So much in the last couple weeks, where do I start? I wish I'd had the energy to update regularly. I'm sure a day-to-day account of navigating my grief would have been useful to me later. Because, you know, it's not like this will be the only time I do this and the mind forgets unpleasant details so easily.
One thing that's increasingly clear to me is not just how ill-equipped we are to deal with grief but how bad most people are at dealing with someone who's dealing with grief. And there's a copious literature on the first of these but I'm not sure there's much of anything on the latter. I sometimes feel like I'm taking notes for a manual on What Not to Do When Someone You Love Loses Someone They Love and on Monday I gave my sister an overview of the salient points.
Up until just before then, it had been an uncommonly good day. Sure, I still had my cold and there was cleanup to do from Hogmanay, but not so much that I couldn't ignore it and run to the spa to meet up with an old college friend. Getting reacquainted with her after nearly 25 years was fascinating and she was thrilled when I showed interest in "meeting her people". And her people--her tax attorney husband and actress daughter--were fascinating, too. The whole experience was very affirming.
Then I got home and found my refrigerator--still full of leftovers from Sunday--at 66°F and the prospect of having to throw everything out and replace it depressed me so much I just plopped in front of the computer to listen to moody music and play solitaire. I knew I needed to vent, so I called Nuphy, but he wasn't available. So I called my most reliable friend in the world: my sister.
As we talked, I got more and more worked up about things. It's not just the fridge--or the dead rat I found when I got back from St Louis, or the water in the lower level the day before I was supposed to leave. It's not even really the apartment as such. It's the thought of having to face everything
an adult has to manage by myself. Yes, Sis can listen. But at the end of the day, I'm the one with the kitchen full of spoiling food. If I called upon one of my better friends to come over and help, they probably would. But fundamentally it's not their problem
. For them, it's a charitable act. They are free to peace out at any time--and with quite legitimate reasons. Only monshu
made me the promise that whatever my problems were they were his problems, too, and he would stick by my side until we solved them.
And from there we got on the raw subject of what I needed from my family when I went down for Christmas and what I didn't get. I needed to Feel the Love like I'd never felt it before. I needed to be taken care of. I needed someone attentive enough that they could sense what I needed without the burden always being on me to ask. I got some of that. There was one point, for instance, where after I'd been weeping quietly in my room for nearly an hour, e. decided to check on me, saw the state I was in, and offered to help me finish wrapping presents. But acts like that stand out against a background of relative indifference.
Like I said, I get that people don't know what to do. This is one of those live-altering experiences that you can't understand without having been through. I'm waking up to the mortifying realisation of how I've failed friends and family in the past when they were forced to endure something like this. That's why I accepted what was offered and immediately began trying to forgive them for doing so little. For not even bringing up monshu
once in conversation (and eagerly changing the subject the one time I brought him up). For "giving me time" when what I needed was comfort. For, basically, not being spouses to someone they'd never agreed to marry.
Talking to other widows makes this easier--while at the same time making it only more clear how widespread the need is for advice. Before Sunday's get-together, my friend Mozhu described having almost exactly the same experience the Christmas after her husband died. My friend group is cleaving into those who Get It and those who don't--often despite their best intentions--and this isn't a new thing. Terminal illness is its own life-changing experience and even being there for Nuphy didn't prepare me for what it was like when it was my partner and not just my ex. His daughter was the responsible party then. I was the good friend with the luxury of leaving when I "needed" to because, at the end of the day, it was "not my problem".