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June 13, 2013

I’m staring at the laptop, trying to think of a good way to sum up what I’ve done since I last wrote here.

Well, let’s see. School ended in a flurry of concerts and class plays and standardized tests and half-days. My older son got his driver’s license. My ex-husband moved. I’m sure I will have things to say about all of this at some point.

But for now I’m still muddling along feeling stupid and slow. I drove to get the children at their father’s new house (half an hour away, very inconvenient, the mind boggles) and bumped right into his lovely girlfriend, who was walking her dog on the street. She hugged me. “I’m so sorry about your grandmother,” she said, and I started to cry. Well, that’s an exaggeration. My throat closed up and there were tears and I had to stare at the sidewalk in mortification, and she (bless her heart) got all teary-eyed too and when I could speak, she hugged me again and said, “For god’s sake, don’t worry about crying, I cry at the drop of a hat,” which made things worse. I wish crying were cathartic for me. It never is. I can’t ever progress past the initial stages, unless I’m shitfaced, and I’m never shitfaced any more.

Everyone–you helpful commenters included–suggested I needed time to simply be sad, and so I decided to take a week and do absolutely nothing. I finished an assignment and turned it in on time (this felt like a small miracle, actually) and then I set about wasting several days in a row. I read some books. I went for walks. I swam in the pool, which opened on Memorial Day. I hung around with the children, and drove them here and there, and sat on the sidelines at baseball, and watched my younger son’s class sing songs and perform little skits based on Aesop. I went to my boyfriend’s chorus concert and his daughter’s dance recital and ate dinner with his family afterwards, and through it all I felt as if I were underwater, dead to the world and separate from it. Then school ended and the week became a second week. For fourteen days now I’ve done nothing, and I’m fine as long as I don’t think too hard, or as long as no one is kind to me.

The one bright spot has been a renewed closeness with my brother and sister, both of whom feel the way I do about our grandmother. My sister in particular has been a tremendous comfort. “She loved you. You shared a name. It’s terribly sad when that connection ends,” she told me just today, after noting that not even adopting a Labrador retriever puppy has managed to cheer her up.

I’m starting to feel twinges of occasional guilt, but it’s mostly abstract. There is work I should do, there are projects I intended to start this summer, my driver’s license has expired, the usual chores await. Doctor’s appointments, financial matters, phone calls to insurance agents, thank-you notes. But the children are out of school and around all day next week before the older one starts work and the younger one starts day camp, so I may just coast a bit longer. Another week. Why not? I’m rereading murder mysteries whose culprits I misremember. I go to bed early, sleep poorly, rise late. The kids are a comfort. The days just go by, one after another, at a remove.

And I guess I’ll miss my grandmother forever. The simplest revelations still astonish. Today, for instance, I thought, I will never see her again. Not exactly rocket science, but somehow it shattered me.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. June 14, 2013 12:20 am

    I’m so sorry. I wish there were a way to say that that sounded deeper and looked as sincere as I truly mean it.

    I don’t know if it’s too early for this to help you at all, but I know for myself when the loss of someone from my life drags me down I try to remember that my being so distraught is the last thing that person would want. My grandmother would hate it if I let my grief over her absence take away from enjoying the things I have. I know she would want me to smile when I think of her, not cry. Keeping that in mind doesn’t make the pain go away, but it does somehow give me permission to enjoy life without feeling like I’m betraying what she meant to me.

    I wish there were something more I could offer.

  2. cruella permalink
    June 14, 2013 5:20 am

    Sadness and loss often bring a heap of other built-up sorrows that haven’t been handled for some reason. Many serious things have happened in your life the past few years. Take care.

  3. June 14, 2013 6:51 am

    I am so sorry, and wish I had much of use to offer. I recognize the heavy/ blanked-out feeling, though when I have felt similarly it was more likely to be a return of the depression I’ve been coping with since teenage years, than grief, so I don’t know. Two things, historically have been able to make it go away: Something new I had to do (once it was just a difficult thing I had to do at work) or an illness or injury. I once cut my hand washing a glass and the attendant issues around that (getting stitches, bandages, and doing things one-handedly) blew the depression I was in at the time right out of the water. I am not suggesting that you pursue this, of course; my point is that (I think) the pysche can only deal with one challenge at a time. . .and life being what it is, a new challenge will come along.
    I only mention it because you seem worried that this will go on forever. It won’t. It can’t.

    I like what your first commenter said. Give yourself permission (even if you can’t do it right now) to enjoy life, because it is what your grandmother would want for you.

  4. Susan permalink
    June 14, 2013 9:08 am

    I’m so sorry about your grandmother.

