Thus Far: Grief Nearing the Four-Month Mark

I feel exhausted. The past two months, these family holidays without Dad, and the quality and amount of time I’ve spent processing my new life without him that these months have necessitated has wiped me out. Two weekends ago C & I were cleaning out our little storage space in our building’s basement, and I came upon a series of boxes that contained my childhood and teenage years. As I opened one after another I saw remenants of the past. My throat began to close and I became breathless as the choice of whether to keep or toss confronted me. C took the boxes and put them back, saying we could figure it out another time, but it feels as if I did not put them back. It feels as if I took them out and spread their contents all over our apartment and now have to be careful not to step on the clay mask I made in elementary school when I get up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night.

I think about cancer and I think about death, but in such a way that it feels as if I can’t grasp either. Both words mean very little to me even as they feel like quite a lot. I bring up Dad’s death at least once a week, which I assume makes people uncomfortable. It’s not that I want people to feel unease or sympathy, it’s that the awkwardness feels genuine and therefore right. He is dead. He has been dead for four months and I still feel happy that he’s not in pain, blessed to have had time with him, angry that I am left here to make of life what there is to make of it, grateful that I can remember him as someone I admire, and sad that we ran out of chances to make new memories. But I also feel ready for whatever comes next.

This process of grief has, perhaps, felt like the stupidest thing I’ve done in life thus far. It has been whole in its illogicality, but when I deconstruct all the bits and pieces it almost starts to make sense. As someone who is used to the watery, fluttering grip of anxiety, the sudden feeling of oversaturation combined with overexposure, I am used to searching for meaning as a talisman against slipping underground into the aquifer of depression. But grief has been and is not a different beast. Sometimes, I suppose, things just need to be their own.

Unlocking

C says he’s seen me cry more in the past month than I have in the past year. I express genuine puzzlement, because I feel better than I ever have before. 

It’s just that sometimes I have these jabs of loss, like I’m waking up from a dream where everyone I know is still alive. 

He says that it’s probably because things are good that I’m feeling this way now. Now that I no longer have to protect myself, I can feel. He describes my former state as icy, and I must admit that at times I do feel as if I am melting.

Suspicions 

Lately I have been trying not to speak unless I have something to say. It is possible that this undertaking has been yet another of my attempts to retain the best parts of Dad now that he’s not here to remind me. I came to respect how he would hold silence until he was ready.

Still, I think I might actually come across as dull. Much of the time this doesn’t perturb me, but sometimes I forget to not care what other people think. 

So much of life is learning to be okay with the things around you. I suspect that the rest of life is learning what needs to change and how to change it, but I can’t say quite yet. 

Focus

Mom continues to sort through all of the things that have been left undone in the wake of Dad’s death. She’s learning the entirety his life, and when we talk she simultaneously reports back the details of her post-Dad life while opening doors on the life they’ve shared. I feel deeply inadequate even though I know she wouldn’t want me to.

I keep thinking about Christmas, which leads me to the conclusion that the only thing to do is continue on. So I focus in on the short-term and feel much better for now.

The Memorial

The memorial was nice. I’m glad that it’s over. I learned enough about Dad to elevate my estimation of him. Yet another gift.

Almost everyone was nice, either sharing stories about him or offering condolences, but some people made me tired. The several people who wanted to talk about my parents’ dog who died a few months back were nearly as tiring as the people who wanted to be sad and talk about their dead relatives. I also could not help replying sarcastically to the person who told me not to forget about Mom after this weekend. I mean, seriously, I get that people say stupid things sometimes, but really?

As for me, I’m glad to be out of all black. Bereavement is exhausting. I am thankful to be moving on–grateful to have this space away from needing to be understanding of everyone’s intents and closer to the heart of how I really feel.

Travel

I haven’t been sleeping well since Dad died. I wake from vivid dreams to find myself dislodged from space and time. I feel a bit like Kilgore Trout.

Unlike Kilgore, I quickly reemerge into the same chronilogically-ordered present. I work from confusion to disappointment that this has happen yet again as I regain consciousness. 

C and I caught an early-morning flight today in order to help prepare for Dad’s public memorial tomorrow. The lack of sleep has me feeling extra spiky and a bit hollow–sort of like the emotional equivalent of a sea urchin’s shell. But the memorial programs and the playlist are made. The pizzas were picked up. The pictures and mementos of Dad’s life were chosen and put in the car so as not to be forgotten. The important things of today are done, leaving me to confront another night. And so it goes.

And so it goes.

What I’ll Wear

Today felt good. Instead of going in to work and giving what I clearly don’t have to give, I stayed home. I cleaned out my closet, and finally started straightening up after what has essentially been a month-long hiatus from housework. I packed for Dad’s memorial, and am really looking forward to wearing something other than all black. 

Wearing all black during this time between his death and the official memorial felt like the right thing to do. It was a sign of respect, a sign of loss, and a warning. On Saturday it will be over with an ivory sweater and a blush, floral-print skirt. I have questioned whether this is appropriate garb for a memorial, but quickly reach the conclusion that it is always appropriate to be true to one’s self–especially when one’s self is well-dressed. 

Doing things this way has given me something to look forward to on what promises to be a challenging day. Even as I continue to take issue with many elements of fashion, I am grateful for the small amount of control and expression that making these small choices has been able to restore.