Posted by: shelliejelly | August 11, 2008

Dear K.

Shortly, a day or two tops, after you died I thumbed through the yellow pages and found a grief counselor. The fact that I just randomly picked her name is astounding when I think of how much she helped me and what I owe her, though she’d never ask for anything.

When I first sat down with her I think I was probably still in shock, though by then I was no longer under the impression that what had happened was some sort of mistake. The first day I couldn’t fathom that you weren’t in this world anymore. Of all the billions walking around, you had to be one of them: you just weren’t in Ohio.

By then, my mind had switched to the bigger task of figuring out if you still loved me. Though J., my counselor, understood my uncontrollable and habitual need to figure this out, she knew the search itself was fruitless, that I would end up exhausting myself. She was kind enough to humor me for just a little while, and then she made me get down to doing the serious work of repair, of creating a whole person from the pieces that were left.

I won’t lie; I didn’t think that task was possible. But, as she did for me, I humored J. and myself and eventually I began to see that though different, I could still recognize bits of myself when I looked in the mirror. And the parts I didn’t recognize, I looked for their place, for the similar edges that would let me slide the unknown straight against the familiar.

Some of what helped was having a better understanding of what you may have experienced. From the early part of losing you I had this idea of you being able to be wherever you wanted to go. Sitting with your family as they had dinner; visiting places you had wanted to go while alive; and laughing with your friends. From where I sat, having that kind of freedom was a gift.

Then J. said to me: “Imagine sitting with your family, hearing them laugh and tell jokes and say ‘I love you’ and not being able to participate yourself.” The isolation of your position had never occurred to me, perhaps because I was feeling so isolated myself. A stranger to even myself. And that is where we once again gained common ground, in the effort each of us was having to make to adjust to a completely new normal.

I don’t know where you are or how you experienced death. I can make a guess; I can have my theories. But those might be to tame my own demons. I might need an idea of where you are to take the edge off you not existing here, and I know thinking of you as gone just won’t do. So I work to find the delicate balance of letting the past inform the present, of finding you in this place without binding myself to memory alone.

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