Monday, August 1, 2011

Stuck on G: Grief

A post ago, I reverted to G rather than moving on to K.  And now, it looks like I'm stuck on it...

Blake's uncle, Tom, passed away unexpectedly last week and the family has been reeling ever since.  While I know that Blake and the rest of Tom's most immediate, blood-related family are hurting the worst, familiar feelings of grief, regret, anger, and sadness have been washing over me in waves, too, the same way that they did after my mom died 5 years ago.  I'm hoping that my experience with these feelings and the lessons I've learned about grief can help my family, Blake especially, during this incredibly sad time.

Grief is not something that you go through or get over.  It lives inside of us from the time we first experience it.  Every now and then, when I think about my mom and the day she died, I of course feel sad and angry, but more than anything, I am upset at myself because I didn't insist on seeing her to say goodbye.  True, she was in a horrible accident and probably would not have looked like the person I knew (the funeral director said that there was no chance of having an open casket, and we believed him and understood), but I really think that they could have let me see her hand, or her elbow, or a toe, or something at the scene.  That I could have just seen that one little part of her body that maybe still looked normal.  That I could have touched it or held it or kissed it and said goodbye to the body that housed her and that had once housed me.  But I didn't.  I don't think I knew I could.  But in hindsight, I know I could have and should have.  I'm crying now thinking about her pinky toe. That is regret.  That is lingering grief.  It will never leave me. 

Grief is a broken-heart.  After my mom died, I had a hard time sleeping.  I could fall asleep after crying for a few hours but then would have a bad dream and wake up shortly thereafter and the whole process would start all over.  It was physically painful to lay in bed but even more painful to get out of bed.  I saw the family doctor who had been taking care of me and my family since I was little.  He gave me a prescription of sleeping medicine to try but told me that pills wouldn't help.  "You're suffering from a broken heart," he said, "and there is no prescription that can fix that kind of grief."  He was right.  The sleeping pills did jack.  And my heart still hurts.

Be more like John Wooden and less like Bobby Knight.  I went back to see that doctor again a few months later.  I was still having trouble sleeping but was mainly seeking relief from a sinus infection.  We talked about my mom and my broken heart.  I told him I thought it was mending, but knew it would never be the same.  He agreed.  He then pointed towards his wall.  At first I thought he was pointing to the photo of him and Pete Rose from the early 1980s.  "What the heck does Pete Rose have to do with me?" I was thinking.  But then I realized he was pointing to a picture of a guy I didn't recognize. "That," the doctor said, "is John Wooden. Be more like him and less like Bobby Knight."  I left the office irritated (though my sinus infection improved with the nasal spray he prescribed...).  I knew of Bobby Knight but had no idea who John Wooden was.  Now I know and though I still don't totally get what my doctor was saying, I try to be like John Wooden.  Or at the very least, less like Bobby Knight.  Especially when facing grief.  Grief doesn't respond well to having folding chairs thrown at its head.  It needs to be respected.

Next post, K, I promise.


  1. There is something about reading your blog that just makes me smile, cry, scream, etc. Its a beautiful awakening.

  2. Kate, I randomly check in on your blog- congrats on the beautiful baby girl :).

    I love this post, and it made me tear up. It's so true- grief never really leaves you, but I do think that we feel it in different ways as we go on through life. I'm still surprised that a decade has gone by since my dad passed away and at how suddenly some days it still stings like the very first day.

    Anyway, all that was to say thanks for sharing this post, and all your lovely updates.