Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Road Map, Part Two: Lighting the Dark and Lonely Road

I've been on the very road you're walking on
It doesn't have to be so dark and lonely
Takes a while until we can figure this thing out and turn it back around

- The Shins, It's Only Life

I watched The Village again the other day.  I hadn't realized that it had been so long, but once I was a few minutes into it I realized I hadn't seen it since before Kelsey died and my perception of the movie is now completely different.  I may have to amend my movie list to the Big 8 - it remains to be seen.  But I can tell you I had a big cry during this viewing at least.  However, I mention it because of the moral of the story:  you cannot isolate yourself from either sadness or the capacity for violence.  Hide where you will, it will find you.  I think that's important to know, and if I were to continue on with what I would say to someone, I would make sure I emphasize that over and over.  I think many of us want and are looking for a way out of the grieving process.  There isn't one except to get through it.  I'm telling you:  like I said before, you can try different legal or illegal avenues and all you will do is mask it, but that means it will hang around and wait for you.  You've got to sober up at some point and there it will be.  Might as well handle it now.  I know that's why I couldn't make it through that book I've mentioned multiple times; because it was bluntly honest about the process and the potential collateral damage.  I couldn't accept that at first and wanted to run from it.  I was completely intent on proving it wrong on every level.  Problem is, I can tell you now, almost three years later, you just cannot.  Unless you are a cold hearted bastard who doesn't love your family, you're going to have to wade through the process.  And sometimes you'll wonder why you're bothering.  I'll get to that.

But, in the meantime, sometimes life throws you a curve ball and it's hard to give yourself the right amount of space to do exactly that.   For me, there was Mother.  And I had other obligations to attend to.  So, what happened is that I attended to everything in a fairly half-ass manner.  I took care of my mom, but probably not like she deserved.  Certainly not in a manner that allows me to think back on her last days fondly and with any amount of pride that I made her comfortable.  It was a struggle, I'll just be honest.  I think I made the right Big Decisions, but it was the little stuff that suffered.  The caring and compassion.  I just had so little patience.  But, grieving properly - whatever that may mean - was being done in a slipshod fashion as well.  Once Mother was gone, then I moved on to plotting the move to Pittsburgh and again I managed to put the grieving process somewhere else in the brain besides front and center.  I figured at the time that it was the best thing for me.  Maybe it was.  The end result certainly was a good one.  But, if I thought somewhere deep inside that the grieving process was going on anyway while I was concentrating on something else and would expire without me having really thought about it, that was incorrect.  Once I got here, got the house mainly situated and the quiet settled in around me, I realized I was going to have to feel it.  And feel it I did.  I didn't always write about the most harrowing of some of those moments; I didn't want to scare anyone who might read it, but I can safely say now that grief doesn't burn itself out without your feeling every lick of every flame.  It demands it of you before it will consent to leave.  And, like that book I couldn't finish said, you get through some of those days simply by deciding you're going to, not because you really want to.    I felt like I really didn't care if I didn't wake up the next morning or not and would actually prefer not to,  so I just would do it anyway because I figured at some point that feeling would leave and I had to trust in that.  In the meantime, Cheyenne needed me.  It worked.  Here I am.

So, my point in relaying all of this is:  if that is how you feel now, dear reader, in the wake of a great loss, you are not going crazy, you are simply in the middle of the awful process that I wish for your sake you did not have to go through.  But, if you trust in the knowledge that eventually you will wake up in the morning and simply get up and get the coffee started without thinking about it, then you can make it for now.  The funny thing is, it's a little bit like surviving the worst migraine possible.  You don't realize how good simply feeling normal is until you've felt the exact opposite.   Give yourself the chance to experience that.

Everybody has to decide how best to get through those days, but going it alone is not what I would recommend.  I've said it a hundred times before; grief is a unique experience for each of us.  I am not back-tracking on that.  I was so scared at first by the dire predictions on marriages failing in the wake of losing a child, but I actually can tell you now that I'm slightly amazed any survive at all because each parent is struggling with a unique pain that is crippling them so they can't possibly help the other one. I see how easy it would be to resent the other spouse because they aren't grieving the way you think they should be.  Maybe the husband swallows the grief and locks it down tight inside himself while the wife is very open about it.  She thinks he's forgetting about their loss, while he think she's being disrespectful because she blabs about a very personal issue to every Tom, Dick or Harry who comes along.  Maybe she does that because he won't talk to her about it, but he hates that she prods him to, and round and round they go until the situation erodes and they split.  There can be a million variations to the theme, but don't be surprised that you feel as though you are at odds with the one person you thought would understand your pain the most.   Be prepared to get support from sources outside your own four walls, but don't blame your spouse for that need.  You'll have to determine who and what based on your unique circumstances.  Friends tried to get us to go to a support group.  It had worked wonders for them, but Greg wanted nothing to do with it.  You have to respect that from your spouse - coaxing a little is one thing.  I think if I'd tried to forcibly drag him, he would have shut down and resented it and me.  It wasn't the right salve for his wound.  But, for others, it's perfect.  Maybe private counseling works better.  Maybe, like me, writing about it is a good tool.  I actually would encourage anyone to give that a try - keep a journal, write letters even if you don't send them.  You don't have to keep a public blog, but just spilling it out on paper cannot be a bad thing.  But maybe you also find a friend who, while not really able to know exactly how you feel, is willing to just sit and listen when you need him/her to, including the middle of the night, if that's what it takes.  Maybe it's a shelter cat you adopt who cuddles up with you and purrs you to sleep and listens to you gently cry with no judgment or impatience.  You may have to experiment with some different things until you find what works best for you, but my most sincere advice is:  find that source of support and lean on it.  Don't be shy.  When you find the right outlet, you'll know it because they won't ever question the depth of your pain.  They'll accept that you feel it even if they don't.  It's okay to lean on others right now.  Life will find a way to let you pay it forward later if you're worried about that.

That's all for today, dear reader, I'm late for work!

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