I’m trying to take stock of the ways my life has changed since my mother died, because now that it’s been a little over two years, things look different than they did when it first happened. I have found a new version of normal, although I am emotionally bleeding out for my cousins because their father just died unexpectedly. Additionally, this is the second sibling my aunt and uncle have lost in a very short time (the uncle that died was the second of four children on my mother’s side). So, we are all trying to find a new version of normal, trying to wrap our brains around two people in our family that have died very young. My mother was only 65, and my uncle died the day before his 64th birthday.
This is crushing because as people in grief know, birthdays and anniversaries are the hardest to get through. I cannot imagine having those two days so close together, yet another thing that makes grief as individual as a fingerprint, because even though my cousins and I share the pain of losing a parent, no situation is the same. I would not presume that they’re feeling the same thing I am (or even did), particularly because I am further along in my process of finding Option B.
I do remember how terrible those first few days were, because I saw everything through a deep and penetrating fog. People would say things to me and I would forget one second later what they said, or not even reply because I would go deaf and dumb to the world around me. I completely fell apart. For months, I would forget where I was going, or even the way out of my own neighborhood. For even longer, I wouldn’t interact. For instance, one day I’d think getting together with friends or going to church would make me feel better, then not only regret that decision, but drop off the face of the earth and people would wonder where the hell I went. Ummm, I went home. And not only did I go home, I didn’t even take up space in the house. I confined myself to my room for far longer than anyone thought I could or should.
I would (and still do) bounce between zero and what seems like 50,000 calories in a day. Grief took away hunger and thirst until I couldn’t ignore it anymore. It also occurred to me that drinking alcohol is often a trap when someone close to you dies, so being completely sober was a good and bad thing. There was no social lubricant for anxiety at being around people, and when I felt my feelings, I really, really felt them.
I am normally a little bit socially anxious, for which I take medication. But social anxiety is different in deep grief. People notice when you look like crap, and will tell you, not knowing the bomb you’re about to drop on them. See, the reason I look like a hot mess is that my mother just died…. and that’s when you can literally hear the whistle with Doppler effect. You desperately don’t want it to, but the conversation goes from zero to weird in 2.5 seconds and you regret you said anything. The hardest part about telling people someone close to you died is that the air in the room changes, and people start treating you differently.
Some people know exactly what to do, which is either say they’re sorry and leave it at that, or say nothing and just give you a hug. With others, it is a litany of I know just how you feel, and then tell a story that legit has nothing to do with what you’re going through.
This is the Facebook meme I found today that made me laugh and cringe, because for the grieving, it describes our experience perfectly. I really don’t fucking care how sad you were when your cat died and how it relates to my grief that I’ll never see my mother again. I also don’t care how you’ll feel when your mother dies, because first of all, you have no idea how you’ll feel when your mother/father/spouse dies, because thinking about it ahead of time is so much different than when reality punches you in the face. Secondly, my smart ass response is always going to be, well, it’s a good thing I’m going through it instead of you. However, that part generally seethes inside me because I know no one is trying to elicit that response. They just have no idea what to say, so what they think they’re saying is good and what they’re really saying hurts.
The other thing that happens is that your mother/father/spouse’s death becomes a subject no one wants to touch, so they stop bringing up the person altogether, as if remembrance is the worst thing ever. Say her name. Tell me funny stories about what you remember, especially if you knew her at a time when I didn’t.
I learned this lesson initially through divorce, that people thought bringing up Dana was somehow verboten, when it would have meant the world to me to laugh about the funny things that happened to us…. and at first, it really hurt that Dana and my mom have the same birthday, but now it feeds me because I think about celebrating Dana instead of being mired in grief…. mostly the old joke about how since she’s two years older than me, she’s just that much closer to death than I am. 😛
Yes, divorces are terrible. Yes, deaths are terrible. But it doesn’t render my great memories invalid. Just because it’s over doesn’t mean I don’t want to remember.
Speaking of “over,” I don’t view my relationship with my mother as such. I have a long history of writing letters to people or entities who are unlikely to respond. It doesn’t seem weird to me at all that we still “talk.” Maybe other people have trouble bringing up the topic of my mom, but I don’t. During the day, I basically narrate to her in my head, and in my dreams, she responds.
She thinks Dan and Pri Diddy are good for me. We agree on so much.