Grief Diary, 10/6/12


10/6/12

The problem with stress eating: It actually does work. Ate half a bag of Terra Chips, more than half of a big Chocolove bar, and two nasty generic shortbread cookies from the airplane… and I do, in fact, feel better now. Worse in the long run, better in the immediate run. Sometimes, that’s a bargain I’m willing to make.

Another kindness from strangers that I forgot to mention earlier, from yesterday or the day before, I now can’t remember which. Went to a cafe, and the barista didn’t even ask what we wanted: she took one look at us and said, “I’m going to make you the best latte in all of Chicago.” Like the gelato guy, I don’t know if she could tell that we were having a hard time and needed a little happy kind moment, or if she was just a playful person having fun. Didn’t matter. It still stuck with me. The funny thing was, I didn’t actually want a latte: I’d already had a biggish breakfast, and really just wanted a coffee. But I wanted the moment of kindness more. And yes, it was a pretty damn good latte.

Have been thinking some more — just for a change — about all this self-conscious processing about grief I keep doing, and am looking at whether it’s making it easier for me to be compassionate about the others in my family who are grieving over my dad. Or hell, with anyone who’s grieving over anyone. It seems like it is. I’m so hyper-aware of how out of balance my own thoughts and feelings and actions are… so when other grieving people are being stressed or paralyzed or displacey or obsessing over tiny decisions and details, I’ve been more able to recognize it, and cut them slack, and not take it personally. I do worry somewhat, though, about whether I’m going to start falling into my “wise counselor doling out sage advice and insight whether it’s asked for or not” shtick. Probably a bad idea. Especially now, when my insight and wisdom aren’t working so hot.

(Is that more than two layers of meta, Ingrid? Do you have to smack me with a newspaper now?)

I do notice, however, that I’m getting much more irritated by conflicts and arguments in atheism… and am taking them much more personally than usual. I just want all of it to stop, now. I want to put my hands over my ears and scream, “Shut up, everyone! My dad just died! I cannot deal with this! Can’t we all just get along, for one fucking week?” Ironic, since I was just chiding someone about making it all about themselves, and here I am making it all about me.

Oh, and can I just say: Two fucking Benadryls last night, and it still took me forever to fall asleep. Brain, will you please just shut the fuck up? I know you want to process everything and make sense of everything and figure everything out, and I know that falling asleep itself feels weirdly scary and you want to cling to consciousness like it’s the last helicopter out of Saigon. But really. You will feel better if you get some sleep. You will do a better job making sense of things if you get some sleep. And you are not going to figure out the secret formula for making it all better if you just stay up for fifteen more minutes. Trust me on this. Turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream. It is not dying.

Deeply, deeply tired right now. Feeling driven to write; not sure if I’m making any sense. But you know… I’m actually, uncharacteristically for me, not really caring all that much. Normally when I write, I’m very conscious of my audience, very conscious of the fact that I’m trying to communicate with people. Especially when I’m doing news reporting or making an argument. But the grief diary, not so much. I’m doing this almost entirely for myself. The feedback and kind words have been extremely valuable, for certain. And I am happy that it’s having a positive effect on people. There’s even a sense in which I am focused on that positive effect: part of what I’m getting out of this diary is that it gives my dad’s death and my grief some meaning, some value, makes it something more than just purely pointless suffering I have to slog through. But ultimately, it’s the self-interested desire for that meaning and value, and the self-interested desire to process and analyze and try to make sense of things, that’s driving this exercise. That, plus the fact that writing is one of the few times in all this when I feel something vaguely resembling peace, when I don’t feel restless and like I’m crawling out of my skin, when I don’t feel that no matter what I’m doing I’d really rather be doing something else. Publishing this diary doesn’t feel noble or brave or self-sacrificing. It feels necessary. There are things I’m doing to make myself feel better: walking outside, reminiscing and making sick jokes with my brother, eating junk food, mindlessly watching dumb TV, touching Ingrid, reading about the moon rock heist, blogging about my grief.

More thoughts roiling around in there somewhere about the ways that self-interest and compassion intertwine. But I can’t quite get hold of them. They made sense yesterday; they’re not making sense now. Maybe tomorrow.

Comments

  1. mildlymagnificent says

    Funny about that comfort food thing.

    I remember being very taken aback reading Dick Francis novels. He made a big thing occasionally about getting pastries and cakes – as soon as possible – for people who were shocked by sudden death. Gave little ‘popular science’ asides about the chemical effects of carbs. S’pose jockeys who starve themselves a lot of the time take a big interest in the vices and virtues of foods they’re not normally allowed to have.

    Makes me think that all that sitting around the kitchen table pouring endless pots of tea before and after funerals is probably more about the cakes and cookies and sandwiches that go with the tea.

  2. sheila says

    Has anyone warned you that it’s common to be a bit stupid while grieving? I know I was – I couldn’t think my way out of a web paper bag for a couple of months. And my short-term memory was terrible, too.

    It’s temporary, I promise.

  3. loriwalsh says

    Just a note of appreciation for your grief diary. I’ve been following it, and I think it has helped prepare me for the phone call I got yesterday from my brother that my dad seemed really confused. By the end of the day he was hospitalized and unconscious. He almost died 12 years ago after surgery, and I’ve been bracing myself for this ever since. As I stood in my closet trying to pack a suitcase and not really getting anywhere, I remembered how you said even the smallest decisions were difficult, and it made me feel like less of an idiot. Thank you. And I’m sorry for what you’re going through. Massive sympathy.

  4. gillyc says

    mildlymagnificent at #1:

    It’s the tea, as well – I recall reading about some research, a couple of years ago, that showed that having a cup of tea after a stressful event (they used mental arithmetic tests, I think) caused a large reduction in cortisol levels (compared with some ‘tea-like beverage’ that wasn’t actually tea). Mind you, it might have been down to the familiarity of tea; I know I would have found having to drink a ‘tea-like beverage’ stressful!

  5. sc_4cfa2d5abb54d67a8a8f3548639aeac6 says

    Reading your grief diary has been comforting. It has been a reminder to remember those whose lives were important to me. I lost my grandmother a year ago and I still find myself wishing she were here. I’m currently bawling because reading this has reminded me of her. But that’s a good thing because I need to know that she still means a great deal to me. I needed to get in touch with my grief. I found that listening to the last chapters of Richard Dawkins Greatest show on Earth comforting or watching the Carl Sagan series on YouTube. Science has always been my great passion and so I easily find comfort in it. Surround yours elf with comforting things no one will blame you. Also audiobooks make sleep

  6. says

    Just sending condolences and empathy. When my dad died, I went through very similar thoughts and emotions. No advice to give on getting through it, just very grateful for your blog and talent for expressing things. You’re a good egg.

  7. Patricia, OM says

    Thank you for doing this. It’s helping me immensely. The dreaded October 13th anniversary is coming up, your words make me feel ‘normal’.

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