Thursday, December 10, 2009

Undone by the Giant Eagle

Note: Despite my stated need to step away from the keyboard, I'm still compulsively communicating. If you want happy-peppy, it ain't here.

I have a confession to make. I’m a control freak.

My husband will tell you that I have a need to control nearly every variable of my life. I don’t think it’s that extreme, but I do insist on being in control of my conduct and my emotions. My mother has always been stoic to a fault, and I have inherited her tendency toward carefully measuring my reactions to situations. I’m not always successful, and I’m always angry with myself when my emotions get the best of me.

As you might expect, I’m struggling with the grieving process.

I will admit to being largely unfamiliar with grief until now. I have lost all four of my grandparents, and the parents of several friends over the years, but these deaths were expected and my ability to cope with them was orderly and predictable. Sadness was intense for a short while, to be certain, but was for the most part confined to the traditional period of mourning. I have missed my grandfather rather acutely at times, and I have had periods of grief over several miscarriages over the years. But these periods were short-lived and I bounced back pretty quickly.

The struggle I am currently having is new territory for me. I keep thinking that I can reason my way through this – set aside a good chunk of time each day to cry and miss the Bug and indulge my need to grieve without courage, and then function the rest of the day. Seems reasonable, doesn’t it? It’s not that I can’t or won’t let myself go through this process. It’s just that I am desperate to start to move on in at least part of my life. I know that my grieving won’t bring Kiersten back. And I still have things I have to do on a daily basis.

My mind, body and heart are not sticking with this program, however. I fall asleep at the drop of a hat. I would sleep now, if I could get horizontal. I can’t concentrate on even the smallest of things. I leave pans on the stove. I forget people’s names. I find myself unable to add simple numbers or spell third grade vocabulary words.

But what I mostly do is cry at completely nonsensical, inopportune times. It’s just that everything, everything, everything reminds me of Kiersten. She lurks behind every corner. I hear her name in every song. Night before last, I came across one of her jackets. In a moment of desperation, I grabbed it out of the closet and buried my face in it, hoping beyond hope that I would be able to smell her in the fabric. I couldn’t, of course. And I was just devastated.

I can accept some of this. I expect to find her in the house. I expect to see a hundred little reminders a day, as I pass her room, or find her toys under the couch. I can accept this. What I wasn’t prepared to accept was the emotional reactions I would have to public places.

Today, it was the grocery store. S and I went to the grocery store today to pick up a few things. Today was a bad day to begin with, and he thought the fresh air would help me. And in fairness, he warned me that the grocery store was a tough place to be. I just didn’t believe him.

Walking through the door and being faced with the produce section, I understood why he had warned me. The Bug loved vegetables. Each time we went in, she would rush to check out the red peppers, the cucumbers, the asparagus. Trips to the store were always fun when we were together and feeling how much she was not there was overwhelming. I spent the entire shopping trip in tears. She was missing from every inch of the store. I almost ran out. It didn’t make sense at first. Why the grocery store, of all places?

Why, indeed? The Dalai Lama once said, “Sometimes, the simple act of bringing food to another person is the most profound act of love we can express.” Nowhere is this more evident than when we feed our children. As a mother, it is the very first thing we do for our newborn babies. Their first moments of life are spent against our breasts, and there is not a day that goes by thereafter when we do not concern ourselves with the act of bringing them food. So I guess it makes sense that the grocery store would be a place to miss her acutely. It just surprised me so much at the time.

It was enheartening to have a day yesterday that gave me a glimpse of what the “good” days will be like. And it was equally disheartening to have today be so bad in contrast. I’m just afraid of how many more of these places I will encounter, and how often the simplest things will leave me undone.


Anonymous said...

This blog is absolutely killing me. But...I can't stop myself from checking it multiple times a day. I don't know why. Perhaps for the insight into the most incredible grieving process a human can withstand? Know that I pray for you and your family throughout the days.

Anonymous said...

I have so many reactions like that about my mother. While not in any way the same as losing your Bug, I can relate to the shock of how much reminds you of her, the unexpectedness and intensity of the grief that is triggered.

As Kevin told me, 'You're lucky to have so many good memories of her to make you cry.'

Cherish your tears. They're a testament to your life together.

Love you, Beth, and thinking of you,

Alison said...

Here's the thing. When you lose someone so suddenly, you have these jagged moments of grief that hit you at nonsensical, inopportune times. I can't compare losing my mom very suddenly when I was 22 to your losing the Bug, but I do know sudden loss and what it can do to a body.

Gah. I used the word 'sudden' three times in that paragraph. All qualms about crappy writing aside, allow me me to say, let these moments happen. Don't tamp it down into some inner place. Don't do what I did. Again, losing a mother is different than losing a daughter, and I don't want to sound preachy.

It's okay when the grief hits when you are doing some mundane task. Let it happen.

I just reread your post, and I see this: "It’s not that I can’t or won’t let myself go through this process. It’s just that I am desperate to start to move on in at least part of my life."

The one thing permits the other.

Ellie Creek Ellis said...

shock and grief and a whole realm of emotions are experienced, aren't they? and our brain tries to reason and justify each feeling, as if comprehension and control will ease the pain...roller coaster emotions give you a glimpse of light and back down to the depths of darkness and pain...i hope those hills level out soon, no, i wished they would just completely go away -

Xeric said...

Okay, here's one little bit of normal, in that its something you've heard before but I'm unable to not repeat it: Good Lord, woman, can you ever write. . . . .

Look. You know how I feel about my dogs, so you won't be insulted when I relate to Hayduke's passing--the worst loss yet in my life. At first, his absence was everywhere. After a while, it was his presence. . . .

Unknown said...

For the record, I've always hated Giant Eagle....

We love you. (hugs)

winter said...

I wish I had something wise or worthwhile to say.


Mississippi Songbird said...

I only have prayers .. and virtual hugs.. love you..

Lisse said...

You need to try to cut yourself some slack, hard as that might be. Losing a child is probably the hardest thing anyone ever goes through in their lives.

I understand the desperation for some forward movment. Someone's probably already told you that "moving on" is not going to be a straight trajectory. There will be days that seem just fine and then others down the road that various dimensions of her loss will hit you out of nowhere.

It does get better, but mostly it just gets different.

Anonymous said...

Oh dear god I pray you find a way to give this woman some peace. Somehow, someway, find some for her.

bhd said...


Scott Larsen said...

"Grieve without courage." Hmm. I think this concept might be wrong. Backwards, maybe?

There's not a right way or wrong way* to grieve (*granted, Manbird could probably think up a few) but it definitely requires courage.