Pray more than normal, again. Muster up energy to respond to texts and emails, again. Sleep way too much, again. Stand around aimlessly and unproductive, again.

I’m guessing this sensation will go away eventually. I’m expecting that writing about it, out loud, here, might help.

It might come back again, too. I think grief does these looping things. It’s not a linear, stage by stage processing of the loss, but a kind of wandering path of varying emotions or lack of them. Occasionally the paths cross, I wander on to a different one without even realizing I’ve changed direction.

Don’t get me wrong.

I don’t feel hopeless.

That isn’t it at all. I just feel lost. Lost. Lost. Lost. Or empty. Very empty. Very very empty. As if I’ve been poured out on the sand and absorbed.

Wow. That sounds horrible. It isn’t as bad as it sounds, but then it isn’t really great either.

I’m fine. Really.

It’s just…grief.

This thing:

Grief is a multifaceted response to loss, particularly to the loss of someone or something to which a bond was formed. Although conventionally focused on the emotional response to loss, it also has physical, cognitive, behavioral, social, spiritual, and philosophical dimensions.” ~Wikipedia

Sounds complicated.

Multifaceted response?

Dimensions?

Ten dollar words to describe and define sadness, sorrow, emptiness, hurt, and the left-behind perspective.

It’s today’s normal for me. And apparently yesterday and the day before. Maybe tomorrow and the next. We’ll see. Like a lifeboat on the ocean I’ll just drift about and see where the current takes me.

In the meantime, I’ll do my best imitation of a normal person when I’m in public.

There’s this last thought, which I like because it feels hopeful, and it acknowledges that there’s a process in play that I can give myself over to.

“Not knowing when the dawn will come I open every door.” ~ Emily Dickinson

photo by Klaus D. Peter, Wiehl, Germany

photo by Klaus D. Peter, Wiehl, Germany

Categories: Death | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Sudden or Slow?

“Don’t you think it’s much harder to have someone die suddenly than to have them die slowly?”

Multiple myeloma (1) MG stain

Multiple myeloma. Don’t let the pretty color fool you, this is wicked stuff.

A room full of ten women recently heard that question. The one asking is dying slowly. It’s a process that’s being going on for the past four and half years. The one she was asking lost her husband unexpectedly to death six months ago. Neither of these women qualify as old, not by any stretch of the imagination. They are young and at the peak of life’s gifts and joys and grinds.

What a stunning question to ask someone straight out when they’ve suffered such a horrendous loss.

It caught my breath. But they’ve both earned the right at such honesty about  a difficult subject.

But there’s no topic off-limits in that group. Not anymore. Ten years ago, maybe. Now. No.

A short list of some the other losses for that group of friends:

  • Two have cared for a dying or dementia ridden parent who then died.
  • A mother died from cancer.
  • A mother died after a long, long life.
  • A best friend dying suddenly in an accident.
  • A husband suffered a massive coronary, lived, but has lost earning capacity, mental acuity and vitality.
  • A sister with brain cancer.
  • Parents died at the hands of a drunk driver when she was eleven.

The Answer to that question is…

The conclusion was that sudden death was harder to deal with. No warning. No chances to say goodbye, to say last important words.

Although, the slow dying thing isn’t exactly fun for anyone involved either.

My friends talked about extra weeks purchased at the cost of hail-Mary chemo treatments. Talk of hospice and bereavement counseling also bantered about the room.

Honestly, I felt myself trying to physically create an emotional wall in that room. I kept turning my head away from this wrenching discussion, visualizing a barrier, willing my hearing to deafen instantly. Even now, writing about it, I’m leaning away from that side of the room, trying to create distance from such personal stabs of knife twisting pain.

I can’t, I won’t, I don’t want to deal with it.

There’s no escaping though.

We’re all dying slowly.

But that’s not the point is it?

The point is living in the meantime.

Velcade Chemo treatment: Cycle 2, Week 2

Velcade Chemo treatment (Photo credit: tyfn)

That isn’t always easy. Filled to the brim with mean poisons, your body overrun with side-effects, doped up on painkillers to survive the treatment that’s supposed to buy you more time, how do you make use of such poor quality time? How do you smile when the pain is excruciating? How does someone do anything useful, check any tiny thing off their bucket list, interact with their loved ones in a meaningful way under such circumstances? Cancer and its treatment is a personal tornado that rips lives to shreds.

Or maybe your challenges are slightly less complicated than that. Maybe you have chronic pain or a life altering illness. Perhaps you’re unemployed. Maybe you’re always worried about finances. Perhaps you work in a horrid place. Maybe your spouse makes life unbearable. Your parent might need additional care. Your child could have learning difficulties. Your car is unreliable. Loneliness haunts you. Your past feels inescapable.

Or maybe, if you’re lucky, it’s just garden-variety stuff. Busy schedules, sore muscles, what to fix for dinner for the zillionth time, a curfew-breaking teen, piles of bills needing attention, the mountain of laundry requiring scaling, a leaking roof, a tooth ache, weeds.

Living in the moment while living in the reality we find ourselves in. Not always easy. Rarely easy, actually.

Have we created a now that includes eternity or is now all there is? What’s your perspective? Immediate, long-term, short-term? Or maybe with blinders on? That’s a tempting option, but not a great one. How do you get through? What’s your coping strategy?

Death is coming for us all, eventually. Sooner or later. That’s the only way out.

What are we doing in the meantime?

Categories: Death, Mental Health, Wondering | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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