Now I know we’ve all likely been confronted with feelings or facts we’d rather not acknowledge, so I’ve put together this post for the uninitiated (or anyone new to avoiding the uncertain and uncomfortable).
Keep your hands busy, find a craft or a chore or an errand that NEEDS doing right now. By focusing on these urgent matters those feelings, that reality of the situation, isn’t in the forefront.
Personally I (don’t) enjoy making lists of things, that way there’s a physical reminder of the looming tasks I’ve yet to accomplish. Having this physical reminder keeps me focused on The specific tasks I can avoid, as opposed to the nebulous and/or undefined feelingsI’m really trying to avoid.
Below is a typical list of tasks I could perform in lieu of actual emotional work (aka dealing with feelings )
Gotta insulate those windows, better run to Home Depot and get all the supplies
Your bedroom is a mess, better get on it…actually no, that’s gonna remind you of your reality. Moving on…
Do laundry, heck the machine does most of the work. Wash everything, blankets, sheets, coats, throw it all in
Start a project, maybe even finish that embroidery or paint by number that’s been cluttering your life.
Search Pinterest for ideas for projects you wanna try but probably never will
Whatever you do, DO NOT sit with your feelings, talk about them, or write them down.
Doing so will result in FEELINGS.
Feelings you may not understand, and which may be uncomfortable or downright painful. These may include:
Anxiety stemming from the lack of stability and uncertainty in the future
Worthlessness or Despair from the idea that your parents were the only two humans fully invested in your reality, and now that they’re dead you’re alone
Loneliness in knowing that previous feeling isn’t something that other people understand
However, writing them out as a note on your phone while chain smoking on the back porch may be beneficial. Posting it to a quasi-anonymous blog where it’s likely never to be seen by anyone you know could also be considered “productive”.
Congratulations, you’ve passively acknowledged your feelings!
So you remember the ice bucket challenge, right? It was supposed to be a fundraiser thing for ALS or something; instead it became an excuse to dump ice on yourself and film it for Facebook.
Anyways; I never understood what was “challenging@ about dumping ice over your head. I mean, if anything it’s just a refreshing way to cool off.
I have a better idea.
Instead of dumping perfectly good ice everywhere we put it in a bucket. Then we add a little water, and you hold your hand in the freezing water as long as you can.
Now THATS a challenge. I’m gonna assume you’ve probably never had a reason to purposefully freeze your fingers, but have you ever stuck your hand in a snowbank sans gloves? Or had to stand out in windy, frigid weather with some bit of skin left exposed?
It fucking hurts, but not like anything you’ve felt before.
At first it’s a shock, then you start to feel the stabbing of the cold as your nerves freak out telling your brain “DANGER!”. It might start to ache and throb as the tissues get damaged, the cells literally freezing and expanding.
At a certain point the pain changes, it’s gotten so intense, too intense. With so many neurons sending so many signals of different pains the brain short circuits.
It turns off the pain. Your appendage, now slowly dying in the cold, feels like nothing.
Not better, not ok, but void. A vacuum in the place where something was.
That’s where I’ve been for a while now, but instead of my body it’s my brain. My heart & soul, the place where I’d feel sick over the loss or giddy about <insert things I have enjoyed>.
It’s worse somehow, like emotional constipation so bad it’s all just impacted feelings stuck somewhere deep down; and it ain’t budging.
So yeah. That’s grief some days, at least for me.
Leave me a comment if you’ve ever felt something like this, and how it’s gone for you.
If you’ve spent some time here, read along with the story so far you may have noticed I don’t seem to spend much time with Family.
“Why is that?” You wonder, “With so much loss you’d think the family would come together and support each other. Bloods thicker than water after all…”
Yeah, except when it isn’t.
Except when you spend the anniversaries of your parents deaths mostly alone, keeping busy with as many mundane things as you can find.
When you get a phone call from your mother’s brother on the anniversary of your dads death, a man who only met him a few times over 30 years ago, and he is the Only Person to ask “How’re you doing?”
When you remember the last moments of your dads life, holding his hand surrounded by strangers. Those two other people that share his DNA and a vague resemblance to you, those same two you haven’t seen since that fateful afternoon last August.
Family, the way it’s portrayed by the media as this steadfast harbor in a storm, is a lie.
Family is no more than those people who share a vague genetics connection to me. Who’s concern only extends as far as how I might be of use in their times of need.
Family is a curse. A promised lie I can’t help but fall for each and every time it’s spoken. Like some pathetic dog returning to its master despite their indifference and neglect, when even the dog knows it’d do much better if it just stayed out alone.
It hurts to know it’ll never be. I’ll never have the love and support I see taken for granted by so many.
