Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Last of the Firsts

A dear and wise friend said to me as we were parting company for the weekend to get through it however we could and reminded me this was the last of the firsts.  The Last of the Firsts.  I have considered this moment and what it would be like for a long time now.  We've been through the whole cycle.  The first moment when we received the news that our daughter was gone, the first moments without her, our first days trying to plan the memorial and not really believing that we had to do it, the first weeks still half waiting for someone to call and tell us they made a mistake, the first holiday, the first Christmas, the first birthdays, including hers, and now the first anniversary of her death.  In the ensuing year, my mother has died, we've lost a dog during a long, awful night, and my husband has walked away from his job with no plans for his future, leaving me to figure out how we can both pay the bills and care for ourselves if our paths are as long as my mom's.  I guess it's no wonder I feel so tired.

I am sure I will describe how the day itself was by and by.  But, I think what I want to say tonight is aimed at the people who may read this who have experienced similar loss, or who may stumble upon it in the future and wonder how in the hell they are supposed to carry on, hoping to find some glimmer of inspiration in my words.  Because I have wondered that a lot during the last year.

At first I got through everyday because I had to.  I had obligations.  I really had no interest in actually getting up in the morning, less in getting dressed and out the door, and still less in doing anything productive.  But, I absolutely had no choice.  So I did.  And then gradually it got to be more of a routine.  And, oh so gradually, I began to interact with people, both who knew what had happened and those that didn't, without worrying about my loss being the dominating aspect of how that interaction would go.  Somehow, without even knowing how or why it happened, I began to get through a work week almost like a normal person.  I bemoaned Mondays like everyone else, worked toward the Fridays and the evenings, and was able to concentrate on the work for longer periods of time without being interrupted by thoughts of Kelsey.  There continue to be moments, some brought on by some minor thing or other, but some just randomly pop up, and then I am overwhelmed with memories and emotions.

And I really cannot suffer fools.  I have little patience for the office politics or the inevitable presence of the individual who thinks they are better than you or that the rules don't apply to them.  My poor boss spends half her time trying to keep a tight rein on my leash lest my bark gets out of hand, and I actually try to take a bite out of someone.  But, some sense of self control is gradually returning.  I still feel the fire light inside me, but I can keep it contained a bit better.  I wondered at that reaction in myself actually.  I would have guessed that losing a daughter would have put things in a perspective to where all that superfluous stuff just rolled off my back.  But, I think it irks me that people act like jerks because they don't realize how transitory and fragile life is.  Act better, I figure, and better things will happen for you.  And then I want to smack 'em!  However, I digress.

I will admit that there were so many moments when I didn't think I wanted to draw another breath, particularly when Mother's situation was becoming particularly tricky, and I was having a hard time juggling her dementia with her iron clad desire for control.  I couldn't see any possible advantage to drawing further breath.  I knew I had to.  Mother had no one else.  But, there was no desire in it.  I have read this is fairly normal.  When she died, I wondered more than once, "Now what use is there?"

The crushing sense of loss, of failure, of utter and complete hopelessness.  I felt all of that.  What I lost for a time was any sense of joy or inner calm.  And I couldn't imagine how to get any of that back.  At the one year mark, I am still a long way from bouncing back.  I am beginning to suspect that I likely will not.  Not all the way.  Yet, as I stood on my front porch this weekend and watched the new crop of fawns, cavorting with one another in my lawn, dancing lightly around their mothers' legs, their little legs springing them from one place to another, I felt a sense of satisfaction that I never could have imagined feeling one year ago.  And when Cheyenne pressed her face into my on Sunday, seemingly aware of the import of the day, I wondered how I could ever have thought of short changing myself of that kind of unconditional love.  And then there is Marissa.  She may not really need me any longer physically, but I think we need one another to remain a part of our lives for a while emotionally.  I need to see how her life evolves.  I want to be there for her when she needs me, or when it's time for someone to call me Grandma.  I am not ready to give that up.

In short, what I would say to someone about to take the first painful steps onto the road called grief that you should do whatever you need to do to push yourself out there.  You will hate it at first.  It will be uncomfortable and unbelievably painful.  But just do it.  Do it the first day.  Then the next.  And so on.  Eventually you won't have to think about it so much.  It'll just happen.

Don't try and run from the pain.  It will find you.  There is no where it cannot go.  A David Cook concert, a U2 concert.  Yeah, it's there.  Waiting.  So meet it.  Show it you cannot be defeated by it.  I used to wonder at the wisdom of going out there again and again just to become triggered by some thing or other.  Now I think I did the right thing.  Get slapped around by the grief some.  If you hide from it, like Greg is doing, it will find you anyway.  Might as well go out swinging.

I have always believed in Fate.  I still do.  I have to believe I remain behind for a reason.  So, I am fighting to get to the point where I can see why Fate left me behind.  But, I still trust that a reason exists.  So should you, dear reader.

1 comment:

  1. Michelle Cross has a friend whose daughter died in a wreck on (surprise) 71 a few years ago.. she says the second year is so much harder than the first. She says during the first, all those "firsts" are difficult, yes, but hazy, fogged difficult. The second year is a nightmare, she says. We'll fight on, I suppose. <3