Posted by: shelliejelly | August 13, 2008

Measure up

When I left Ohio I had been in counseling for a year, and I was feeling better. I could smile and laugh without my eyes filling with tears at the thought of joy in the place of sadness. I admit, I held my grief tightly for a long time, letting it follow me around and whisper in my ear, “You can measure your love for him by the depth and length of your sadness.”

Grief is strange, seemingly hijacking all of your feelings and stuffing them in a blender so you end up with muted, dull sadness covering everything. I wore my grief every day and can remember very clearly thinking about how people might judge my love of K. should I break into laughter or smile instead of cry. All the while working very hard to be stoic and self-sufficient. How contradictory it now seems to think that I thought of my love and loss by how shattered I felt without showing how shattered I was.

None of this is to imply that my feelings were not genuine. I didn’t let others dictate my grief. I’d be lying, though, if I said the reactions and expectations of others didn’t come to play on how I experienced losing K. Very few people know how to really deal with those who are grieving, even those who have suffered sometimes are paralyzed, as though your sadness is a vortex and if they stand too close they might once again be sucked into darkness.

I have a memory of standing in front of the mailboxes in the English department’s office aimlessly searching for my name when I burst into tears. Something simple had happened, like my key chain breaking, and I couldn’t stop the tears from rolling down my face. My friend, S., happened upon me and looked at me with two-parts compassion and one-part frustration, saying “God, I just want to turn you upside down and shake all the sadness from you. I just want Michelle back.”

She was frank enough to say what everyone was thinking, and all I wanted to do was get my face within an inch of her own and scream “SHE’S NOT FUCKING COMING BACK, NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO. DON’T YOU GET THAT?” But instead I walked out of the office, leaving my mail and my key chain and my friend standing there, staring.

And I went out to my car and cried and cried because I knew she didn’t understand and I couldn’t find any way to make her recognize that I missed me, too.

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