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Discovering grief

Grieving for a family member is something that happens in unexpected ways, I’m finding.  On Friday, as I mentioned in my last post, I wasn’t specifically feeling sad for my father or thinking about him much, but I just couldn’t think clearly or gather up any energy.  Then on Saturday, I was feeling fine for a while . . . and then suddenly I just had this tiny flash of memory.  Not even a detailed memory, just a brief sense impression of a time I’d been in the car with my father, driving him to one of the many doctor visits that made up so much of his last few years (this one being, rather innocuously, a podiatrist).  It wasn’t triggered by anything; it just came up out of nowhere, maybe the result of a random neuronal connection.  But this bit of memory just came up, and along with it came the habitual expectation that I would be taking my father somewhere else in the car sometime later.  It wasn’t even a specific thought like that, just an instantaneous assumption that came along with the fleeting sense memory.  This very tiny thing, but it hit me hard, the subsequent realization that I wouldn’t be seeing him again.  There are still parts of my brain that haven’t caught onto that yet, that just go along about their habits and expectations until they get triggered and connect with the rest of what’s going on in my head and the reality sinks in just a little deeper.  And that teensy little out-of-nowhere flash triggered a pretty severe bout of sadness and awareness of loss.  I’d felt fine a minute before, but then it just hit me hard.

So grief isn’t something that happens in those five neat stages you always hear about.  It’s a jumble, something that gets mixed up with the rest of your life.  That life continues, it still feels pretty much the same a lot of the time (at least in my case — I guess it would be different if you, say, lost someone who lived with you and was part of your daily life), and you can go for a while without even thinking about what you’ve lost, but then it just hits you hard, unpredictably.  And you just have to let it come when it comes and allow yourself to experience it.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Barrie Suddery
    August 23, 2010 at 4:57 am

    The pain of losing a loved one never really goes away but, given time, it becomes a much more manageable process.

    Hang in there.

  2. Charlie
    August 23, 2010 at 4:12 pm

    I cry as i read your post. I know exactly what you were describing. How a memory just happens. I have felt that very same type of thing with a family member that I lost recently. Dont be surprised if you have a dream now and then…that seems sooo entirely real…and when you wake up you feel exhausted or maybe bummed out that it hadnt actually taken place….its a process you go thru. Its sad and overwhelming at times. hang in there!

    • August 24, 2010 at 8:13 am

      You called it. I had a long series of dreams last night, including a superhero dream mixing both DC and Marvel elements, a dream where I was out with some friends (nobody I actually know in real life) in an unfamiliar city, and a couple of dreams where I was back in college taking history classes, and I kinda threw a tantrum in the first class because I was in a foul mood due to my grief. But at the end there, I had a dream where I was with my father in his bedroom (not one of his real ones, kind of a composite, I guess) and he was awake and lucid and sitting up, and we were talking, just chatting fairly normally, though we were aware that the end was near (at the foot of his bed was a cardboard box full of his books, one that in reality my sister and I took to Goodwill after he passed) and he said he felt like he was cheating death.

  3. August 23, 2010 at 8:19 pm

    Yeah. That’s pretty much how it works. How it will work.

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