That’s exactly one year of my existence on a planet where my parents aren’t. Where I can’t call them, or stop by on a random Tuesday to say hi. A whole circuit around the sun on a big blue rock when I didn’t have them toreach out to.
It’s been a long year, but it’s only the first. I’ve seen & felt grief in so many ways I never imagined; and it hurts.
That’s just another piece of the story though, and who reads a story where everything goes right?
Nobody, because it’s the hard stuff that makes it worthwhile somehow. Even when it doesn’t seem like it. It’s diving into what’s unknown, uncomfortable & potentially painful that makes us.
But I digress, I started this with the intention of telling you a a Real Life Ghost Story, so here it is:
On a summer day, long long ago Dad went for a country drive with an old friend. Though they didn’t have a destination in mind, they were hoping to find a new fishing spot along along the streams that run throughout the hills of western MA.
As they drove the road started to curve awat from the River, bringing them higher into the hills. Up here the homes become more sparse. The trees thicker, the bright summer day began to feel heavy as the two turned a sharp corner, noticing a clearing in the trees up ahead.
As the truck approached the men realized what they’d found, not unusual in rural New England, the gate of a crumbling old cemetery.
The clearing was perfect for a break from the truck where they’d sat for so long, so the two men peeled themselves from the seats to stretch their limbs. Dad & Friend wandered together for a bit, trying to make out what was written on the headstones without much luck.
Eventually the two split up, with Dad heading towards the back of the clearing. Here the stones were little more than crumbling lumps, barely distinguishable from the ground. Dad see something off to his right, near the back edge of the cemetery.
As he gets closer it’s clear that this it’s another headstone, but in much better shape than any of its neighbors. Once he reaches the stone he reaches out to brush away some of the dirt and loss that covered the writing, only to recoil in horror before running full tilt back to the truck yelling for friend to follow ASAP.
Written on the stone was his name, but the dates were worn completely off. We’d tried to find the cemetery a few times over the years with no luck, odds are it was some great-great grand-uncle (we’ve been here a while apparently…) but still. I’d be spooked.
It’s different, but I’m not sure how much so. I know a lot hasn’t happened that I expected, and a lot of things have come up that I never saw coming.
As far as this loss goes, it’s a wound. A year ago I got two huge cuts, one down each side from my armpits to my hips. Normally healing these kinds of things starts with the mourning; with sharing the collective loss with the community and those who knew them. Sharing the loss, the stories and the pain helps to close the wound a bit, it’s not healed but it’s on it’s way.
There was no collective mourning here however, and the day my dad died was the last time I saw anyone blood-related to him.
Skipping this step it feels as if the cuts have scabbed over, maybe even started to grow scar tissue but they’re anything but healthy.
Healing might not be the linear process we’d expect. What seems to be an old wound suddenly starts to warm, and I can feel the swelling from under my skin. There’s infection, something that needs release before the body can stitch everything back together. As painful as the infection becomes the urge to try and force it out is strong.
Thing is, you can’t just force the bad away. You need to get rid of it, for sure, but that takes time. Maybe just some TLC, maybe a round of antibiotics. Only thing I know is when you squeeze a pimple it gets 10x worse. Same goes for Grief.
So the cycle has gone this year, from healing to infection; relief to pain. Right now I’m in the infection stage, that bit where it’s not ready to be drained but you know the pain is there. I was hoping that by writing I could trick myself into purging the pain. No luck there.
Sunday will make it a year from the day my Dad passed, and it’s looking like I’ll be spending it alone.
Let me stop you right there friend, this isn’t your usual blog post about gardening woes. I’m not here writing to complain about my lack luster tomato plants or the squirrels that are digging holes in the garden beds killing what little is thriving (even though that is happening…)
No, I want to burn my garden because it failed on a much bigger scale.
See, last summer I built the raised beds to save my seedlings since the greenhouse wasn’t an option ( The greenhouse is it’s own story for another day…). I had a ridiculous number of cherry tomato plants, but only one beefsteak survived.
Turned out that those big juicy tomatoes were my Dads favorite, so I tended that plant like my life depended on it.
Or his, actually.
I had this hope, this ridiculous dream that I’d bring him that tomato and we’d sit around like old times; that with one bite he would commend me for my gardening skills and reminisce about summers past.
Funny thing about pancreatic cancer is it makes eating excruciating.
The day the tomato had finally ripened I made plans to go visit ASAP. As I drove up to his house I played out all the scenarios of us enjoying this moment, how wonderful this t would be. That despite the pain and nausea he’s be able to taste it’s juices and magically he’d begin to go into remission.
When I got to the house I sliced it up and sprinkled some salt, then put it on the coffee table while we watched some shark week. He told me how beautiful it was, how “a garden fresh tomato is the taste of peak summer”, but he never took a bite.
