Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Real Face of Grief, aka Where I Am Right Now.

I wrote this after waking up from a terrible nightmare around 2:30 this morning. I sobbed in bed, the kind of breathless sobs where your whole body shakes. David woke up just enough to turn over and hold me. After a while, I calmed down enough to get up and write.  
I am posting this here, because this is what grief really looks like. It's ugly, it's terrifying, it's guttural.  
And that's okay. 
I want to take shame off the table. My family is suffering bone-deep loss, and trying to hide it, gloss over it, minimize it, or worst of all, "suck it up," doesn't help.  
The only thing that helps is release.

I cannot express how terrifying it is to wake up from a horrific dream only to realize... it’s my reality.

I can’t cry hard enough or long enough to free this pain inside of me. I wail, my eyes clamped shut and my mouth wide open, trying so hard to release the pain, to push it out from my very depths—from every single cell it wants to leave my body, but it is here… it remains…

Why am I the one living? Why wasn’t I taken? I don’t have any small children relying on me… I don’t have anyone relying on me, truthfully… how can I still be alive? How can I still be left here to feel so much when every morning I wake up, and I’m just confused as to why—why I’m even here, why my body is somehow still working, why all the systems within continue propelling me from present moment to present moment…

When I was little, I used to wake up from nightmares about being in a car accident with my grandmother and me in the back seat, Daddy driving, and Mama in the front seat. We sat in those designated seats—Mur-Mur behind Daddy, and me behind Mama—every time the four of us went anywhere. And in my nightmare, there was a car accident, and I was the only survivor.

(If my sister hadn’t moved out on her own at that point, she would have been in that nightmare, too, and then that nightmare would be even closer to my current reality.)

Life keeps going… and all around me, people go to work, they sit in traffic, they wait in line, they text their friends, they scroll through Facebook—I know… I am existing in these moments too… I am doing these things too…

But it feels like my whole world has stopped, because it’s been turned utterly upside down and inside out, and I can’t do a damned thing about it.

Grief sucks, and right now it is really running me through the ringer. I have never, ever known this kind of pain before. I have never felt it… not until now… and of course looking at me from the outside in, of course I’m “strong enough to handle it,” etc… but right now I feel on the verge of a nervous breakdown… because that would be easier. It would be easier to just go completely nuts and totally lose my shit and end up at the asylum taking unlabeled pills to keep me sedated and numb. Right now, that kind of controlled environment is more appealing than the chaos of the outside world… this world I exist in which feels like a constant waking nightmare.

As I sit here, breathing in, breathing out, tears streaming down my face (and in moments like this, I am once again thankful that Mama made me take a typing class in ninth grade, because I can sit in total darkness and type fast), I wonder at the miracle of life and of living. It is truly a miracle, every day when I can open my eyes and get out of bed and live another day.

But right now? Right now it feels like a curse. Why were my mom and sister denied the miracle of life? Why?

Ironic—I offered comfort in my sister’s eulogy. I cautioned against asking why… because it will “make you crazy.” Yep, I said it, and that’s basically what I feel, because here I am, asking why, and most definitely feeling crazy.

What can I say—I was still in shock at that point.

Not in shock anymore.

This, I would say, is the darkest side of grief. When I’m sitting here vacillating between wishing I was dead, bargaining for trading places with my sister, and actually wishing to go crazy enough to be put into an asylum. All of those things seem easier than what I’m trying to cope with, the overpowering feelings I have, and the grief I feel.

The bargaining (oh wait, isn’t that a phase of grief?)—sounds like, please take me instead… take me instead… put me out of my misery and let my sister come back and raise her toddler and be here to shepherd her older kids fully into adulthoodNo one truly needs me, but her kids and her husband need her. I need her. My dad needs her.

To be honest, I am barely functioning. I have to “check out” to a certain extent just to get through the day. When I am fully present, the feelings flood in—feelings that don’t have words or even need words.

I don’t feel like I can handle anything right now. I feel on the edge of tipping over… like one more little thing, one more little bump in the road, and there I’ll go—careening off the edge of the tiny winding highway, plunging down into the depths of rocky cliffs to my imminent death.

I am clinging to sanity by mere threads, and those threads are thin and weary and stretched to their max.

