Saturday, December 27, 2014

Leaving Normal

In times of fierce and unrelenting grief, I notice this:

Reading is too intense, requiring too much concentration. Toss.

Even an intelligent TV series like The Good Wife Season 3 requires more brain cells than I can fire up. I have to replay and replay and the threads evaporate as readily as they hove into view. I miss key information, I get frustrated. Toss.

A friend, through her father's lingering death played endless games of FreeCell on her laptop. This was a good thing.

People don't share what they do on a deathwatch. There I said it. Deathwatch. Horrible word.

And why not the distractions? You can only stare and cry and moan so much, right? Then there's knitting. I tried that. I get frustrated. That concentration thing. Toss.

And there's the telephone, the chatter seems meaningless but then what can people say? The odd few I reach out to are never home. And tripling my efforts to connect is more energy than I can summon. Hell, getting dressed is climbing Everest.

I find my family is immeasurably supportive and understanding. Bricks. We don't realize this until we're going through hell. They support me through my missing daughter, through health issues and other miseries. They say the right things like "take care of you, don't forget."

So I fire up FreeCell and get intense about that. And Mah-jongg.

And yesterday I show up to this Boxing Day bash and to my surprise I stayed and had those wonderfully distracting conversations with authors and artists and doctors and others who knew nothing of my deep pain. And that was a good thing until I got home and I felt guilty for forgetting even briefly, like I was on a short vacation.

And innocuous stupid news services on line that normally insult my intelligence I now find gripping.

And I wonder where elusive and lovely Normal is.


  1. Putting on foot in front of the other just getting through the days can be so very trying in times like this. I know....that you will survive this loss...but it does not make this difficult situation any easier. Stay strong dear ARE on of the STRONG ONES.


  2. For some bizarre, unfathomable reason when I have been gripped by grief I go nuts and clean house like I'm possessed. Polish silver that's not seen light of day in years, clear out cupboards, while my brain is somehow howling and dumb-numb-struck as a clapperless bell at the same time. How can the world be the same? How can the sun be shining on those leaves and flowers bloom when a nurse has taken my daughter - dead - from my arms?

    I know your pain, I feel it to my core. I know the waiting for the final breath, the eyes, not shut, but suddenly open wide as if in surprise and blue as heaven's skies, as if there were a heaven. Death is the caller that visits every house, and leaves a pain pressed deep on the flesh of those left behind which may fade, but never fully heals. To tell the truth we pick at the wound, for in the pain there is also the memory.

    Be numb, be riotous, or run on the beach and shriek at the storm that is always coming in Newfoundland. Do whatever grief bids you do, for there is no single way to grieve, and no right way. Grieve however you must, all the while taking time to remember that your beloved friend would bid you eat wholesome food, drink the cuppa at the right time, allow sleep to knit your ravelled sleeves of care, and be grateful for her presence in your life for 65 years. I lost a dearly loved niece in September and this brought me comfort. Perhaps it will comfort you as well.

    I am of the nature to grow old.
    There is no way to escape growing old.
    I am of the nature to have ill health.
    There is no way to escape ill health.
    I am of the nature to die.
    There is no way to escape death.
    All that is dear to me and everyone
    I love are of the nature to change.
    There is no way to escape being separated from them.
    My actions are my only true belongings.
    I cannot escape the consequences of my actions.
    My actions are the ground upon which I stand.

    from: The Plum Village Chanting, by Thích Nhất Hạnh

  3. I don't know you well enough to offer just the right words, the ones that will comfort. All I can say is that I have read your words and have heard your anticipatory grief voiced. I can imagine rage and frantic need to rescue her amid moments when you do know you will survive even this. How could you concentrate with all that going on? I wish you and her comfort in your struggles.

  4. Having been on three death watches, I can relate. I solved crossword puzzles or read books or at least tried to.

  5. All the words, no matter how little, how long, comfort me. Change is always frightening, the scaffolding of our lives, as I call it. I take very little for granted. It heightens experience, brings every tiny thing into the moment to savour.
    The shared pain on private emails reinforces I am not alone. Thank you all. So very much.

  6. Fourteen years ago I sat at my mother's bedside, waiting. The doctor had told us that after her massive stroke, my mother would last maybe a week. When a week had passed, and she was still alive, I just wanted her to get out of that hospital bed and go back to the normal routine she had before the stroke. I too wanted my normal back, rather than driving to the convalescent home after teaching all day, to sit and chatter at my mother who probably understood nothing. This went on for a whole month, until on Christmas Day, my mother slipped away.

    I kept a journal while I sat. I wrote and wrote and wrote between my jabbering. It was ten years after my mother died that I finally opened that journal and read some of my notes. They startled me.

    The next death came three years ago, but there was no waiting for it. I had seen my friend the week before Thanksgiving, after she had a surgery on her knee, and expected to visit her the day after Thanksgiving. She died the night before my visit. That startled me but set me into a flurry of activity as she had no family and only two friends, I being one of the two. We spent the month of December clearing out our friend's house so it could be sold. I was exhausted and sick afterwards.

    December is not my favorite month due to these two 'death watches.'

  7. When my brother drowned, I did a lot of mindless stuff, like watching ridiculous television. It was when I couldn't distract myself, like while driving, that I'd find myself crying.

  8. I am so sorry for your loss. One of my friends died this year, someone I'd known since my older son was a baby. Also my brother-in-law John. I don't know which shocked me more, but I do know that when my mother died in 2011 I was beyond shocked and grief-stricken. I too played endless, mindless computer games, yes, including FreeCell. And Spider Solitaire, and stupid BubbleWitch Saga. Mindless was what I needed. I couldn't read either. I couldn't study. Looking back I was in a worse state than I realised at the time.

    My experience with my mother's death was like a combination of Dkzody's with her mother plus her friend, because my mother too died of a massive stroke, but then, there being only my brother and I, we had to clear her house. It took us a month too. I have never had such frequent and horrible migraines. After her stroke, she was expected to last between a few days and six months but she never woke up and died after only five days. Those five days were horrendous, sitting at her bedside, being supportive for relatives and friends, chattering and not knowing if she could hear me. I needed Valium to get through the funeral week.

    But it passed. So will the worst of your grief pass, but you can't hurry grief. Take your time and be kind to yourself - and don't feel guilty about forgetting your grief for a few short hours now and then - you'll go mad if you don't.


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