Thursday, January 24, 2013

in january, on grief.

Something terrible happened on New Year's Day and on The Day After New Year's Day I heard about it.  A Constant in my life rang my phone at 11:47 a.m. on The Day After New Year's Day and I answered.  When he told me Adam was dead I remember exactly what happened and what happened was close to nothing for the first few seconds, except I wasn't living in real time I was living when a few seconds felt like an hour.  I was staring towards the lake but zoned in on the bark of a tree repeating "What?" and "What happened?" and "Why?", but I wasn't asking questions. I was filling silence while trying to process that my friend was dead. I know that the Constant had given me the details I had asked for and there was nothing left to say. It was an awkward ending to a terrible conversation, but when terrible things happen nothing is right, because nothing can be right when everything is upside down. I sat on the couch staring at the bark on the tree for 7 minutes. I called Liz because I felt like Liz didn't know and Liz had to know. Above all I had to tell Liz because I had to tell someone. I was grasping for something to hold on to and that something had to be reality and for this to be my reality I had to say it right out loud.

When I told Liz I exploded with emotion. It had been 82 minutes and now I had tears. After I (awkwardly) ended the call with Liz I reflected on how selfish that was. I had just called her in the middle of her shift at work and her life would never be the same. Does anyone think about that?  What kind of person finds the time to feel selfish in a day like that?

I decided to run. I had had 5 days off and I had to run that day. I stopped at the door and felt my eyes widen as I lost focus on what I was doing. I unlaced my shoes and took a shower.

I was at work three hours later and people were cordially asking me how my New Year's was. I drew a shorter breath when I realized that no one around me knew what I knew. I said "My friend died." and no words have ever sounded so empty coming out of my mouth. These people didn't know him, and these people didn't know me when he was such a big part in my life. Did these people even know me? I mean really.

63 hours later I was in a car with three other people from a different time in my life and nervous because I had never been to a funeral like this before. Not with these people, not on these terms, and not for these reasons.

I went to Adam's funeral because he was someone important in my life, and I cared deeply about him.  He always had a way to make someone smile and feel welcome in any circumstance. He always had an awkward, ice-breaking comment for awkward moments. He was a genuine person. I hate saying these things because everyone says these things about people when they die, and for Adam to be in the same category as "everyone else" is not right. But, you know, these situations never are.

I began to get so annoyed with people who would say "I'm sorry to hear about your friend". Really?  Are you? You didn't even know him. You don't even know his name and I doubt you will remember it when I tell you, because you will ask. You didn't know me when he did, that's what is really important. You didn't know me then so how could you possibly understand who I am now?  Do you even know me at all? Don't you know that two parents buried their child today? Don't you know that a brother lost his only sibling? Don't you know that people lost their best friend?

After the funeral I went home - home home. I sat on the couch with my mom, who is everything a mother should be, and more. My mom knew Adam. He once gladly instructed her on how to take a drill bit out of a drill via speaker-phone. My mom asked if it was open-casket. I said yes. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her dry her own tears. "I think it's better that way. I think seeing the body can really help people come to terms with reality, and grieve." I nodded my head twice.

I read the book The Fault in Our Stars over these few days, and there are two things that John Green wrote in this book that, I think, need to be widely recognized, because there's a deep truth to both of them.

1) "Grief does not change you ... It reveals you." If you let this marinate inside of you long enough, it becomes impossible to see grief any other way. Grief allows you to see what is important in life and why the absence of such things are devastating. There is no truer form of a person than when they are grieving, because grief makes it impossible to fake it any longer - with "it" being anything that isn't the absolute truth to the self.

2) "Writing does not resurrect.  It buries." I am not trying to relive my grieving period from a friend dying, I wrote it to bury it. I wrote it to move on, not only from the death of Adam but the painful realizations that that brought about in my life.

Which leads me to my current internal conflict of debate, which is: Do we truly deal with things (specifically tragedies, but also other minute things such as a disagreement with a spouse/friend), or do we bury them and pretend we move on? Is it possible to truly move on from anything? Does time heal all wounds? Does time heal wounds at all? When you think back on a period of grief that you had, and I don't mean something small, but something huge -- a heartbreak where you couldn't get off of the floor for weeks, a death that changed your entire outlook on not only your life but everyone else around you -- can you ever really be okay with those things? Do you ever truly forgive someone for hurting you so badly? Treating you so poorly? Do you ever forgive the universe for taking someone so quickly? And in such an unfair way? Yes, you learn things from it and might find internal peace to a certain degree, but are you ever not sad about it? Do you think back and say to yourself "I'm totally okay with all of these things happening. In fact, I wouldn't change it at all."?

If you said "yes", you're lying.