Friday, April 20, 2012


Forgive me, I'm new here, to this place you call grief. Well, relatively new. I had an introduction back when we lost our first baby and later, when my Dad died. While I love my Dad and miss him terribly, this is the first time I've lost a best friend, my mother, and it's nothing that I've ever known.

I'm a school psychologist and was also trained as a marriage family therapist. Having counseled many in grief, I intellectually knew what that meant. The five stages-the bargaining, anger, acceptance, etc. I knew what that could look like, but to actually stumble through it on my own is pointedly different. I'm groping blind in the darkness and no amount of textbooks or having seen the looks on other faces that I now see on my own has prepared me. No matter how much I braced myself for what I knew would happen, made it any better when it did.

I never knew that grief would be a trickster. Cruel and always at the ready, it is never far behind me. I never knew how quickly that one moment or even an entire day feeling as if I could breathe again could be ripped out of my hands when least expected. The minutest of details and the most mundane of activities remind me that she's gone. Every street corner echos her name and yet, she only lived here for just under four months.

I drive to the store-simple enough, right? Except that all I can think about is the night before she died when I went there to buy BenGay for her. She was in pain from being in the same position, but too weak to get comfortable. Aside from the pain medication, it was the only thing that gave her any physical comfort and now I can't even stoamch the store I bought it from, which used to be my regular haunt. Instead, I make excuses to go to distant stores. Sometimes in the middle of my day, I can still smell BenGay in the air. Even my god damn toilet bowl cleaner smells like it, so every time I clean my toilets, I'm taken back to that night.

I go to work, which seems like neutral territory, but it's not. Recently, the high school I work at had a demonstration for a program about drunk driving on our upper parking lot. It was a simulation of what might happen after a drunk driving-related crash with the fire department, paramedics, a helicopter, crashed cars, and of course, some students playing either injured or dead. I floated on the outskirts of the crowd and felt assured that even with being in a vulnerable time of my life, the demonstration was 'fake' enough. And then they started to bring the 'dead' kids out on stretchers covered in body bags and who should show up? The town funeral director in his minivan. He was the one who took care of my Mom. I watched him for a moment, thinking I was fine and then I realized that that minivan was the last car my Mom was ever in. It was the same year, make and model as mine and instantly I was in tears. Just the sight of him threw me into the most unexpected tailspin for the rest of the day-no, week. I've been trying to recover, but it feels like everytime I claw my way up, I slip back down.

Exisiting in any moment where there's not noise is impossible. Putting my son to sleep in the quiet darkness, driving, it's all a portal for ushering in recollections of what I've lost, what I'll never touch again, and most of all, what I might have taken for granted.

Even my own cell phone, my life blood, is a reminder. I used to talk to my Mother everyday, always when I was leaving work, so now that walk to my car with my silent cell phone in my pocket is like a funeral I relive over and over again.

A little over a week ago, I had Mr. S restore my phone. Being completely technologically naive, I had no idea that it would erase my voicemails-over a year's worth of "I love yous" from her. In fact, I made a mental note a few months ago while listening to her last voice mail (not knowing that it was the last at the time) that I wanted to keep it forever because of how incredibly loving it was. It's gone. And because my Mother was completely video camera shy, I have very little to remember her voice by. Mr. S worked long and hard to recover some of the lost voicemails from a backup months back, but the one I wanted was lost. It was like losing her all over again.

That's the way life feels nowadays-like I re-lose her everyday.  I wake up and remember. I reach for my phone on my way out of my office and remember. Every other moment I remember. She's gone.

I am 33, the same age she was when she had me. I have plans to live past 66, but more than ever before I recognize that there are no guarantees. There's no guarantee that I'll see 34, even. But assuming all goes according to 'plan', I will have spent more of my life without her than with her. That seems impossible to me, too tragic to wrap my mind around. Our time was too brief. I am still learning not to live in my regrets, my feelings of being robbed. Give me time. I'll learn somehow, but again, I'm new here. Still learning the ropes.