Grief is a strange & tricky beast.
We've become rather familiar. Though I can only guess where it will lead me, I find myself following along blindly. Any direction in competition with this seems false.
I've experienced loss. But not like this. Not the kind that consistently catches me off guard. Not the kind I want to hang on to.
I've experienced tragedy. But not living through a nightmare. Not watching a worse-case scenario play out exactly as I had feared one excruciating moment to the next.
I've experienced heartbreak. I thought I could imagine how bad this would hurt- my estimation was immensely generous in that respect. Still, I confess I had no idea. The pain is overwhelming to a severity I cannot put into words.
It all happened so fast. He was here. And now he's not.
Having virtually no period of time to truly prepare myself for what was to come, I've had little to no control over how to respond.
You expect sadness. You expect to be numb, withdrawn & solemn. You may even expect anger. But the complexity of all the other emotional possibilities in the carousel occur without much predictability or sense.
I have felt a crushing low point & surprise elation within the same hour. I have laughed & cried. And at times I am unable to laugh or cry. One minute I can't stand to be alone. The next I am desperate for solitude.
Most of the time, there is a heaviness. A physical encumbrance. Weight pressing down upon emptiness- that's the most visceral description I can give.
I prefer to walk around hiding within my shield of ambivalence. When speaking with friends or family, however, I must explain my despondence. I must provide a reminder. I must face the wound once again in its rawest form. I could leave questions unanswered, but some part of me needs to acknowledge the profound despair I carry with me at all times.
October is my favorite month. It always has been. And in recent years it has become even more significant. Major life milestones were purposely dedicated to it.
October is special. And for the first time in my life, I have dreaded it bitterly. Grief has made an enemy out of an ally. A foe out of a friend.
Like any other autumn, I see spooky décor & bulk bags of candy in the front of every store. But there is no feeling of joy or enthusiasm where there ought to be. Loathing the holiday I have always looked forward to is a surreal, out-of-body experience. But it feels right.
This time last year I was scouring thrift stores for cowboy duds to dress up the posable skeletons I affectionately named Leroy Dean & Carl Ray. The impulse-purchase of a 100 lb pumpkin was a high point. I couldn't wait to put up the purple & orange string lights & wonder if the spider webs outside were real or store-bought. I was like a kid at Disneyland every time I had to run to Home Depot & pass by the giant inflatable Beetlejuice sand worm. And every trip to CVS or Rite Aid had me scanning the aisles for something clever- which is how I ended up with a twinkle candy corn necklace & a blinking “BOO” headband.
Almost all of my free time was spent working diligently on a hand-sewn ice cream cone. The intended party for this costume insisted on lying as near as possible despite the frequent needle pokes he was sure to endure. Of course I had no idea this would be the last time.
When we sorted through Olli's things, our decisions were appropriately sentimental & practical. Save for one. I couldn't part with the ice cream cone. He donned it for the space of a single evening. I know it will never be worn again. I know it will merely exist in a storage bin. Why this thing particularly? I couldn't say. Maybe it was the little ½ inch hairs I noticed clinging to the fabric.
There remains a list of ideas I had for the future. A piñata. A disco ball. A marshmallow peep. I had decided on the Hamburglar for this year. What do I do with these now? Shelve them? Forget them?
I'm waiting for a wave of surrender to wash over me so I can awake to the spirit of Halloween & somewhat enjoy it. And at the same time, I'm resisting at every turn. I hesitate at the thought of forcing myself to behave as I normally would.
I look at what's ahead with even greater unease. Thanksgiving. Christmas. New Year's. More traditions appearing sour. More pressure to stop dwelling on the fact that it will all occur without my boy.
Do I absolutely refuse to move on? Is this a choice I have to make?
I'm trapped in a web of contradiction. “I'm ready.” “No, I'm not ready.” “Ok, I'm ready now.” “F*ck. I'm nowhere remotely close to ready.”
I take notice of the paw print impressions made in the sandy trench of our driveway every morning, both hoping they'll be washed away with rain & terrified I'll never see them again.
My mind tells me this won't last forever. My heart secretly wishes it would. Odd to desire that your grief should stick around to greet you another day. That it somehow preserves evidential proof of a life you were witness to.
One day I'll part ways with this dark companion. Until then, I drift in a fog, uncertain of where I may land or when.