Friday, September 18, 2015

The Minutiae of Grief (or 'Rational' vs 'Emotional')


A few days ago, I got an email from an ex. It was a canned 'I'd like to be connected' email generated from a popular website. The email had a photo and some current information. Our relationship didn't end well and when I got the email, I felt the lid I had welded shut on that time in my life blown off; frustration and aggravation flooded my heart. All those memories of feeling dismissed and helpless were almost as raw as the day everything ended in a whirlwind of confusion and dismay.

Then, at three am this morning, I logged into my yahoo account. I couldn't sleep and for some reason I got a nudge to go and look at the account I hadn't logged into for over a year. Apparently, yahoo mail has a new feature where you can search old yahoo instant messenger messages. I searched for candyxxxhoo, Candace's old yahoo account. And there they all were! Every single message we had shared since 2009 when she created her account (after I begged her to get one). We IM'd almost daily, up until a few days before she passed and was too sick to type. It was beautiful reading through some of our old messages. I didn't read through them all, there were over 2,000 conversations; the ones I did read through gave me an accounting of many of our sorrows and joys. The most recent messages, before we were no longer able to chat, were about the house I had recently purchased and how she couldn't wait to come and visit me - both of us knowing that wasn't going to happen.

Finally, in my English 12 class this week, we have been reading the Herbert Mason version of Gilgamesh; one of my all-time favorite mythic tales. We were at the part where (spoiler) Enkidu dies. I read the passage* about grief out loud to my class. I got teary eyed at the end of the passage. My students looked at me with compassion and kindness. It was a moment of me being terribly genuine and vulnerable and my students responding with understanding and compassion. It was... amazing.

It's that time of year where the Autumn Equinox hovers around the corner; it's not too surprising this week has been about connecting with grief. I struggle with the emotional side of grief. Rationally, when my relationship ended and when my best friend passed away, I knew I had to pick myself up because hey... life goes on. After a while of rationally processing the situation I put away being 'hurt' and moved on with my life. I had my daughter to take care of and after all, relationships sometimes end, right? I started dating again, and in time found someone with whom I hope to share my life. I am grateful for having love in my life and for these present moments of happiness and joy. I look at my daughter and every single day see glimpses of Candace's face looking back at me. Certain funny faces she makes are faces her mom made. I don't even think she knows that, but each time I see her face squish up 'just so' my heart skips a little and I feel the ache of loss.

I guess I didn't realize that you can be happy in your life yet still have moments when you grieve something from the past that you didn't even know you were still grieving. The relationship I spoke of earlier wasn't the best of relationships - it wasn't all that healthy. It was, however, important to me. I loved, deeply. It ended abruptly and I felt left behind, dazed, and wounded. It feels like the end of a relationship isn't that different emotionally than having someone you love, die; it is an end to a connection, the 'price' of love.

I realized this week that it is okay to grieve. It is okay to say to myself that even though I am in a place of joy, I can still have tender spots in my heart that are painful when poked.  I realized, that makes me normal - it doesn't make me a failure for not 'being over it by now'. The rational part of me had been whispering that I *really* should have moved on with these issues; I felt stupid for still feeling hurt about events that happened in the past in a relationship where there won't be resolution or answers. I felt broken for being vulnerable and still caring. For a while, I even felt I should stop missing Candace.

However, the heart is not ruled by a rational timeline; the heart has its own timeline. And the heart, or more accurately my heart, doesn't want to be punished for loving by being denied the time it wants and needs to grieve the loss it feels. It's on its own timeline and that doesn't make me weak or broken. It makes me human.

I guess the rational part of me is just going to have to be okay with being imperfect. Turns out, I'm just fine with being human.


*Here is the Gilgamesh piece on grief:

All that is left to one who grieves
Is convalescence. No change of heart or spiritual
Conversion, for the heart has changed
And the soul has been converted
To a thing that sees
How much it costs to lose a friend it loved.
It has grown past conversion to a world
Few enter without tasting loss
In which one spends a long time waiting
For something to move one to proceed.
It is that inner atmosphere that has
An unfamiliar gravity or none at all
Where words are flung out in the air but stay
Motionless without an answer,
Hovering about one’s lips
Or arguing back to haunt
The memory with what one failed to say,
Until one learns the acceptance of the silence
Amidst the new debris
Or turns again to grief
As the only source of privacy,
Alone with someone loved.
It could go for years and years,
And has, for centuries,
For being human holds a special grief
Of privacy within the universe
That yearns and waits to be untouched
By someone who can take away
The memory of death.