Monday, March 15, 2010

Happy Birthday, Sweetie. I love you.

The other day, as I was blowing out the candle I light for him every night and kissing his picture to say good night, I surprised myself by not really feeling sad.  I mulled it for a couple of days, because, frankly, I thought it odd, and I realized that it wasn't just that I wasn't feeling sad; it was that I wasn't feeling anything at all in that moment.  There was zero emotional content to that context; I was...not numb...just...vacant, I guess.
It was then that I realized that it wasn't that I DIDN'T feel anything; it's that I WOULDN'T.  The facts are always available, and I never shy away from them.  But I don't let myself delve much deeper than that these days, it seems.  It's as if I can look into my heart, and see the locked box that holds the hardest feelings:  the pain, the emptiness, the missing him, the sorrow.  It's right there, in plain enough sight.  And I hold the key to the box in my hand.  But I walk right on by.  I don't deny it's there, but I don't open it.
Because what good would it do?  Will it do me any good to cry about it for the millionth time?  Will it change anything if I let myself hurt for him some more?  Will it do anything but ruin my day and make my nose stuffy and my eyes puffy?  What's the point of stirring up the yearning that cannot be satisfied?
It's a coping skill, to be sure.  Self-protective.  The triumph of intellect over emotion.  I always say "feel what you feel when you feel it," but I'm not sure how that works when you don't feel it, or rather, when you've chosen not to feel it because you've felt it eleventy billion times and it never feels any different.  It never feels anything but bad.
I've been thinking about this on and off ever since, about how I'm actively keeping the emotions at arm's length at this point.  And what's funny is that I was actually keeping the thinking about actively keeping emotions at a distance at arm's length, as well.  It was an intellectual acknowledgement, with only a brief consideration of this new insight about myself and how I'm dealing (or rather, not) with grief at this point in the journey.  (I must say, I've joined those who dislike the word "journey" for this, but I don't know another word that comes close enough to this indescribable path, so I'll keep using it for now.)
But the truth of it hit me today as I posted at the board about it being A's birthday.  In my post, I wished him a happy birthday, and expressed my gratitude that he was born.  It was this last bit that saw that locked box fly open of its own accord; it didn't even need my key.  I felt that tell-tale heat behind my eyes, and the ache in my throat.  It's all still there, even if I don't take it out and look at it every day.
So what then?  Where is the fine line between stuffing your feelings down and accepting what control you happen to have over your feelings?
I suppose I have to trust the process; it's gotten me this far.  I've got no other ideas, and I'll only overthink it with no answers if I try; I've had enough of that particular hamster wheel.
In a slight tangent, E and I were watching Caprica last night.  There are several bereaved folks in the show, one of them the mother of a daughter connected to the terrorist organization who set the bomb that killed her daughter, among many others.  As she mused under the effects of potent wine, she said, "Surviving is the punishment for leaving things unsaid." 
It rang like truth to me, and, I imagine, to any other survivors who happened to hear it.
Not that I actually believe I'm being punished by some divine authority; but that's how it feels, regardless.  The maelstrom of killer feelings that we so neatly label "grief" could never be neutral, let alone benign.


  1. It's what Abbe calls "the attic of her heart. We don't need to see the grief every day, feel the pain every day. The love walks with us always and everywhere. But some days, some rainy, contemplative days, we need to take a candle up the creaking steps, flick on the dim attic light, and open the dusty, hallowed chest to reveal all the treasure that our heart has stored there. And examining the treasure brings back everything, in the measure we need.

    I wish you nothing but peace and healing, my friend.

  2. I guess that's right. And thank you; I appreciate it so much.

  3. Oooh...I like how Abbe via Alicia worded it; that's an excellent description.

    And I don't think that avoiding thinking about or feeling the pain is necessarily a bad thing at almost 4 years out. You're right--you've thought about it "eleventy billion" times already, and at some point, it just becomes an exercise in masochism and self-flagellation. We've healed enough that the pain isn't in our face every second of every day, nor even more than maybe several moments out of any week or month. And we've become so practiced at recognizing and feeling it before that I don't think it registers anywhere near as much as it did in the earliest years.

    I guess I assume the goal and point of healing after grief and losses such as ours is to be able to feel happiness again, to feel hope (even if it's only a little), and to not be so soul-suckingly miserable and in pain all the time. Or maybe there isn't really any "goal" at all except to survive it and come out the other side at some point; I don't know. But I do believe that, to heal, we have to learn to be able to live while keeping the sadness and pain away at arm's length...and that's not something to be ashamed of. The loss and the sadness are a given fact; keeping them at arm's length continues to acknowledge that they're there, they exist, and they still happen, but that distance of 3 feet allows us to still live.

    Many hugs to you, my friend. And a happy birthday to your sweetie too....