Eventually I started eating it, grabbing spices hoping someone else would follow suit.
When I left I was the only one to try it. He said he’d take a bite later, that when he ate the pain got worse and he didn’t want to ruin our time together.
I believe he did, and that the tomato failed to be the panacea I had built it up to be.
When he died in August I stopped tending the garden. I wasn’t going to grow anything this year, but At some point I planted tomatoes again. Only beefsteak, but the cherry’s self seeded all around the bed.
I care for it, neglectfully so but still. Green tomatoes are growing, and I hate them.
It’s a duality, like so many others, this perfect example of “life goes on” that inherently reminds me of death. I want to burn it, a huge pyre and pit to replace the green that’s there now, taunting me with the memory of Hope dashed.
I won’t though, there’s flowers coming back. Even a cucumber plant bloomed this week. So, it staysfornow.
So first a disclaimer; as long as I can remember I have been fascinated by the unexplained. Ghosts, ufo’s, ancient mysteries like the pyramids or the Nazca lines…if it’s purported to exist I secretly wanna see it.
That being said, I feel sometimes as if there’s just a bit too much coincidence in way things come together in my life. It’s just a little too..neat.
For example, when I was about 6 i made a friend named Sarah, she had an older sister and they lived around the corner from me. About a year later they moved and the new family also had two girls, the younger one named Sarah. She’s still my best friend today.
Skip ahead to this week, when two random events occurred completely by chance but so perfect I couldn’t have planned it better.
Let’s start off with the planning of a memorial for my Dad. My aunt & I had been going over where in the park we should reserve a space, not quite lining up with our ideas but finally agreeing on one. When I called to reserve it I was told everything for that date had already been taken, except the one that’s near his memorial bench. We hadn’t considered it before, his bench is near the playgrounds & the river so it didn’t seem very private and was a longer walk from the parking area. Suffice it to say we’ll be next to his spot, without either one of us choosing it.
Now let’s talk about today. I’d decided to get some flowers to fill in a bed I’d made last summer. I figured i should get some low, ground cover kind of stuff. As I was driving I thought how nice it’s be to have Black-eyed Susans. Susan’s my mom’s name, so I’ve always associated them with her. Last year I couldn’t find them anywhere and gave up.
As I pulled into the garden center there was a huge sign out front, 2 for 1 Black Eyed Susan’s.
Even now, as I was lying in bed trying to read and distract myself enough to fall asleep, this happens:
Jack & Susan…of all the names in all the world…those are my parents names’.
So, now it’s 11pm and all this kismet coincide has me teary eyed and wondering:
If these are all signs from the universe? If so what’s being said?
Or is it just happenstance? Events easily explained away and disregarded.
What truly matters, at least in my opinion, is that I noticed. That I found significance in the mundane. What else do we really have in this life if not that?
My mom was a lot of things, but one thing she was above all else was independent. She raised me alone, sure she had friends & family who cares about us and helped where they could but at the end of the day it was just the two of us.
So when it came to household stuff like cleaning or fixing the dryer she had to figure it out. I learned a lot through watching her. Things that I take for grant today, like knowing how to light the pilot on the stove or insulate the windows for winter, that a lot of my friends are clueless about.
For years I’ve attributed these skills & knowledge/ to my time at Home Depot. Sure I learned stuff there but that’s not where I learned the drive to fix. To figure it out because no one else will, and to do so alone because there’s no other option.
Today I hung a clothesline. I’d tried last weekend with my boyfriend but was missing a piece. I had everything ready to go but kept putting it off, waiting for someone else to be around just in case.
Would it have been easier with help? No doubt. Was it impossible to do alone? No, it just required a bit more creativity (and patience…I damn near tore the whole thing down out of frustration more than once)
Ultimately situations like this remind me that I am capable of doing things independently even if I’d rather not. So yeah, thanks mom.
Death season is upon me, while I suppose it’s technically season 2 I didn’t know season 1 was coming so…
Here we are. One year ago I was reeling from my moms unexpected suicide while trying desperately to cling to hope that my dad would survive.
It was a shitty time to say the least. However I can’t say this moment is much better; over the past year I’ve had family disown me & lost a job. Granted that job generally made me miserable, I miss my students.
I miss having an obligation, where someone would notice if I’m not around. where I was held account for my time.
Truthfully I’ve spent most of the past year in Disbelief (dissociation?) that they’re truly gone. I go from numb to paralyzed and back again daily. Some days the realness of it all is so intense I get sick, retching from anxiety like when I was a kid and had to sleep away from home.
August 29th will mark the end of this first (or second?) Death Season, between now & then let’s try to memento mori. Live this life remembering death will come to us all.