Friday, December 20, 2013

The Ugly

You've probably heard this before, but death is not pretty.  Much like birth it is messy, painful and laborious.  Something we all must go through, and yet in our society, so cloaked in shadow and fear that until you actually are present for the process of death you may not really comprehend it.

When I am lucky, I can remember the good times. Falling in love, raising our babies and sharing our small victories. The richness of two lives woven together, and all of the joy that brought... and still brings, even though there is a huge piece missing.

And then there are other times. Times that come out of nowhere, catch me fully awake as I go about my daily life or hit me as I fall asleep, my mind relaxed enough to let in a barrage of memories I cannot forget.

Blood everywhere.  Being told to buy red or black sheets and towels so that if my husband bled out at some point it would be less scary for our kids.

The gaps between breaths. The SOUND of someone you love struggling to do the one thing we all do effortlessly everyday.

Being handed a sheet of paper and told to make arrangements for the disposal of the body. As if that body wasn't still lying in my living room, struggling through another day.

A friend of mine, who had lost her first husband years earlier, tried to prepare me. "There will be a sound that comes out of you when it happens. You won't even know you are making it." She was right. I screamed that day in a way I never had before, even in the throes of pain so awful I thought I must be ripping apart. It was not a cry, I couldn't do that yet. I didn't make that sound again until 6 months after Jason died and the numbing fog I was in began to clear a little.  It is the sound of pure grief, and it is primal. It is horrifying. It is cleansing.

That is another grief I have had to contend with. I thought, hoped, that surely he would die peacefully.  That I could hold his hand and whisper my love to him and make it somehow easier to let go. Surely,  he deserved that. But it didn't happen that way. And those memories still claw their way to the forefront of my mind and leave me in a panic. They won't stop, but I hope someday they will become less powerful. I hope someday I can use them to help others in the same situation,  even if just a little.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


As expected,  this time of year is proving to be... difficult. Even though I have come a long way, healed up a little bit, gotten a little bit stronger... there are moments (who am I kidding... hours, days really) when I am knocked flat on my ass. It becomes hard to breathe, the dark clouds gather above me and every ounce of energy dries up and I'm left exhausted.  Motionless. Despairing. Everything is suddenly TOO MUCH. I hate being alone and yet I can't stand to be around people... especially the ones who love me. I am paranoid... why is everyone staring? What have I done now? How much of my crazy is showing through this carefully constructed facade? Everyone must think I'm stupid, pathetic. Or maybe I'm doing too well... maybe I don't care anymore. The numbness that has become such a familiar companion comes rushing back and even a smile is too hard to fake. Look at me, I'm still going. I'm even happy sometimes. I'm a monster.

I know that isn't true. I'm not fine and I am, at the same time. And that is ok. I can be despondent and sad and angry at the very same time that I feel immense gratitude and joy and comfort. That is the nature of this beast.

Because there is such a delicate balance.  Sometimes I am perfectly level and I stand poised like an amazon warrior and revel in my own strength. Fuck you universe... you won't ever stop me. I can do anything, I am fearless. And other times someone gives me a hug and I crumple, torn and broken and  burning in the fire of my loss... and all I still have left to lose.  I am terrified. And confused.  And confident that I will be ok. That my children will be fine. That I can do this, I can still make my life count. I have so much to give.

I need patience, so much patience and understanding.  Because getting through the funeral and all the hubbub surrounding the first few months? I feel like that is the easy part. There comes a time, months later, when the shock has mostly worn off. When everyone around you, including yourself,  just wants you to get better. When those who love you have just a little less compassion.... and it is totally understandable. When you are expected to carry on. And that is the hard part. When you look normal and you feel mostly ok, but in reality the REALNESS of what has happened becomes concrete. This is it. This is not a movie or a dream. You will not be waking up from this. Nothing will ever be normal again. You know something that other people, people fortunate enough to not have experienced the utter destruction of a life, can't know: you are alone in this. We all are, really. No outside thing, person or place can fix you. Only you can grieve and struggle and hurt and grow. Only you can take a deep breathe and convince the monster in your head that you may be hurting and you may be sad but you are still in charge. You will be the one who decides how this will play out. You will be the one that saves yourself.