I’ve been thinking a lot about “letting go” in the context of loss. Specifically, the loss of my father and both brothers; all the male members of my family, within eleven months. The deaths happened in such quick succession. My oldest brother died suddenly last April. I brushed it off. I knew it was coming. Some day. I’d been waiting most of my life for that one.
My father died in October, six months after his oldest son. I had a little more time to prepare for his death. I spent five nights with him, just the two of us, in hospice. But even so, when my remaining brother died suddenly a month ago, on March 25, I was still trying to grieve the loss of my father. Only five months had passed. And I hadn’t even begun grieving the loss of my oldest brother last April. That death was complicated.
When I think about grieving, about letting go, I feel my heels planting more firmly into the dirt, my body leaning back against the rope I’m gripping. But it’s beginning to slip, sliding through my hands, in my own private tug of war.
I don’t want to let go. I don’t have time to feel the losses. To feel their impact. How can I let go of that rope?
Why am I not grieving? Why do I fear feeling it? Am I afraid it will take me through to “the other side”? To a place where I’m “done” with the loss? To a place where it doesn’t matter any more? To a place where they don’t matter any more? Back to my meaningless “before” life?
And so I lean back harder against the rope and hold on tight, even though my hands are torn and bloody.
I went from one death to the next to the next, with no time to grieve. My focus has been to push it away. Get back to work. Back to billing hours. Back to being productive. Back to fitting in at the mega-firm we merged with two years ago. Back to attempting to fit in at that firm even though I don’t share their ambitions and goals, let alone their pedigrees. I didn’t feel their level of ambition before the losses. I feel it even less, now. It all seems so trivial. Moving money from one deep pocket to another.
I need to let go of the rope. To be left alone to grieve. To let go of the rope and just fall apart. Why are we not given time in this culture to grieve? When did that stop? Why can’t I wear black for a year and have people leave me the fuck alone?
Since my brother died, I’ve had very few weekends to myself. Two were spent with family. Last weekend was spent out of town with my firm. And today I have to travel to a client event in a town about an hour and a half away. It’s a fundraiser for a good cause, and it’s being held by my favorite client. But I’m so tired. I just want to be alone. I want to write. Pet the cats. Sleep.
Nothing matters much right now. All the things people worry about at the office seem ridiculous. I want to slap them and tell them to stop fretting over stupid, tiny, small things. But nice things don’t seem to matter either. My jasmine is in full bloom. It smells lovely. And I don’t feel like sitting outside enjoying it and watching the birds. I want to be inside, in my bed, with a cat on my lap.
Last weekend, when I returned from Chicago, I got sick. Just a little cold. Maybe allergies. I wished I was sicker. Even so, I worked from home for a couple of days. In my bed. Papers strewn about, a cat in my lap (Sally), the drapes closed against the world. Just me, in my space, eliminating as many of the things that irritate me as possible. Next week, I may do the same. The boss will be traveling, so it won’t matter whether I work from home or not. He won’t need to walk down to my office every ten minutes to interrupt me with some idiotic, inconsequential tidbit. I like the man. But he’s annoying the crap out of me these days.
I know the irritation is part of the grieving process. But I want to drop the rope and move on to the harder pieces. I want to fall apart. I sometimes fantasize about being locked up in a loony bin for a month or two so I can just be alone and fall apart without all the meaningless bullshit distractions.
I’ve fallen apart exactly once since Steve died on March 25. Last weekend in my hotel room in Chicago. After the after-dinner drinks, of which I had too many, I crawled into the hotel bed. Maybe it was the unfamiliar surroundings. Maybe it was the lack of kitty sleeping companions. Maybe it was too much wine. But the next thing I knew, the dam broke. I sobbed into my pillow for over an hour. I was in such deep despair, I couldn’t prise myself off the bed for a tissue. But I was in a hotel, so I didn’t much care about the snot-covered pillow case. I just kept crying. Ugly crying. Body-wracking-sobs crying. I don’t recall ever crying so hard for so long. I was weak and hollowed out when it subsided.
That’s the kind of grief I want to feel. Over and over again. I know it’s there lurking, beneath the irritation. If only I could drop the rope again and fall flat on my ass in the mud. I don’t know how. I don’t know how I did it last weekend. It just happened. I think I just need to be alone. I need to stop with the tv-watching with my neighbor every night, which generally has included wine and a nice dinner. She’s my distraction. She’s been my distraction since the night I got the news Steve was dying. I haven’t spent a single night after work or on the weekend alone. Not one. Before Steve died, I was alone most nights. My neighbor was in Hong Kong and I spent my evenings in solitude. She is my defense against the grief. She’s supposed to leave this week, but is still waiting for word from her husband. I want her to go.
But I fear being alone with my grief. What if I fall into a pit of despair and am unable to climb out? What if the depression returns? I am depressed. Death does that to a person. But what if the regular non-situational depression returns? What if I can’t keep myself from being sucked under by the quicksand?
Depression is a part of grief. I know that. But what makes that depression different from clinical depression? Why is depression caused by death okay, but depression caused by life is not? How would I feel off the pharmaceuticals? Would I find grieving easier? Would I grieve too much? How can you grieve too much?
Maybe that’s why I’m having trouble grieving. Maybe I need to get off these meds.
Another rambling post. Forgive me.