I’m not sure I’ve ever felt more anxiety as the first anniversary of my mother’s death approaches (Oct. 2nd). I’ve felt like crap on every holiday since, holing up and not talking to anyone on the actual day, just willing it to be over as soon as humanly possible. So, if you’ve tried to talk to me on those days and I haven’t answered, I assure you that it’s not personal and I read every one. I’m just not strong enough to talk. Those days render me into the smallest version of myself imaginable, remembering holidays past and how nothing will ever be the same, or any facsimile in the known universe.
My mind goes back to the time before I turned 13, before hormones and emotional abuse were a thing, because that’s the time when my mother and I were close- untouched by either of those things. It is by the grace of God that the last three years of her life, we got the chance to be closer than ever, healing the rift between us. It is a humbling feeling to be irrationally angry at the universe, as if it owed me more time with her than I got, and realizing that, in fact, the universe doesn’t owe me jack shit.
Sometimes in order to make it through my day, I just “act as if.” She’s still alive, and due to the fact that we live in different states, we just haven’t talked in a while, but she’s still there. It’s not ideal, but it helps me cope when I can’t think of any other way to change my emotional state enough to do the things I really want to do, but can’t muster the energy and drive I need to leave the house.
It’s slowly starting to change, but I can’t put enough emphasis on “slowly.” I went to the Spy Museum yesterday, am going to Air & Space with a friend on Friday, and donating blood on Saturday because even though I’d do it for nothing, I’m really going to meet Santana Moss, the first player to really get me interested in football.
I realized that even though grief is deep and abiding, there are things I can use to distract myself temporarily, the emotional equivalent of a Cesar Milan foot tap. I also lose myself in both fiction and non. I’m reading David Halberstam’s last finished book, The Coldest Winter, a definitive guide to the Korean War, and several novels that have nothing to do with my life…. adventures with the FBI, CIA, police squads, and zombies, or combinations of all of them.
Grief is being Jason, tied to the mast, the siren call of isolation promising to crack my head on the rocks. On some days, resistance is futile. On others, it is everything. I don’t understand an ocean that actively wants me to drown, and pulls out all the stops to try and make it happen. I am generally psychosomatic, grief presenting as headaches, stomachaches, and sinus issues. Well, maybe sinus issues is taking it too far- my allergies have been severe my whole life. But the pulse of a migraine has been present on many days, memories of my mother passed out on percodan before sumatriptan was invented. I don’t get auras and the whole bit, but I often have to slam caffeine to make them stop… additionally giving me energy, a good thing emerging from something terrible.
I often don’t want to live in a world where my mother has ceased to exist, but what choice do I have? Life goes on, the value of it not lost on me……………. anymore. It feels good to have my bipolar disorder healed to that point, knowing that when I’m in a bad way, it is my disorder lying to me about what a waste of space I am, and not what I actually believe. I have many things to give to the world, the least of which being that if something happened to me, no one would be here to update this web site.
Grief is just a passenger in my mental car that I can’t throw out and leave by the side of the road…. and in fact, an important process because my memories keep my mother alive and present. It also allows me to advocate for not taking any relationship for granted, because tomorrow is not promised, a thing you unconsciously believe until someone close to you dies without warning. I didn’t expect to prepare for my mother’s death until she was at least 80…. one of the many things in life I didn’t expect.
For instance, I never expected to be divorced for a second time, thinking that home was Dana and the two were synonymous… and later thinking that divorce was such a blessing because my mother’s death rendered me into survival mode, unable to give to anyone else and unable to care that I wasn’t. I would have been a terrible partner/wife through this time in my life, and I am glad to have spared Dana from it. People who don’t know what it’s like to be destroyed by someone else’s death have no frame of reference for it. They have no idea how it feels to get comments all the time from people that boil down to “thank GOD it was you and not me.” These people have no idea what a punch in the gut it is, especially when you feel hit from all sides and want to lash out, but hold it in, because you know that those people are just having dumbass attacks and aren’t doing it on purpose. To them, it feels like the right thing to say, because they don’t actually use those words, it’s just implied. Like, “I just don’t know what I’d do if my mother died.” Well, thank God you don’t have to deal with it, then. Good for you, you pretentious piece of shit. I think it instead of say it, my words being “yes, I know. It’s so hard. Make sure you give your mom a hug next time you see her.” It puts me in the position of having to comfort them when my world is falling apart. But they don’t know that. How could they? They won’t know it until their mother or father dies, and people say the things they always say when people die, seeing them in a new context. They don’t even know what they don’t know, and won’t until it happens to them.
Because it will, and they won’t be prepared, either.