My sister recently made the comment that nobody really discusses loss and grief on an everyday level.
(Don’t mind me over here, typing away about…loss…and grief…)
After I was finished feeling righteous and offended, I realized she’s right. Even those of us that write about it (and talk about it), still do so in mostly sweeping statements about waves and universal truths and fragmented stages in time. Usually, I’ll share a moment - a moment of struggle or a moment of joy, allowing you the reader to get a glimpse of myself in that particular place in time. But we don’t talk about the everyday grief. The part of grief that is small and constant. The part of grief that is so regular, it becomes a part of your days. It becomes part of yourself.
And I think it’s because dealing with grief and loss on an everyday level is, frankly, depressing. And talking about grief and loss on an everyday level is equally depressing.
So we avoid. We reference it - the sadness, the loneliness, the anger - but we don’t go deep on a linear level. Most of us are uncomfortable sitting in sadness and loneliness and anger for too long. We gloss over it in favor of positivity and hope. Everyone likes positivity and hope.
But today is 4 months since Brad died. So today I am skipping positivity and hope. Today I am going deep in loss and grief on the most basic, everyday level.
So 4 months in, this is what my everyday grief looks like:
I wake up. I am usually exhausted because sleep - like grief apparently - comes in waves. Maybe I got a solid 2 hours, maybe I got 6, broken up by bouts of restlessness. Whatever amount I got, I am sure it wasn’t 8 hours. I can’t remember the last night I had 8 full hours of sleep.
I lie in bed and have to convince myself to get up. Convince myself to not waste my life. Convince myself to be responsible. Convince myself to make Brad proud. Usually I settle for convincing myself to make it to the coffee maker.
Coffee in hand, I check Facebook and email. On some days someone has sent me a note or video or article. Sometimes from a stranger, sometimes from a friend. They are always appreciated, but I never know how to respond or am too exhausted to respond thoughtfully. So usually, I don’t. I add it to my mental to-do list for another day (“write thoughtful and appreciative response”). I look at my Facebook memory of the day - hoping Brad posted on this day and I get to remember another piece of him I normally wouldn’t have remembered. Usually they are all too serious articles from the New York Times. But sometimes, they are things like “Dana won the pool. I won at life with the best girl ever.” or a hilarious Instagram photo of Dune taking a shit next to the tacky “No Dog Pooping” sign outside the hotel next door. I love those moments. And hate those moments. I smile and cry at those moments. I screenshot them and put them in a folder for safe keeping in case Facebook decides to one day implode.
I debate doing normal adult human activities, like eating breakfast, showering, or getting dressed. On any given day, it’s questionable whether any these things will happen. On a day where all three occur, it feels like a fucking miracle.
I try and figure out my future. This has always been a struggle for me - the “future.” But now I attempt to do it alone. Without Brad whiteboarding ideas for me and asking me relevant (and seemingly irrelevant) questions. Now I have to accept the fact that I can’t rely on my business alone and need more income in order to maintain my life. That my little entrepreneur soul is probably going to have to get a 9-5. This thought, combined with the fact that most days I can barely eat breakfast, shower, and get dressed, depresses me. On a good day, I’ll avoid this by daydreaming about a future business idea that excites me. On most days, I just avoid altogether.
A familiar song comes on. It makes me think of Brad. Either I smile or cry (oftentimes both), but I lose my concentration, knowing whatever I was hoping to accomplish probably won’t get finished now. This happens about 20 times a day. I tell myself I should turn off the music, but then it’s quiet. Too quiet. And through all my grief and loss, music is still my one constant companion and I just can’t stand to lose that too.
I check the mail. I used to love checking the mail. I loved the possibility that on any given day, someone may have thought of me and sent me a letter. Now I dread the mail. It almost always involves communication from creditors, vultures trying to buy my home, hospice surveys, medical bills, student loan bills, attorney bills. I feel overwhelmed and angry. On days I feel strong, I tackle this mail. But usually I put it off for another day.
Maybe I’ll leave my house. Either because I have to or because I am attempting to avoid being the isolated hermit I instinctively want to become. Either way, I will inevitably see someone I know. I will smile and say hello and they will smile back, the kind of half smile of pity. Well intentioned, they will ask, “how are you??” I will have a split second to decide. Do I answer honestly or do I say I’m doing "fine" and quickly move on. It usually depends on how much time I have and how exhausted I am and whether or not it is okay to cry in whatever public space I am in. Usually I lie. Then feel guilty. Then tell myself I am never leaving the house again.
My car is rattling. It needs an oil change and new break pads. I’m pissed I have to do this alone. Which is absurd because even when Brad was alive, I still took care of my car myself. But I’m looking for reasons to justify feeling angry (aside from the obvious). So I focus on the noises in my car and the fact that I don’t have a man to take care of that for me. My feminist self dies inside a little, but I don’t care. I just want to be angry, so I let myself pitifully go there.
