To Grief or Not to Grief, and What's Normal or Not?

My dad died a few days ago.  I knew the end was near for him, so I got in my car in Arizona and headed to Colorado.  It was a 2 day drive but I figured I’d get some adrenalin going and make it in 1 day.  

Which I would have except that hail and rain and wind got in the way and I had to stop overnight for safety reasons.

I don’t know what it is since Chuck died, but my body is the fucking energizer bunny; it can go and go and go, without faltering. In the long drive through New Mexico, up and down mountains, my body got stiff but I swear it could have gone on forever, stopping only to drink water now and again.

It was never like this for me until Chuck died. I’d get tired and sleep and eat like a normal person.  In the 2 1/2 years since his death, my body just seems to go, no matter what.  Something in front of me?  Go around it, go over it, push my way through way or another, I’m getting to the other side.  I don’t give brain power to it; I just do it.

So, I stopped for a few hours rest in my drive and was fueling my car up early the next morning when I got the call that my dad died a couple hours earlier.  I knew it would happen that way and, in a weird way, I was okay with it.  I suppose I figured that if I was meant to be at his side, I would be.  As I continued my trip through the mountains and into Colorado, I could feel my body getting sicker and sicker, so by the time I arrived at my brother’s, I was coughing and feeling congested.  This cough has been with me for over a month but it worsened and my head filled up.  Ultimately I took myself to urgent care and got medicine to quell it, forestalling the joy of hacking up a lung at my dad’s funeral this Friday.

All of which is to say, I’m so numb I can’t even feel grief over my dad’s death, but my body is telling me in no uncertain terms that, yeah, the grief is present.  I’m already numb about Chuck, already feeling a gaping, hollow, emptiness inside of me, and this new death just kind of cycled right in with no emotional impact.

Is it just me or does anyone else peer into their own psyche and wonder at their mental health in grief?  I know it’s normal, in the part of me that is still thinking, but in the other part of me that sits in judgement of myself, I wonder, oh, jesus, have I disassociated?  Is that why I can’t feel anything?  Is there something wrong with me?

Grief can make us feel crazy, even when we know we aren’t crazy.  Every fucking thing under the sun goes under the microscope, usually to our detriment.  My day and night thoughts are mostly Why can’t I remember anything of my 24 years with Chuck? Where is my memory of our years together? Why can’t I feel anything?  Where is my passion for life? Am I crazy?  Should I be worried about my lack of reaction to life in general?

It most definitely is not the time to google shit off of Web MD or anywhere else on the internet. I’ve found that the best thing for me to do is run my crazy thinking past my widowed community.  I can get some modicum of comfort and reassurance there.

I don't know much anymore, other than I'm doing the best I can, like all of us, and I'd like to say that life is wonderful and I've dealt with my grief and I'm on my merry way, but that would be a lie, lie, lie.  There ain't none of this shit that's easy and I can't pretend otherwise.  But I do know, somewhere inside of me, that, even with all of this grief, there is mixed up in it so much love and I need to stay connected to that if I'm going to come through it.

Somehow.  Somehow.  Somehow...


