Friday, April 24, 2009

The specific insanity of long term grief

Cut loose from what used to bind me so tightly to life. I don't get those pure moments of joy anymore. I miss it a little, but I don't know how to recreate it, or to kindle it when the spark begins. Spring used to do it, I can remember that. A free, unexpected jolt that lifted me out of my shoes and let me float for blocks. Now that little singing in the heart when the trees blossom is cut off, flat, halting. I'm no longer in myself that way. I hover a bit behind. I'm beside myself.

Every good thing seems to lack justification. Why music? Why that symphony? Do we need it? Why do we live so long? Why do we help each other? Why is each day important? Why cure disease, why love? Why do people work so hard to create things? Why do we strive so much in our brief time here?

Why am I alive? That's the tough one. I keep making up purposes, that's what I do. But really, what's the difference between life and death? Not the obvious ones. I don't care about that. The line has been blurred for me. Death doesn't scare me, even if it means there is nothing, no existence at all. What difference will it make if I don't know it?

It's hard to understand me if you haven't been through this part of life before, I realize that. I don't expect you to. Who would want to understand this? I get up in the morning, I do what I need to do. You can't ask me more than that right now. If there is a purpose and meaning in your life, well, good for you. I remember how that feels.

His birthday this year falls the day after Mothers Day. I was going to find the list of all his friends' email addresses, and invite them over. I'd love if some just showed up to say hello. But I just can't find it in me to keep searching through the shuffled paper in and around my husband's desk, the boxes of files. I don't know where I put it. I don't know where it's been moved or by whom. I can't bring myself to keep looking. I'm sorry. Next year. Grief is long.


  1. I read in a book today an image that this woman had ... she was in a plane at dusk and just as the propellers were turned on so were the plane lights and so the propellers were backlit and all of a sudden there was a glowing ball that appeared outside the window. It was aboslutely real and solid and amazing.

    She had to keep telling herself it was an illusion. It was not a ball. It was fast moving blades. But some part of her brain said "no, it's a ball, a glowing orb."

    I think that's what I do when I want so badly to see purpose and meaning in my life... I want that glowing orb. I suppose sometimes I can convince myself that its real.

    But more often I'm grateful for the ability (training?) to take small bites of any given moment and just live in them, doing what I need to do. And trusting that actually, that's enough. Small bites though.

    TS Eliot said "humankind cannot take too much reality" (or something very close to that) in Burnt Norton. It (my making that connection) is so cliche but perhaps because its kind of true.

    Seems to me you're forced to face it, live it. I doubt any of us would choose it.

    Take care.

  2. Hello,
    I too am suffering the loss of someone who loved me like no one ever did. Without even trying, he awakened me to life, like I never was alive before then. The added twist is, I cannot openly grieve him because I am married to someone who I still love, but I realize that love is very different to me now and is something that I cannot imagine experiencing again. It is like experiencing perfection for a couple of years, then being shoved back into your old life. I don't know who I am anymore. I pray for him to take me away from this so we can be together again. His friends know how much we loved each other based on what he told them, and I hang on to that but it isn't enough. Most of the time, I just feel like I'm killing time, waiting to die, which really sucks. He passed 4 years ago when I was 38 yrs old, so I'm a young grieving mistress/widow. I read your blog and I thought you expressed very similar views to mine. I do hope you are having some good days. Know that there is someone here who likes the way you write and I hope you keep expressing yourself. I know I'll be listening.
    Thank you,

  3. do you feel better? was there anything that helped?

  4. Dear Anonymous, Sometimes I do feel better. You get used to it, as they say. I've found ways to make the loss another part of my life. I can't deny pining for my child; but it's not all consuming now.

    This is a bad time of year-- if Jesse had gone to the doctor today instead of 6 days later, he might have lived. I have to fight to keep from thinking that way. The one thing that helps is, not just time, but what I do with it. The further I get away from it, the more I involve myself in life-- in friends, family, other people's needs, things that Jesse would have done, or thought well of-- does that make sense? It makes me feel as if he's still in my life. I don't know if I believe in an afterlife, really; but part of me has to.