I start thinking about dinner. I used to cook. I used to love to cook. But now cooking requires going to the grocery store. And seeing how Detroit is “the biggest small town in America” (as Brad used to say), I know there is a high probability I will run into someone I know at the grocery store. And wanting to avoid the half smiles of pity, I avoid the store completely. Plus I don’t know how to shop - or cook - for one person. So I buy too much and it goes bad. And Brad would be upset at the wastefulness. So I feel guilty. And I don’t shop. So dinner, which used to be a shared experience of love, is now one of guilt, dread, and loneliness.
Some days I’ll meet up with friends and watch a movie or grab a drink. I’ll probably drink too much because even with my closet friends, even through my smile, I feel alone and in a thick layer of grief. Usually I’ll bail and go home early. But sometimes, I’ll connect in an authentic way, where for a brief period of time, I don’t feel so alone. Sometimes I’ll have joyful experiences with people I love. We will laugh and talk and it will feel incredible. And then I feel guilty. Even though I know it’s bullshit and I deserve to have fun and Brad would want me to connect and blah blah blah. But I feel guilty, because I am human and miss my husband and can’t imagine being able to have a joyful moment with him being dead.
I think about Dune and how he will be factored into this new life of ours. Right now he is with my mom in Virginia. But soon I will have to figure out how to readjust my dog to life without his Papa. Readjust him to being left alone for extended periods of time or going to doggy day care most days of the week. I worry about his separation anxiety that was already present before Brad got sick. I worry how I am going to take care of both him and myself. I worry that I cannot provide enough love for the loss we both feel. I know this readjustment will not be easy. Dune - like most of us - does not like change. So I worry about this too.
I get ready for bed. This is the hardest part of my day. Even with music, there isn’t enough noise to drown out the deafening silence of Brad’s absence. I crawl into the king size bed we upgraded to a year ago. After 10 years, it was the only bed we ever picked out together. I loved this bed. Now I fucking hate this bed. I curl up in the corner where Brad used to sleep, taking up the tiniest fraction of my too big bed. Maybe I’ll fall asleep quickly. Usually, I’ll toss and turn for hours, get out of bed, and walk aimlessly around. Sometimes I’ll be fortunate enough to talk a friend or family member who is also still awake. Eventually I will sleep.
The next morning I wake up, exhausted, and do it all again.
And that’s my everyday grief.
Fucking depressing, right? I’m naturally inclined to want to immediately tell you that in between all of that grief is hope and laughter and love. And that’s true - there is. But I feel the need to say it because, like the rest of you, I am also uncomfortable just sitting in the openness of my grief. I still have the urge, even on paper, to want to rush through and gloss over it by yelling, “BUT DON’T WORRY, I’M OK!”
But I’m not OK. And that’s OK.
I don’t tell you all of this for pity - although that is naturally where most people will go, followed by the immediate and helpless desire to fix and solve my grief.
I tell you all of this because it’s real.
Talking about loss and grief on an everyday level is depressing as hell. But grief in itself is depressing as hell. And sometimes acknowledging that grief on the most basic level makes it easier to “move through,” instead of being “stuck in.” It means I have to take off my warrior mask and be vulnerable. It means I have to acknowledge a reality that I don’t want to admit is mine. It means I have to own up to feeling…everything.
And sharing this, as hard and depressing as it is, gives me the opportunity to connect with others sharing similar pain. Sharing my grief hopefully allows others to feel less alone in theirs. Otherwise we all sit alone in our everyday grief feeling like no one in this entire universe "gets it." So we share. And we connect. And isn’t that what this is all about? Connection?
So tomorrow we’ll go back to positivity and hope (maybe). But for now, let’s just sit in our everyday grief a little longer. And be OK there. Together.
I’m on my final leg of this journey. I’m dirty. I’m exhausted. I’m sore. I feel beat up and raw. I also feel powerful and proud. I found a strength and openness I didn’t acknowledge before that I will carry with gratitude as I head towards home. Tomorrow.
Tomorrow I will be home.
I’ve spent 10,000 miles lost in my thoughts and emotions. I’ve been pushed and challenged. I’ve relied on myself and on others. I’ve felt connected and I’ve felt lost. I’ve searched for everything and searched for nothing. I’ve experienced weakness and I’ve experienced incredible strength.
My life is a pendulum of conflicting emotions. Most days, all at once.
Now, I both yearn for and dread going home. I crave comfort, but also know the only comfort I really want is no longer there. My bed and clean clothes will only provide me temporary relief for my tired and hurting body. I worry the strength I found on the road will disappear the second I walk through my door. I worry I will stop connecting. I worry I will hide in my grief and loneliness.
I am filled with anxiety and uncertainty. Uncertainty about myself, about my future, about my relationships. About it all. Everything I left behind still remains, waiting for me, unchanged. But I’ve changed. I am no longer the person I used to be. That person disappeared on January 22nd. I still don’t know who this new person is. I still don’t recognize her.
But tomorrow - tomorrow I head home. Tomorrow I will begin to find out...