I have finally reached the age when funerals are more common than births in my circle of friends. O.K., so I’ve been at this age for some time, but I so love being in denial. It keeps me young.
When I was 30, I even made light of the whole death thing. The theme of the party was Grim Reaper, inviting people to watch me put my first foot in the grave. If I use my limited math skills, that would mean that I’m supposed to put my other foot in this year. Ain’t gonna happen.
At least I like to think it’s going to happen. As of late, some people fairly close to me have been passing away, often unexpectedly, so who really knows? Life seems to pass by like you’re in the passenger seat of a car. When you look out the front life seems like it’s barely moving, but look out the side window doing 70 and everything just flies right by. Don’t even get me started on with the rearview mirror.
Which brings me to the tougher subject. Those who pass get, well, something of a pass. They don’t have to pick up the pieces of their life or yours. Those remaining get to do all the heavy lifting, working through all those shitty stages of grief while everyone blows sunshine up their butt telling them it will all get better.
Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes you move through all the stages – even revisit a couple along the way in a cruel circle of life way – only to end up on the other side, still missing the person every day.
It’s that way with my brother. I’ve written a lot about his passing when he was only 24 and I was 14. Losing a loved one at that age is particularly hard, especially a bigger than life brother who was also your hero. I never got over it. I never will. I think about him almost daily. People still wonder why I don’t go to any activities on Labor Day weekend. That’s when he died. I hardly feel like celebrating.
The sad parts about grief are: 1) there’s no time limit and 2) someone didn’t have to die to feel the same sense of loss.
They say that divorce brings on the same sense of loss and sadness. Sure, the other person is still alive (though oft times we wish they weren’t). But the relationship itself has died, along with many of your biggest hopes and dreams. It’s as if you were in that car again and the Thelma to your Louise suddenly slams on the brakes, opens the door and says “Get out!” There you are, not knowing what happened or what to do next.
I’ve suffered other losses over the years, my father in 1981 and my mother more recently. My dad was only 57. My mother lived a very long life and I had a lot of time to adjust to the fact that she was going to die someday, but to this day I still have her phone number in my phone and more than once, have tried to call her. (Geez, I’m tearing up just typing this).
Such is grief. Just when you think you got it licked, it comes back around and whacks you upside the head.
Therapists and so-called experts say that there are five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Yeah, right. Maybe in a cold, hard clinical setting. But in the real world of emotional upheaval, denial and anger along with that depression thing can be real doozies. And acceptance? Really? Why?
The truth of the matter is, life can really suck at times. And accepting that people or a relationship have died is damned hard, especially when you’re haunted by memories of the past.
With some people, those memories are grand and glorious. You want to wrap yourselves up in a blanket of them to get you through a cold night of reality.
But others, they aren’t so good. Especially when the other person is still living. You may not have moved on yet but they are still there, living an entirely new life, one that doesn’t have you in it.
How the hell do you move on from that easily? Since I’m something of an expert here, I will tell you that you don’t. It’s really easy when you’re the one moving on. There are no pieces to pick up.
But when you’re on the receiving end? It’s the worst. As I said, something or someone dies. And with that death, all your hopes and dreams for the future die too. One moment you’re rocketing down the road of life. The next, you’re standing on the side of the road, overwhelmed by all the baggage that got dumped on you.
It’s tough to move on either way. It’s hard to think that tomorrow will be better than today or that next year will be better than this one. Today sucks! So why shouldn’t tomorrow?
All we can really do is try our best to live in the moment we have. I still miss my brother, mother and father. Geez, I still miss my dog to the point where I can’t get a new one. I still grieve a little now and then. It doesn’t come in big waves like it used to. Now it’s just a little ripple once in a while. A ripple of sadness or moment of reflection that makes me wish things would have, could have, turned out differently.
It can’t or didn’t, of course. But that acceptance thing is a hard pill to swallow sometimes. I try my best to live in the moment these days, is it is all I’ve got. But some of my memories are still farm-fresh. And while I’d like to say that I’ve mastered those five stages of grief, every instance of loss offers up a new Rubik’s Cube of feelings that like to take their own time, surprising me and beguiling me with their endless twists and turns, causing me to wonder if I’ve really moved on at all.
Damn you death. Damn you divorce. Damn you grief.
In the Emerald City, putting all those emotional boxes back on the shelf for the day,