1. There will be people who are INCREDIBLY wonderful, well-intentioned human beings (just like me, just like you) who will unwittingly drag you down as you grieve. For me, it’s those who are trying so hard (really, I am not being snarky) to empathize and to care for your heart, but who still manage to inject sadness into your every day life right when you were actually having a kind of decent, semi-normal day.
This happened last year, in August, while Steve and I were on vacation. We were having…fun. And it was also closing on the 8th of the month (the 10th month, in this case). I was aware of this, but had put it on the back burner of my brain. I even posted a few pictures on Facebook (of us, having fun), and there it went…in one of the comments, this wonderful person said something like this: “I am amazed that you can enjoy yourself when your heart is so broken.”
I call that Instant Bummer.
Does this mean I have to stay sad forever? That I can never, ever be joyful again? Or am I wrong to be finding joy at all?
2. When that kind of YANK on your chain occurs:
- do not – I repeat – DO NOT immediately fall into a funk, feel like you are, once again, The Worst Mom Ever, and post something cloying and sentimental on your Dead Person’s Facebook page. I could literally feel Mark smacking his forehead (or maybe my forehead). “MOM. MOM!!! What the…?!!?!”
- do consider doing what I also did, in addition to the stupid thing above (although I am rarely mature, this time I was ON POINT): invite that person to join you in focusing on positivity/healing vs. lingering in sorrow.
You are ALLOWED to have fun. You are LEARNING how to balance the sorrow and joy, even if moment by moment.
3. Missing, living with the loss of your Person is, I am guessing, something like:
- living with tinnitus – that constant ringing in your ears that never really goes away. My mom has it. You learn how to hear around it, but it’s always present.
- living with an amputated limb – you have to adjust to this forever-change, learn how to walk/grasp/manage…and you still have that phantom limb experience, where you think you still have the arm, leg or foot you once did.
4. I think I am starting to experience some manic episodes. There are days and even whole weeks where I am REALLY SUPER DUPER. I’m dreaming dreams, finding coins, sensing some purpose/a way forward/maybe a new project, feeling like I’ve still got Mark with me a lot. I’m — well, wow. I’m doing pretty darn well!! In those days, I am acing this course.
Until I’m not.
The bottom does, eventually, fall out, and I’m lying in the ash heap once again, berating myself: what the hell was I thinking? Mark is DEAD. D.E.A.D. He may be fine in heaven, wherever heaven is, but I am still here…without him, haunted by memories and images I cannot erase, for the rest of my days.
Finding a steady middle…learning to surf the big grief waves… is going to take a very long time.
5. There will come a day when you do really, really laugh again. We got together with long-time friends, Beth O and her family. We played “Telephone Pictionary,” which is a made-up game where each person at the table starts writing – a sentence, the beginning of a story – on a piece of paper and then passes their unfinished masterpiece to the person on their right. That next person then illustrates – draws a picture of – what has been written by the first person, and then carefully folds the paper over so that the first entry is hidden – all that is visible is the second person’s drawing. And the paper gets passed again to the next person to the right, who is left to write out what the drawn image means to them. Repeat (alternating sentences and graphic images) until the paper has gone all the way around to the original author, who then gets to read the bastardized version of what he/she penned. This gets to be BEYOND hysterical.
Sarah was home and her initial sentence was something like this: “Twelve angry gourds chased the farmer across the field.” She passed that gem to me, the person on her right. I said, “I do not know how to draw a gourd!!” and she smiled like Mona Lisa. I wish I could remember what the final version of her story was after it had been reinterpreted 9 or 10 times – something along the lines of “Mrs. Potato Head and several irritable ghosts smoked cigars, levitated and went for a jog.” Others’ stories were similarly butchered. We all laughed until we could barely breathe.
And tears streamed because I was laughing so hard, and because Mark would have loved all that so much. And it was still good.