December 31

I really hope no one expects me to say the word “happy” today.

I hesitate to say that 2019 can’t be worse, given that I was just thinking we’d finished out the 2018 without any more death or serious harm coming to anyone in my social circle and then heard this morning that a childhood friend (we haven’t kept in touch well but I worry about them) got in a bad car wreck. So I won’t jinx myself when I can easily brainstorm 20 ways things could currently be worse for me, even if most of those events are only worse when added on top of the crumbling foundation that is widowhood.

New Year’s Eve used to be my favorite holiday. I don’t like crowds and couldn’t care less about the ball dropping. I love making fun of how silly it is that we act like a calendar date changes anything (“Happy arbitrary Gregorian boundary condition,” to quote Eric Meyer). But I also love something about the pause for evaluation and reflection. I often used to watch the Twilight Zone marathon on TV, drink root beer floats, and write myself a letter, to seal and reopen a year later, about what had been and what I wished would come. Not goals or resolutions, but hopes.

I’m not sure if I can do that anymore. I pretty much say all the time what my only hopes are – that is, survive until anything seems less bleak. I’m emotionally incapable of imagining I can actually handle this grief for another year.

Today is a day for VOY 11:59, appreciating that the accuracy of a legacy is irrelevant, and appreciating the rare moments when I’m able to look forward with anything but exhaustion, when my cookies do taste like something.

fake memoir title #3

“Is it healthy to cling to your closest living friend for constant emotional support after the death of your spouse, and other stupid questions”

I’m mostly just grateful to have someone not flinch at witnessing the depth of my grief. Grateful to have someone to smooth the edges of my broken heart gently back into place day after day. But I have times where I still worry it’s a burden. That by the chance of having been our oldest mutual friend they’re now stuck with inheriting the role of my protector, like some sort of platonic levirate remarriage. I guess I worry it’s a duty, something you shouldn’t expect people to put up with for ages.

And really, brain? If you were talking to a grieving friend, you’d say that sounds completely normal and you should rely on people as much as they ask you to. Someone needs to tell you to stop worrying about everything.

It was someone’s job, but unfortunately, he’s dead.

The score at 6 months

Well, the clock has just turned over to Christmas Eve here, which means it’s officially past Zack’s 6-month deathiversary.

I’m writing this, so you can presume I survived thus far.

I don’t think I was wrong, though, in assuming I’d meet the criteria for complicated grief at 6 months. It doesn’t magically get better; this time was the blink of an eye. I don’t know how that’s even an expectation that any sort of “recovery” would be possible by now. I’m less impaired than I was, less constantly in utter distress, so I’ll take it.

I lit a scented candle tonight, briefly, that someone gave me after Zack died. I guess as a sort of “let’s take a moment so I can reflect on being proud I’m surviving and very slightly improved at functioning on average” thing.

It felt weird because I have in the back of my head still that we don’t touch candles in the house, after Zack came home from the hospital on oxygen in January. I haven’t lit one in 6 months except my kid’s birthday candles. It felt bad to do it, as if it’s an admission that he’s not here, that my house is no longer filled with compressors and tanks, that I don’t have to remember those safety concerns on a daily basis. But I guess it’s time to light a candle if I want to light a candle. Time to admit that I can find some tiny moments of restoration-focused activity in between all the loss-focused time.

Let’s take score.

Foxhole conversions: 0
Obituaries written: 1
Days I didn’t want to have to live through this: 184
Days actively suicidal: 0

Intentional injuries: 0 unless you count self-sabotage in the form of serious procrastination, overdoing it when I do get up to move furniture etc., spitefully staying up too late, a vicious cycle of avoidance and failing to concentrate on work and then feeling incompetent, and punching a wooden urn. I suppose these count as maladaptive grief coping strategies and not really injuries.
Unintentional injuries: 1 fingertip sliced with a bagel knife and about 100 head bumps, stubbed toes and other minor clumsiness but that’s not a vastly increased rate for me

Photos looked through: 23,847

Giant bins of things to donate or give away: about 8
Things actually donated: 0
KVM switches successfully set up: 1
Pieces of home network and homelab equipment that I understand enough to fix when they break: 0
Times I thought I cracked my phone screen but it was actually just the screen protector: 2

