Thursday, April 12, 2012

Road Map, Part One: Accepting the Starting Point

Frodo: I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened. 

Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. 

The Fellowship of the Ring, New Line Cinema 2002
We all know I have a suspect sense of direction in both driving and living, so take these next few posts with the appropriate grain of salt, but I have always hoped this self-serving blog would provide some comfort for somebody somewhere along the line.  So, with that in mind, here's how it is that I think I am still standing.  Hopefully someday someone in need of the simple belief that they can survive a blow like losing a family member can take away something useful to get through the next day, then the next...and so on until they no longer have to think about it and find they are simply living each of them once more.

In trying to decide how to approach this, I determined that I would basically lay it out as though I were talking to a friend who had just lost a loved one and wanted to know what to expect.  What would I say to that person?  After I got done reminding both them and myself that we are unique individuals with unique losses, so what I experienced is not necessarily going to hold true for them, I think I would have to unfortunately start out with some cold, hard truths.  First and foremost among them:

It sucks, it's painful and there are no shortcuts to escape that.  If you need some little modern medicinal help to get through the searing first days/weeks/months, then work with your doctor and do that, but if you over medicate, drown yourself in a bottle, bury yourself in work, or whatever else you come up with to try and numb the pain, it'll still be there waiting on you and you can't keep that up forever.  My advice is to get ready: life is very simply going to be awful for a while.

Also accept that things will never be the same.  Neither will you.  I think there was a time or two when I wondered when things would get back to "normal", then I'd stop myself and realize what an absurd statement that was.  What was our "normal" anyway?  Living with ED and addiction for nearly a decade, normal left my house eons ago.  But, even if that weren't the case, and some freak accident had taken my daughter, the statement would still hold true.  You will be forever changed.  Your life will be forever changed.  That is just a guarantee.  However, and it will be a while before you can really know how it will shake out, you may just find that some positive things will come from it.  That's hard to accept at first and may actually sound like pure heresy.  I'm not saying you'll ever prefer to have lost a loved one, but you may find that, with some time and distance, you are able to turn that pain into something that reaches outside the loss and helps others.  Probably the most prominent example I can think of is John Walsh of America's Most Wanted.  I mean, I don't watch it, and maybe he's gotten really, really rich from it so you can argue that it's pure self-service, but, like I said, it is the most prominent example I can think of.  There are others.  I am part of a support group of mothers of ED sufferers that was formed by a woman who lost her child to the disease.  She is very active in the fight against the disease.  Maybe she'll never be a household name, but I know a lot of moms who use the site to feel less alone as they battle the disease, and I know she's making a great impact.  Of course, maybe that won't be the right path for you.  That's okay too - more about that later.

Realize that, when it's all said and done, some of your friendships will have changed.  That too is not necessarily all a bad thing.  I have made new friends, renewed some old friendships, and cemented some other friendships in a way I could have never thought possible.   But, there are other people that are no longer a real part of my life.  Some wandered away from me, some I separated myself from.  It's sad, but it's inevitable.  If you haven't experienced a loss like mine, it's very hard to know what it's like and how to relate to the individual who has.  I made some people so uncomfortable they almost literally jumped if they ran into me unexpectedly.  Others tried to go on like nothing had changed, which meant they rattled on about this complaint or that disappointment or the latest gossip, and I found I couldn't relate to their worries any longer and had no room for them with everything else I was struggling with.

Know that you will be a pain in the ass sometimes.  I was.  Days when everything seems overwhelming and you hurt so bad that everything strikes you as wrong and awful and you'll lash out or, in some ways worse, retreat into yourself where no one can reach you.  It takes a lot of patience for your friends and loved ones to deal with that.  So, if some of them can't do it anymore, forgive them and let them move on gracefully.  If the ones who do try to stick it out say or do the wrong thing once in a while (because, trust me, they probably will), then understand that there is no right thing to say sometimes and love them just for the sake of trying, even if you have to separate yourself from them for a while in the process.

I have more to say, but, unfortunately, the other thing you have to realize about grief is that life inexorably moves on anyway.  Bills continue to come in, which means you have to continue to earn a living, and that you won't get paid for doing nothing.  So, that's where I find myself today.  Ready to log into work to earn my way in the world so I can turn around and give a healthy chunk to my tax accountant, who I hope is busily preparing my state and local returns as I write.   So, more later, dear friend.

1 comment:

  1. As I said before, I am so fortunate to have you as a friend. I'm really interested in reading more on this topic. Next week will mark the one year point since we lost Carol. I still feel it every day like a knife stabbing me in the gut.