I have prayed and prayed… I have begged God to please take this from me, because I can’t handle it at all. I am totally at His mercy, and yet I am finding no comfort in that.

I find no comfort in anything…


  1. Keep clinging. Keep breathing. I know that you know there is no answer, nothing to comfort you right now, no words or actions to make any of this better or easier to bear. It just IS and it is in full force right now and it will not make any sense (it will never make any sense) and yet you simply must must keep walking through it.

    You may have no idea what you are still on this earth for, Lindalee, but you ARE still here and if I am sure of one thing, it's what that means: you still have much to do and be beyond what you have already done and been, even if it's not clear what that is yet.

    David needs you. Your father needs you. Your friends need you. Trust in that. If some days it feels like you are barely hanging on, then hey, you are barely hanging on. That's okay for today. All you can do is accept it and ride it out - and hold tight to the grip of people who love you.

    I love you and my heart aches for you. Thank you for your honesty.

  2. My heart breaks for you Lindalee. Nothing can even begin to describe what losing an immediate family member feels like and you don't understand the depth of pain until you have experienced it. I literally felt like I had been hit with a semi truck when my father died unexpectedly. The trauma it had on my heart racked my body with physical pain that left me sore for weeks. The emotional damage tormented me for years. I felt guilty to eat, guilty to laugh and felt/saw messages of him everywhere. You are anything but weak my friend. To look at your grief and be able to verbalize it is so strong and there is so much love and compassion for your gut wrenching pain. I didn't know how to express it at the time and know that it damaged my marriage and my relationship with my children, so I commend you for reaching out. Continue to lean in and pray. My theory on the pain was that my dad hung around, tapping me on the shoulder until he knew I was ok for him to move on. Then just magically one day he was gone and I had an overwhelming sense of peace. This will happen for you Lindalee, the anger will subside and the unanswered questions will become more palatable. One thing that helped me was to start having conversations with him again. Saying "Dad-from where you are, what do I need to do for me right now?" and he would answer, in his voice...sometimes it would be big, but sometimes it would be small. Most often it is "Carey, get some sleep" :)They are not gone, they live on in you and you are their voice and you have a purpose that is very important. I know that doesn't make it any better for you right now, but I pray that it will be soon for you and that you keep writing... Big hugs

  3. This is a raw and beautiful post, LindaLee. There are plenty of people who truly need you. Keep breathing. Grieve until you don't have to anymore. It's okay.

    “And I felt like my heart had been so thoroughly and irreparably broken that there could be no real joy again, that at best there might eventually be a little contentment. Everyone wanted me to get help and rejoin life, pick up the pieces and move on, and I tried to, I wanted to, but I just had to lie in the mud with my arms wrapped around myself, eyes closed, grieving, until I didn’t have to anymore.” (Anne Lamott)

  4. Linda Lee,
    As much as it hurts, and much as it sounds insane, you're here for a reason. You have to be thankful for every day that you get to walk on this earth. Use this opportunity to be a better person, to live a life full of passion and love. Your sister would have wanted that. Your mom would have wanted that. I can't begin to imagine what you're going through right now. Just know that there's always a reason for the ones left behind. You have a lot left to do in this earth. DO IT. LIVE. LOVE.

    Hugs and hang in there.

  5. Here is what I know about grief, having lost way too many people in my 60 years.... and coming from a family that raised me in the "suck it up", "never let 'em see you cry", "stiff upper lip" philosophy. You have GOT to feel the pain - even though you don't possibly see how you can survive it, in order to ever, ever get past it. It sure isn't easy, but if you try to stuff it down, to get over it, to move on and you haven't felt that grief and pain - it will never, ever, ever go away. It will go inward and fester, fester, fester. It will come out somewhere, somehow, someday - probably when you least expect it and for sure when you least want it to. But if you work through it, feel it, and be gentle with yourself and allow yourself to heal, you will finally come out the other side. You won't be the same person, but you will be a better one - and you will cherish your memories and there will start to be some good days and then more good days and you will survive. Let people love you, but don't let them tell you how to grieve or not to grieve or how long to grieve. It's something you know how to do even though you think you don't. You have to let yourself and trust yourself and love yourself and be gentle with yourself. Sending you love, a hug and a huge supply of Kleenex!!! (PCF Willow) Karen