Tag Archives: death

Dive In

My approach to grief has always been total immersion.  Memories of the 6 months following my father’s death are murky.  Initially: excessive drinking, going out, and stuff I consider myself “never” doing.  Within ten days I made out with a stranger at a bar (like literally, sitting at the bar in front of the bartender, which is what was so gross about it). Within six weeks I was fixating on a much younger man who provided a couple carefree nights.  There was a lot of weed, like, nightly weed.  But, it was my Dad’s weed.  There was crying in the bathroom at work (and at home at night, and over weekends) and the frequent, awkward moment when I’d encounter someone who didn’t know yet.  And have to tell them.

All this drinking and socializing… it would keep me afloat and then these moments I would just drop under.  It was the only way I could cope – to distract myself aggressively because I knew the grief always caught up when I was alone, and then I’d just sit with it and be distraught with it and give it everything it demanded.  I don’t remember what my repeating thoughts were at the time, I imagine I was replaying the last moments I had with him.  And I can still remember those, but I don’t struggle with trying to relive them anymore.  I just remember.  My quest for answers ended long ago.

In my broken state, I saw my therapist monthly, started a war with my loud neighbors, got an Ambien prescription, ceremoniously gifted people my inherited Oregon weed, fought with friends and aired long held grievances, made new friends and had new experiences – because as people do, when they have compassion, I was invited many places for comfort.  I was never hard on myself about my smoking and drinking.  It just went with everything else.

Eventually, the last in my string of mini-affairs very quickly trampled me in bait and switch fashion, and I was forced to be sad and get comfortable with myself for a while. My heart was so raw and open, it was poised for falling for someone too quickly as well as heartbreak.  I never wanted to waste time again, to my detriment sometimes.

The couple months just prior to my Dad’s memorial service (and that’s a loose term) are a blur save that crash and burn fling, some summer solo trips that felt so lonely, trying to contact my Dad’s few friends for testimonials and my Uncle finishing the job for me as it was too painful. I did write a beautiful letter to them all.  Finally, it was August, we were in Lacrosse, Wisconsin, and we were spreading his ashes.  My Dad died in January.  It was the longest break up ever.

My thought is always, if I feel this shitty, I may as well deal with every shitty feeling while I’m here and then close the door on them all.  This is why I waited to go to therapy until I was 35.  Because dealing with shit sucks and feels horrible.  My Dad – who’d been a shadow for most of my life – was gone.  I was forced to confront all my issues, they had nothing to hide behind anymore.  And the artifice I’d protected myself with for years crumbled in the face of real pain.

Death is one of those situations when you can’t really be heard.  I don’t remember, now, having a ton of regrets when my Dad was gone, except for wondering if I should have been there. In the end I didn’t think about it that much.  Were there things I hadn’t said?  There was time I hadn’t spent, mostly.  But that was his fault too.

I’ve thought about this recently – the need to be heard.  When you’re bubbling over with anger, you grasp any opportunity to shout it out.  Take every prisoner of your immediate wrath because there is no way things can get worse.  They are worst.  If you can’t reach the object of your current pain, find one from years past who is willing to listen.  Dig through your address book and ask all the questions, solicit all the responses.  Some of it may actually be satisfying.  And move on.  It’s like pulling the trigger and vomiting – you can control this hangover, can’t you?

Life is full of little deaths.  People you love will disappear.  They become strangers to you in an instant after practically living wrapped around you. The space they leave feels alive and taunts you in their wake. You never see them again.  Or you do and wish you hadn’t.

Because you can’t reach this, you can’t answer it, with time it disappears, slowly and painfully.  Because my pretty head protects me after a while, and kills off what’s making me feel bad, I start to forget. In the end you’re only left with a memory of the pain.  The reality stops hurting.  Ghosts stop haunting.  And forgetting is sad.  Like anything, we forget joy and love too.

You’ll be taken by surprise, occasionally.  You remember, and cry.  Because – you’re alive, you’re alive, you’re alive.

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Several months ago I wrote about yearning for the untethered existence of my youthful poverty. Having nothing and therefore everything to learn and gain. Missing that freedom.

My fortune at this moment is to have been set afloat emotionally. All my stability feels like a curse, like I was sent backwards a year but I’m missing the bravado I carried with my independence then. Because I’d added someone I became deeply attached to into it, that same life, without that person, feels empty even while full of the same old good things.  Nothing else has changed; the one new special thing I had is gone. I feel lost, and it’s not that romantic feeling from when I was twenty three.  I’m lost inside this structure that took years to build up.  It just feels very lonely.

The lessons of this particular heartbreak won’t be clear to me for a while. All I can think now is I have a ton of work to do that I was scheming in the background when the most important thing to me involved whatever would make my new best friend happy. Somehow that made me feel very happy, and important, though never exactly secure. But also never bored – which is what I feel right now.  I’m so bored.  And now the idea of all this work I must do… well it just seems dismal.

My life over the last few years has been marked by death. My Dad. My nephew the next year.  My Godfather this year.  I’ve practiced these forced goodbyes.   I’ve proclaimed that life is too short to protect your heart from everything that might hurt it and also bring you joy.  I tried so hard. You can’t regret that, because it’s what you have to do, right? Or you’ll never get anywhere, and you’ll never feel anything.

I got to the point of being able to let myself feel such nice, potentially temporary things. I become healthier and more balanced in a relationship, and I continued to grow and evolve individually, a lot, in this last one.  I’m so scared of backtracking into pointless bullshit.  I have so much time now – I can’t remember when I had this much time.  Life for a while was a blur of travel and work and dating.  I now have copious moments to play guitar, write, work on personal projects, plan for the future (the thing I’m most anxious about), make and save money, sleep. I know how to do this – including the hangovers that come with a single girl’s social life – I have been amongst the best at it for years.  But I’m so over it.  None of it seems particularly exciting, or important, and it’s hard to feel motivated about building your future when you just feel kind of sad.  Being in love felt important and progressive.  Especially sad is the thought of potentially going back to dating guy after guy after guy.  I just want someone to force something on me now like the breakup was decided for me.  It seems unfair that I have to make this part happen myself.

I have to change my patterns and get off the hamster wheel of meaningless social interactions to fill time and supposedly create opportunities for more significant connections. I had stopped, and I was truly content in myself and my life.  But that was before I knew what I was missing.  Now that I do, I’m not sure I know how to be me alone anymore unless I rewind to a less evolved self.  At least that’s how it feels today, almost a month in, now that my heavy grieving period is over, and I’m recreating my life, and it’s sinking in a lot more that there was someone beside me who’s gone for good.  The hardest thing to manage is just being by myself.

Any other break ups, I still had all this growing up to do. I’m always learning, but real maturity has me in a different spot.  I know the next lesson is a new kind, something that I can’t expect, maybe harder than anything else, like the emotional work I’ve done because I couldn’t live not doing it anymore. I’ll keep working, and slapping my own wrist when I reach for instantly gratifying noise.  I’ll keep looking for healthy ways to make myself feel better.  There’s just a space that I’d created, and he’d walked in, and right back out.

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