It’s been another long morning- with both of us still not feeling 100%.
Audrey’s been speaking of you a lot more lately, and that is tough to hear. To learn or understand anything new, a child needs constant repetition, but to keep repeating “Yes, he died,” for a grieving person still in a surreal world herself, that is a very hard thing to do. But I find that I myself also need the repetition to understand a concept like death that I have never known this intimately…our one flesh severed into two. Maybe that’s why when I get any alone time I am always telling you aloud, “You died sweetie. You actually died.” How utterly painful it is to not be able to discuss this with you after discussing every large and small detail of our lives, hearts, and minds for eleven years.
Yesterday my father dropped me off early to see the grief counselor, so I sat in Starbucks across the street reading a new book on grief. It’s been sitting in the stack for a while, but I think I picked it up at the perfect time in my journey into the darkness. A widower I’d been put in touch with who lost two children and his wife at once in an accident had sent this one to me. The author lost three generations- his mother, wife, and his daughter in an accident. He was also in the accident, so he witnessed it.
He speaks of entering the darkness rather than running from it: “the quickest way for anyone to reach the sun and the light of day is not to run west, chasing after the setting sun, but to head east, plunging into the darkness until one comes to the sunrise.”
I realize I have been running from it- even as I plodded through, I still longed for an escape route. I was hoping for magical signs, wonders, answers from friends, pastors or counselors- but received none. So, I think I’ve turned a corner- I told my counselor later, because I am alone now with this immense pain and must just “be” with it. I have never known, nor imagined what this kind of suffering could feel like. One feels like one will not physically survive.
The author also articulates the kind of robot-like behavior I have experienced. I am consistently amazed at how I hear my voice enthusiastically reading book after book to Audrey- and see my hands turning the pages- but I am not there.
“I became a robot programmed to perform certain functions that I was able to do quite well because of habits developed over many years. At the end of the day I would look back and remember what I had done, as if my body, not the real me, had done it. There was a radical split between the self that did my work and the self that watched me from the shadows…I performed these duties because I had to. But I looked at life like a man having an out-of-body experience.”
When I got up to leave my table in the corner by the window at Starbuck’s (the one I’ve been sitting at every week), an older man who was sitting at the table next to me waiting for someone, asked if he could have it- if I was leaving. “Sure, I said. It’s the best one.” Then, he asked me what I was reading. I told him, “Oh, it’s a book on grief.” He started to tell me about someone he knew who lost someone, and I told him why I was reading it. He offered many genuine condolences and said, “It’s a hard world.”
The counselor affirms me and tells me that I’m grieving in a healthy way, especially through my writing which she also reads. I explain how everything is still surreal as it was in those early days but just without the shock. She tells me I will not see it happen, but one day I will wake up and realize I have been sad only a few times that day, rather than all day. I look forward to that day, but apparently I have a long way to go.