Showing 8 reactions

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  • Carla Duff-Calvert
    commented 2015-10-30 03:54:18 -0700
    Numb is the perfect word.
    So sorry about your dad.
    Feel what you need to feel or don’t feel, whatever works,at the time. This group definitely gets it.
  • Kelley Lynn
    commented 2015-10-29 13:34:49 -0700
    Oh man, I relate to this so much, especially the part about analyzing our own grief and our own mind like a self-therapist. I do this constantly, and I drive myself nuts. When your own therapist is telling you to chill out, you know you need to stop over analyzing every emotion lol. She is always saying to me “just feel your feelings. Stop trying to dissect them AS youre having them, youre exhausting yourself out. Its no wonder you dont sleep well”. Ha!
    Im so sorry about your dad, and it makes total sense why you are having the non-reaction to it rigiht now. It will most likely all come out much later on, at some random time, and then it will hit you in that fun way that grief tsunami’s like to do. But right now, living with death and grief has numbed you and tired your brain and heart out for the time being. Its okay. Theres nothing wrong with you. This shit just sucks.
  • Grace Johnson
    commented 2015-10-28 22:58:40 -0700
    NUMB. Exactly. You are numb. We all understand totally, and it is freaking “normal”
    Chuck is still the most beloved person in your life…losing him?…what more can you feel?
    When Travis died, (oh dammit that still hurts) I was grieving my dear mother….he died and
    Nothing else mattered without him.
    All lesser pain got sucked up in my grief for him.
    So, yes, it is normal to feel numb…you are normal, though you feel anything but normal.
    It will be seven years since ____…my numbness is wearing off a bit—-I know, because I started to think about others Ive lost, especially my mom.
    And, yes, I too had passion for so very much in life with my Travis in it…death steals that too, but slowly some of it is given back….but the magic, the sparkle… are gone, and I dont expect to ever feel them again—-it’s sad, but how could it be any other way?
    ?…Travis was the sparkle, was the magic.😞 Hang in there, Alison..,
    maybe it wont ever be great again, but it will get bettter…yes, somehow..,somehow
  • Grace Johnson
    commented 2015-10-28 22:20:04 -0700
    So so sorry, Alison…grief on grief. Thats like ripping off the scab on a slow-healing wound. A daughter loses a lot when she loses her Father…a woman loses everything, well, almost everthing, it feels like everything when she loses the love of her
  • Lisa Richardson
    commented 2015-10-28 07:59:19 -0700
    Alison I’m so very sorry about your dad. I lost mine Christmas morning just four months before my husband, and I think numb is the best description. Compound that with people around us believing (in true Victorian fashion) that 1 year is the appropriate time to grieve, and it leaves us all thinking we’re a bit crazy. Take YOUR time. It’s been almost 5 years now and I’m still a work in progress. I think I’ve decided to finally stop waiting for signs of my old self and focus on discovering who I am today, grief and all. Rest, recharge, and know you are loved today for the woman you are today.
  • Stephen Hochhaus
    commented 2015-10-28 07:26:34 -0700
    Alison I am so sorry about your dad. I lost mine five months after my wife so numb was the order of the day. Crazy? I don’t think so. Grief does this to us. When I passed you west of Tucson your window was down and the look on your face WAS the energizer bunny now that you mention it. Just remember what Dory said. “Keep on swimming, swimming, swimming,” I hope your feeling better now. Seeing your rig on the road boosted my spirits like I can’t tell ya.
  • Cathy
    commented 2015-10-28 06:50:55 -0700
    Alison, I’m so sorry about your Dad, mine died this spring. Yep, I knew it was coming, but it brings back all the other deaths I’ve gone thru: husband, Mom, friend, bro in law….and I know more to come. Layers and layers of grief, which I’m trying to peel away and focus on the love that was there for all. I’m not doing that very well, but trying just the same.

    Yes, I worry every day about mental (and physical) health in my grief. I’ve surmised that my brain is so overloaded with all the other stuff that comes with grief that it can’t work like it used to. Grief is up front, and trying to survive alone w/o my husband takes a shit load of effort every freakin day, and night. All of you know that. I’ve survived for 5 years, and have made progress, memories do come back, triggered by music, sights, seasons etc. But passion for life? Not there, not sure it will ever be there again.

    I used to go and go like you; that, too, has slowed down, I found I couldn’t function on little sleep, was always tired, but then couldn’t sleep. I would lay there and mull it all over for hours, so tired of what now was, always hating going to bed alone. Still do, but I found being physical in the day does help the body to tire and get that needed rest.

    You are not crazy, just deeply grieving for what was. The reality of what you had and what life is without that is front and center in your face, every second of every day. I hear you loud and clear. You will come through it.
  • Janice Girgus
    commented 2015-10-28 01:25:34 -0700
    Yes, every thing you said I can relate to!!