  5. I related to Isonomist's blog. My long-term griefs comes from (1) working with my mom throughout her ten years of Alzheimer's disease - the last four years of her life being a live-in 24 hour per day caregiver; (2) finding my mom's sister dead 33 days later. The first involves caregiving exhaustion and loss of identify (i.e. I've done this fors o long, NOW what do I do with my life?. The second involves trauma and guilt from finding my aunt dead and guilt because I did not call her for three days in a row (I always called her daily) and she fell on day one, struggled through day two and died early day 3. These two griefs have changed me significantly. I have loss the spark I used to have. I have lost hope for a desirable future. The former me is gone and is not coming back. I dream of attending events but find myself holding back from going and instead staying home. I was to attend a dear woman's memorial service today, but chose not to after a morning of sad, stressful, vewhelmed thoughts. The time I'm best is when I'm at work, constantly doing something. I feel exhausted just writing this blog and will sign off now to rest. It's a beautiful day outside with many activities to attend; however, I have closed the curtains have remained outside - with not enough energy or willpower to even take a short walk. It has been one year four months and I still hurt at times as much as I did the day they died. The antidepressants don't seem to keep me focused any longer. What I used to be able - I now no longe can. God help me get though the rest of this life. I'm ready to go to Heaven.

    1. hello anyonymous. I hope I can help you a little bit-- what you are feeling is going to change, but you can't force it. You are grieving for your Mom, but then you have been grieving for her while you were caring for her throughout her decline. My first mother in law suffered through this for 8 years. My father in law cared for her with the help of a large support group based out of a local hospital system. I hope you have a similar group you can reach out to now, to help you work out your pain and loss. Please don't blame yourself for what happened to your aunt (it's hard not to, I know). Your decision not to go to the memorial was wise, just thinking of it is triggering your post traumatic stress. You will make it through this. Please respond and let me know how you're doing.

  6. "The Specific Insanity of Long-term Grief" Such a perfect way to say that. And about how no one can understand what you've gone through if they haven't gone through it themselves...That is so true. Being literally "Beside yourself." Geesh. I feel like I'm in such a segmented bubble. I'm now over the shock, but I still ask myself every day what I'm doing here? What is my role now? Thank you for writing this.

  7. I'm here if you need to talk, Padme. I'm sorry for whatever you're going through.

  8. Your words describe my feelings very well. I lost my son 5 years ago to drugs. My heart breaks everyday. I just can never feel happy and joyous about anything. I can put a thin veneer on my grief but the exuberance for life is gone. I'm ready to check out.

    1. Dear Anonymous, please don't check out! You know I've been where you are. Just take one tiny step, help one other person who needs it. Grief doesn't disappear, but you need to find things that help you put it aside. Somewhere there is another parent, just like us, who will need your support. I hope you check in, instead, and let me know how you're doing.

  9. I lost my Mum almost 30 years ago. I miss her everyday . I miss the comfort and support.
    I look for that comfort, rest and love every day.

    I want to let go of these thoughts in my head and find comofort and peace.
    Any answers??

  10. I don't know about answers, I only know what makes it tolerable (for me). I lost my dad about as long ago ('79), and I still talk to him when I'm alone, and dream about him at night. There's just no one can replace a parent.

    One thing I've learned, that I adapted from meditation and emotional intelligence/anger management techniques is this: Accept that you are going to have these sad thoughts come to mind. As soon as you notice them, greet them, and then let them go. Don't let yourself follow them too long. Relax, take a long slow breath, a few of them. Find a distraction as soon as you can. Even if you have to turn on the TV or just get up and get a glass of water-- anything to break the connection between the thought of your Mum and the sorrow and grief that it leads to.

    It takes practice. The reason it works is because your brain is literally being wired to follow a certain path every time you think about something. The more you think about it, the more powerful the connection is.

    You don't want to fight for control of your thoughts, and you don't want to forget. You want to have more positive associations with your Mum now that time has passed, to break the connection that runs between her presence in your heart, and the sorrow that her physical self is gone. Don't let go of your Mum, she's with you still for a reason.


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