It’s funny—just a few weeks ago I was thinking about this blog and my book, wondering if I even had anything left to say about grief. And now with the events that have come pass since that time, I find that I have a whole new round of things to think, feel, and say about the subject. Because every time I think I’ve achieved some level of peace or well-adjustment in my grief, something comes up and knocks me on my ass all over again—reminds me that there is no such thing.
Yesterday, I went about my usual business and felt pretty good about myself at the end of the day. I braved a trip to the dentist, met a friend at the dog park for a double social hour, worked, wrote, cooked a healthy meal for myself and my future husband—crossed off every single item on my list. I sat on the couch promptly at 9 pm, feeling like I definitely deserved some serious veg-out TV time. I had no inkling whatsoever that a full-blown descent into deep grief was I store for me before the day would be over. And then Victoria called. It was the first time I’d talked to her since her mother’s death last week.
I was determined that no matter what time she called or what I was doing, I would find a way to answer that phone call and make myself 100% available to her for however long she needed me. I was relieved to finally hear her voice, to hear that she is present in her grief and taking the best care of herself possible at such a time. But as relieved as I was, there was this rising, rushing wave of emotion that swallowed me up as I listened to her talk.
As it turns out, having gone through something similar to what she is experiencing now only makes bearing witness to her sadness horribly painful. I hurt for her and her family; I appreciate all the things she is dealing with now that are so different from what I went through. I dealt with some things that she did not, and she will live the rest of her life with memories that I never had to live through. Every death is different, and I can’t speak to her experience. All I can do is love her as much as I possibly can from a distance, and listen.
Hearing her explain the things her mother said hours before she died and what it felt like when the funeral home took her mother’s body away brought back every single painful and vivid memory of my father’s death and those first moments afterward. What he said before he died, what it felt like to shovel a pathway in front of our house for the coroner to take his body away. And then what it felt like to walk back in the house afterward, knowing that he was really gone.
It was at that point in the conversation that both Victoria and I realized that it was that particular moment for each of us, when we ceased to be the person we had been before the loss, and began our lives as someone else. There was the Tanya who existed when my father was alive, and for the last eight years there has been someone else in her place, living in a completely different world. And now, there is a new Victoria—a friend with whom I will have a completely different relationship from this point forward.
Tomorrow I’ll start all over again, back down to “zero days without incident.” I’ll work, will take my dogs to the park, will do some writing, and I’ll most likely finish the day on the couch with the TV on or a book in my lap. But no matter how mundane this routine has become, I never, even for a minute, forget that I am living as someone other than whom I would have been if my father were still here. What would she be doing? Would she be a writer, would she live in Seattle? Would she be getting married or pitching a book. Who was she to be—that other girl?
I suppose I have to be glad that I’ll never know.