People tell you a lot of things about grief – the phases, the stages, the array of emotions.
They tell you about the heart-stopping-grasp that grief has in your chest, a constricting band that hurts your heart and tightens your breathing. They tell you that each experience of grief is unique, that the absence of a life long companion hurts in a way that is different but not greater than the loss of the baby you never got to meet.
And they tell you that you while we do not alter when we alteration find, the gulf from that the ever fixed mark must coexist with the edge of doom just beyond our view and so close we can feel it coursing through our veins.
What people do not really tell you about is the loneliness, the walls that go up between your heart and the rest of the world through no real fault of your own. The ruptured relationship with the lost one requires other fortifications. About being lonesome.
My therapist asked me today how many social contacts I’ve had lately, both to assess my grieving process and my general social anxiety. I could think of five in two and a half weeks.
- the repairman for our microwave and dryer
- the two men who came to meet our foster kittens (they demurred adoption)
- the cashier at the bakery
- the drive-thru person at McDonalds
- a doctors appointment via Zoom.
I haven’t seen any friends, neighbors, or family in over two weeks. No one has called. No one has stopped by. Note: I hate phone calls and visits, but isn’t that supposed to comfort us? My friend Pam sent me an excerpt from a book she liked and we discussed it briefly via Messenger. And another friend texted me a few times about lunch, but going out into public for lunch is far beyond my capabilities right now, but at least he tried.
My mother-in-law calls to talk with Laura, but doesn’t ask to speak with me. The niblings have ceased all communications. A handful of folx have offered their condolences to Laura, but not me. I haven’t taken to my bed on the verge of shattering so I don’t honestly know why they can’t offer the condolences to me. I’m left to assume they simply don’t want to.
My therapist was appalled. I’ve never had a dead mother before so I don’t know what’s typical and what is not. People did generously give to Kerry’s Kitten Fund, but therapist says that’s not the same.
How would I know? No one teaches you this stuff. When you come from a broken, damaged family – who do you ask? Hundreds of people poured out for the calling hours of both of my grandparents who were not great people. Is that normal? I can’t remember what happened afterwards. To the predator goes the spoils?
Yes, I am lonely. Soul-crushing, bone aching lonely. But I’m also very on guard for people to take advantage of that so I just lie low. People without boundaries read “I’m lonely” as “Let me fix you with my own smothering story” and that’s not what I need at all. Note to all that boundaries are still up.
I suspect that, in spite of what people say, there IS a right and wrong way to grieve. Being an angry person in grief is absolutely the wrong way. Being an angry person worked up about your social justice issue or campaign is fine. Just tone it down when it gets personal. Heaving sobs and snotty tears are far far better than clouds of angry trauma curses.
I’m an angry trauma curse kind of griever.
But enough about the people not reaching out to help me lift the loneliness and more about the loneliness itself.
I sit most days with the mantra running through my head “My Mum is dead” like a scroll caption on television. I don’t cry often, I just feel have that dry empty feeling in my eyes. I’ve only cried really twice, I think. My energy level is low, even more so than usual. I have to really push myself to take care of routine things.
Then I’m exhausted and take one or two naps. The difference between a nice refreshing nap and an exhaustion nap is mostly that it doesn’t feel any better. It is not restorative.
My therapist thinks that the ongoing health challenges of managing my chronic GI symptoms are making it worse. I’m supposed to find five new doctors plus get bloodwork and find doctors who are trauma informed. The person who suggested this to me (a GI doctor) has no suggestions. My PCP at Metro Community Health tells me I have to schedule an appointment to review referrals that we already discussed in January. No more email, no use of the portal. I hope they do cyber appointments. This seems odd to me because it is literally the reason an email list could save time. Still …
still … I’m so overwhelmed by this stuff that I just do nothing. My weight continues to drop – I’ve now tracking calories using an app and averaging about 350 a day. That’s not good. So you would think taking my friend up on that lunch offer could be useful, but the energy requirements to do that do not make it ideal. I don’t have anyone to help me manage all of this, like a case worker. My great fear is that I’ll go out in public and pass out, ending up in an ER for no real reason except fluids and a CT scan of my head. It is not like there’s an ER rheumatologist. They’ll say call your PCP, bill my insurance, and send me on my way with a fresh mask.
This is a very big deal. When you wonder why I don’t text, it is physically exhausting. I ask people to use Messenger or email – OMG, please email me. no to texting, phone – email.
I realize I go entire hours without saying any words out loud. I don’t talk with the cats very much. I don’t talk to the television. I have ideas, but no one to discuss with.
My wife is good. She’s working FT, doing all of the housework, cat work, and has her own other stuff. She tries to get me excited about folding laundry. She tempts me with Starbucks drinks and will literally serve meals to me so I’ll eat. She knows I need something to do and contact with people, but she’s out of ideas. She’s tired, too. She falls asleep as soon as her head his the pillow, I sit listening to her soft breathing both grateful she’s there and sad that there’s just not much time to connect. Sometimes on Saturdays we drive around listening to podcasts to get out of the house. That’s nice, actually. There’s literally not much more she can do.
So the loneliness I feel is a confluence of the grief about losing my mother, the social anxiety ramped up by the pandemic, and the physical toll of my weight loss and other symptoms. It is just a lot.
but the loneliness … it is more about being lonesome as the great Hank Williams told us. Loneliness feels a little academic, lonesome just reaches into your core and punches you. it feels like an even greater divide between me and typical people, exacerbated by this typical but heartbreaking loss. will I ever figure out how to climb it? because I know no one is coming to me from the other side. my own mother didn’t come for me – she literally left over and over. and now I get to revisit all of those experiences to find a way to puncture this grief from numbing solitude to manageable emotion.
The loneliness feels forever. The resentment – of my parents parenting choices, of losing my mom, of the loneliness, of people who have reasonable facsimiles of healthy parents, of the expectation that we owe our parents anything, of the realization that I will likely never feel enough love and comfort from anyone, entwines the loneliness with a prickly veneer of seething despair.
The moon just went behind the clouds. To hide its face and cry.
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