Not the Standard Protocol

by | Aug 8, 2011 | 5 comments

Sometimes I think I should just give up completely trying to connect the old life to this one.  Forcing myself to realize, that not only have I not seen Dan for a long time now, but it’s because he’s frickin’ dead and buried.  A disappearing Dan I can manage, albeit broken-hearted.  A Dan that is no more- I can not bear.

I wonder if it’s like when you have an argument or conflict, and you keep rehashing the words said over and over in your mind.  You think of one liners you wish you’d said and replay the newly written scene over and over as well.  Your blood pressure rises.  That, I have always been quite sure- is not healthy or good.  But grief is so set aside from any other life things- it is hard to compare.  I do know that I’ve heard it is healthy and necessary to tell the story over and over again.  As I wrote quite a few months ago, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross says it often brings you answers or solace through the listeners unexpectedly.  I have found that to be very true.

But I suppose, at some point, even with this otherworldly emotion, you decide it is enough.  I don’t mean enough of feeling the sorrow-that is yours to keep-  but processing the physical death- the facts that led you to this dismal moment in time.  Like when I read the signature on the widow board that made me laugh my dark humor laugh, “all grieved out.”  But does one have to fully comprehend that your husband drowned over a year ago and is buried and this is not a really long dream to be all grieved out?  Or should I give up on that part as well…the comprehension.

Perhaps comprehending your death is going to take a kind of faith just like the faith it takes to believe your soul is alive and doing just fine.  And maybe in each case,  I need to believe before I can understand.  This  isn’t usually the way we do things, but then again nothing about the grieving process follows the standard protocol for life as we once knew it.  A belief that yes, you did die.  No, I won’t see you again on this earth.  A belief that you are not lost and when I follow to the “real world,” I will indeed see you again.

“I do not seek to understand so that I can believe, but I believe so that I may understand; and what is more, I believe that unless I do believe, I shall not understand.”  St. Anselm


August 8, 2011


  1. Anne D

    I love the St. Anselm quote, which is new to me, and most apropos.

    I wonder if passing into the new reality after Dan's death has all the pain and disequilibrium of being born. Or crawling through a cosmic wormhole and finding yourself in a strange and discomfiting new world where you have to learn to BE all over again, minus your main support person.

    After my mother died, I was absolutely bewildered. I felt I'd crossed over a threshold into a new reality, and I knew I could never go "back" to the old and comfortable one. It made me nearly crazy. I can't tell you how many times I wanted to die and join my deceased family. Even now, years later, when I get very depressed, I yearn for that. I'll find out someday if that's even possible, I guess. I do believe there is some essence of my lost loved ones that persists in a dimension beyond our physical senses.

    Thank you, Julia, for so frankly raising these difficult questions in your blog.

  2. HB

    "Perhaps comprehending your death is going to take a kind of faith just like the faith it takes to believe your soul is alive and doing just fine."

    As always Julia, perfectly put.

    Love, HB from PG. xx

  3. Cassie

    It will never stop being surprising. You will never stop thinking, "Did that actually happen? To me?"

  4. HB

    Cassie: But in time, do those thoughts become less bewildering? Will I be able to think: "Did that actually happen to us? To me?" without becoming engulfed in a wave of pain?

    They must. They have to.

    HB from PG

  5. the crucible

    How did I find you and your words here? A link to a link to a link. But then I had to start from the beginning, and read and read. I read each excruciating discovery and rediscovery of your horror and pain. And I am so so sorry for your loss.

    Your wordkeeping is exceptional, and you have kept all those rich, complex, heartbroken and disoriented emotions so well here. It has opened up a whole new vista of emotions I never knew I had. Because I never have had them. Because they are your emotions, but so profoundly evoked here, I read them and recognize them as if they were my own.

    While I have not lost a spouse, my heart lives in this strange venn diagram where grief, disbelief and terrible odds intersect (I have a child with a disease so rare that it's laughable). And I wonder, as you have, that if this truly rare thing can happen to someone I love so much, does that make me more or less likely to experience tragedy?

    And of course, the answer has nothing to do with how I feel. It just makes me more careful some days. And more careless on others.

    And the new place that emerges is this intersection between giving up and letting go, believing and not understanding, and feeling so so lost.


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