    Grief takes time and lots and lots of energy. It used to be that people wore mourning for a full year after a loss like yours. I remember reading that that actually lines up with about how long it takes to “process” a loss. I think grief is like ocean surf: you have to learn how to ride the waves, recognize when the next one’s coming, and even acknowledge that sometimes the wave will take you for a tumble.

    I’m glad you’re being gentle with yourself!

  5. June 14, 2013 10:46 am

    My dad died 18 months ago and the fact that I will never see him again still hits me like a truck. I hope that one day soon my memories will be comforting and joyful and not invoke sadness. I hope the same for you too.

  6. Was Living Down Under permalink
    June 14, 2013 12:59 pm

    I understand.

    My dad passed away this winter after a brief and sudden illness. The first few weeks afterwards I was still numb. Spent my days sitting staring at a wall. I know what you mean but not getting past the initial stages of crying. I found it helpful to be by myself, in the middle of the night and letting myself cry even though it felt weird to do it. And it doesn’t wash it away. It doesn’t necessarily feel cathartic. But going through it can be helpful in that what fills you up is emptied – even if for a second.

    I will always miss my father. I will always regret things I may have or have not done to/with him. I know, that as my father, he loved me and there was no forgiveness required. But my heart will always be heavy. I miss him for my children who loved him. Especially for my little boy who spent the entire funeral standing on my leg so that he could peer into the casket. I ached when I took my boy to the mosque months after the funeral and he asked if we could go to the front to see his grandfather sleeping. I ache constantly.

    I understand and I wish you peace.

  7. June 14, 2013 3:14 pm

    I hope you don’t mind me commenting. I only discovered your blog very recently, when Belgian Waffling linked to your recent post, and following which I lost whole nights reading through your blog. Your posts about your grandmother reverberated through me, so familiar were your feelings. I lost my grandmother seven and a half years ago now, and it sounds like you had a very similar relationship to us. Your line about loving you in a way noone else ever has encapsulated exactly the grief I felt, and the loss I still feel (though much less frequently) of the person who was proud of me just for walking into a room, and seemed so wise, yet so fun, I think we spent our whole shared lifetime growing more in awe, and more respectful, and more loving of each other, and we idolised each other yet felt we were equals all at once.

    I was, in essence, the baby of the family, being only 20 when she died, so I imagine the demands on my time were very different to yours as a mother. But I must reiterate the need to take time. I was at university and I asked to take four weeks off and do that block later in the year instead. I didn’t feel better after those four weeks, but I didn’t feel worse. I hadn’t tried to muster the strength to plough on (which would be my usual approach), and I don’t doubt it has helped in the long term. Don’t add guilt on to the list of emotions you are feeling now, it sounds like you are doing exactly what you need to do.

    I am not going to promise it all gets better, that isn’t what you need, and everyone is different. There will be other thoughts and realisations that shatter you, even now I have days I feel she would have exactly the right answer if only she were here. If you do ever want to talk with a complete stranger please feel free to drop me an email. Continue to take care of yourself, and the rest will follow eventually.

  8. June 14, 2013 4:37 pm

    How was it that Cary Tennis described the work of grief? Like moving an enormous pile of rice grains from one room to another, one grain at a time? There’s no shortcut and you can’t not do it, but at some point – it is different for everyone – you wake up, and realize that the last grain of rice has been moved. I’m not sure what happens then – not angels singing, not life the way it was, but maybe just a feeling that you have done the work you needed to do.

  9. June 17, 2013 11:18 am

    That moment when you say to yourself, “I will never see her again.” is so starkly awful. And it’s never just one moment, you have to keep having it over and over. It’s not quite so hard many years on but for the ones I was closest too I still sometimes stumble on one of those moments. I don’t know if you have any love for silly pop culture but I am an enormous Joss Whedon fan. He seems to have processed the death of his mother by writing it into an episode of one of his series. This quote is, to me, one of the clearest illustrations of those “never” moments and it never fails to hit me in the gut. “I was having fruit punch, and I thought, well, Joyce will never have any more fruit punch ever, and she’ll never have eggs, or yawn or brush her hair, not ever, and no one will explain to me why.”

    I’m sorry we can’t explain to you why, though I’m not sure that would help either.

  10. June 17, 2013 8:42 pm

    Have you tried Morrissey? Or the Smiths? I know they were of great comfort to you and your hair back in high school.

    I’m your 3000th commenter! What do I win?

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      June 17, 2013 8:45 pm

      A mixtape, natch. My hair in high school was fabulous.

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