Grief has turned me into this weird version of myself.
I feel like I’m existing in some parallel universe, out of sync with everyone around me.
It’s as though I’m onstage with the Rockettes. I look fabulous and I’m smiling, but I’m kicking just a bit lower and off tempo. Actually, that’s a crappy analogy. I could never be a Rockette. Modern dance is more my thing, but I digress.
It’s like I forgot how to talk to people. I worry I’m blinking too much. I worry about eye contact.
I feel simultaneously invisible and horribly exposed, like either I am completely fading away, or everyone can see every raw, messy inch of how awful I feel. Maybe they will be embarrassed for me, or they won’t know what to say. Maybe they won’t care. Either way it feels awkward and unusual.
I second guess everything I say, anxious I make people angry or confused. I’m worried that patience is running thin, that my sorrow is boring and testing those around me.
Even in my writing, I feel like I feel incapable of expressing things with the clarity I so desire. It’s frustrating and makes me tired.
It could also be lack of sleep exacerbating things. I haven’t been sleeping or eating that great since it all happened.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m keeping in motion. I’m bathing and working and functioning at a completely reasonable pace. Kick, jump, shuffle, step.
It’s just this bizarre sense that life is so different, difficult, and exhausting.
My heart aches for E.
What a stupid and trite thing to write, but I don’t know any other way to put it.
After the initial shock of her death, and the emotional roller coaster of the wake and funeral, I felt a bit numb. It wasn’t such a bad thing. It allowed me to go about my day. Feed the kids. See clients. Shop. Make jokes. Have sex. Cook some chicken in the crock pot.
It was easy to kind of start thinking that maybe she was just on one of her cruises with her wife. She was just “away”.
A part of me started to accept her “away-ness.” It didn’t feel terrible.
But then the moment came when I wanted to pick up the phone and call her and I just couldn’t.
I searched around me for some tangible reminder of my connection with her. I put on the scarf she gave me. I looked at her handwriting in the modern dance book she gave me at our last supper out together. “Forty years later, this is yours, my vivacious friend. E.”
Tears came, fresh and hot.
It’s the little things that kill me, like when I want to tell her about a really good session at work, or a particularly rewarding conversation with a coworker. It’s when I want to show her the pictures of my kids dressed up for Halloween, or tell her about something radical my daughter said.
My brain continues to share dumb jokes with her.
Partly it comforts.
But mostly it confounds in the new, one dimensional shape our relationship has taken.
I mentioned to a friend that I was struggling and they suggested I get “professional help.” While I know my friend was just trying to be loving, and I appreciate that, I got super butt hurt over it.
First of all, the last thing a therapist wants to do at the end of the day is more therapy. Believe me. Been there, done that. At this point I am fairly certain I know enough about myself to know that I don’t need therapy. Not just yet, anyway.
Second of all, therapy is not going to bring E. back.
Third, it has only been three weeks. Although cultural expectations would suggest I should be long past things by now, I know that it doesn’t work that way. Not really.
Finally, I don’t want to talk to a stranger about E. I want to talk to my friends, and her friends, and my family about her. I want to share and remember with the people who knew and loved her, or who knew how much I loved her.
I want to visit her grave and cry and read her poems. I want to write about her and feel this longing with every inch of my soul.
And oh my heavens, it aches. It throbs deep in my bones.
How could therapy help or solve that?
Grief is not linear. Rationally I know I will have to continue circling through and around the various phases. Acceptance one week. Anger and denial the next. And so forth.
I have a weird sort of faith in the process, and I do feel like I am moving forward and things will get better. Life goes on. It’s all good. And so forth.
But another part of me wonders if I will ever get back in sync. Her demise has changed me, has changed the shape of my life is ways I am not so certain will reform to what used to be.
There’s a scary thought.
Or is it?
I’m also learning about the ways in which she continues to touch my life, to work through me, even from the great beyond. I’m noticing when I channel her when I sit with clients. I am listening deep inside of me to hear her voice, the voice that I know and love and trust. The voice she shared with me so often. (She doesn’t think I need therapy either btw.)
I’m not a believer.
But E. was.
In some ways, it is like she is challenging me to reconsider that maybe there is more than meets the eye. Maybe dead is more than just dead.
She’s allowed me the gift of being truly able to look directly into my client’s eyes and say “I understand” with complete honesty when they are grappling with grief and loss. There is a beauty and connection in that authenticity that feels like something grand.
And that’s all well and good until I re-realize that I can’t share this with her. Then my stomach lurches and I want to go to bed.
I’ve often said that E. is one of the loves of my life. Not in any sort of sexual way, although there was a platonic romance about our relationship. But my love for her is just so huge. After she died, I wrote to her best friend of 54 years in an email that I “idolized” her. And that was very true.
Damn, it still is true.
But everything is just so altered. Brunch with friends or an evening out doesn’t feel right or good because there is a part of my heart that is missing. And it is so tiring to try to balance the weight of that grief with everything else I have to do with a smile.
I called her wife to check in and say hi, and the answering machine picked up. E.’s voice is still their out going message. I swallowed hard so I could leave a message and sound chipper.
Someday it will not be the grief and pain that tethers me to E., rather the wisdom and happy memories she’s left with me.
But right now, things just feel unbearably different.
And I feel a step or two out of sync with the whole rest of the universe, shuffling and time stepping until I feel like I want to give up and just sit down on stage.
Many thanks to those of you who are bearing with me during this time. . . I apologize for another wave of death and trauma posts. . . but it is what I need to do right now. xoxo.