Times I’ve used Zack’s kitchen stove: 0
Hours spent assembling a toy kitchen: 6
Times I regretted taking my toddler out in public: Really only the time I had him with me when I went to pick up his birthday cake and he cried “I want cake!” for an hour straight and would not eat his other snacks
Interstate trips survived: 2
Parties held with the help of Zack’s fraternity brothers: 2

Weight lost/gained: negligible overall
Days where the largest chunk of my calories come from cheese, donuts, or other junk: ~125
Cases of scurvy: 0
Hangovers: a lot fewer than you would think
Times I vomited: 1
Times I was vomited on: 2
Pairs of glasses scratched: 1

Times email/text reminders saved me from forgetting to pay an important bill: at least 10
Times internet, electric, gas, web hosting, or other important services were cut off: 0 (not sure how I achieved that)
Other Death Chores and accounts I still need to deal with: don’t want to count. 15 lists full of cards in my Trello board.

Seasons of Star Trek Voyager watched: 2.5
Days where I noticed myself being able to handle daily life for several hours: maybe 10

Weeks I was able to work a full 40 hours: 0
Weeks I at least worked my full scheduled hours: 4?

Nights of enough sleep: Ha

the last day of innocence

Today is 6 months from the last blissfully ignorant day of my life. I feel like it’s been weeks, like the world is moving on around me. I am confused by what season it is when I wake up. 

6 months since we thought you just had a little cold that you’d get over soon. You said you were starting to feel better, that you’d probably go to work the next day, Monday. And I said, sarcastically, I’ll believe it when I see it. If your fever isn’t completely gone you’re calling the doctor in the morning. And you insisted you’d prove me wrong. 

You didn’t prove me wrong. 

You were almost always right. I still owe you a souffle, from a long-forgotten drunk giggly debate over something. I never learned to make it. I’m sorry the ramekins are still sitting there unused while I can’t even recall what the bet was that you won. 

I wish I had been wrong. I wish it had been just another day of our beautiful, happy, boring, mundane life getting in the way of ever having to have time to make a souffle. 

Yesterday

Yesterday I punched your urn. 

It didn’t help. 

Today your great-uncle died. 

4th death in less than 4 years for our family, though thankfully you never had to see the pain of the last two of them. 

Today was not a good day. 

Rhetorical stupid

“Why do I insist on compulsively reading my grief forums and then getting sad, and other dumb questions I ask myself” is my next subtitle for the memoir I’m not writing because I hate them

My world is a strange awful foreign place without you. 

I wish you were here to make fun of me for being the idiot who let our kid learn how computer keyboards work and now he wants to type all the time like it’s his job. I think he thinks that’s all I do all day at work is flail my hands around clicking. To be fair, he’s basically right. 

I don’t want to tackle taking out the trash or dealing with the first world problem of unboxing a new baby gate and toilet paper that were delivered to me. 

I don’t want any of this, fuck everything 

Give up

I gave up on writing daily. It’s the same thing. I am still a disaster. I can’t focus to write about the good memories, can barely do work, suck at sleeping, still have a long backlog of “so your spouse is dead” chores and accounts and paperwork.

I’m often frozen with tears and indecision and overwhelming anxiety and inability to do the simplest of tasks. I sit staring at nothing, wishing the Nothing was me. 

I constantly fail at prioritizing. 

It sucked seeing happy families celebrate Thanksgiving and I think I may have to institute a near-moratorium on social media to survive until January. 

I hate everything and I’m constantly angry. 

I think I’ve made one iota of progress in that I regularly accomplish SOMETHING every day even if it’s just one phone call, and I don’t have as much trouble falling asleep. 

I just want to sleep for a decade until grief might finally let me breathe. 

Neveready the battery no one wants to own

I keep hallucinating sounds. I had over 8 fucking hours of sleep last night for gods’ sake. Why am I imagining things

A bit of a jingle sounds like the opening to the IT Crowd even though I know it isn’t

The silence becomes the beep of the baby monitor complaining that its batteries are low. If on battery it complains for twice as long as it doesn’t, so this is a familiar noise but

The thing is plugged in and it doesn’t ever make that beep while plugged in. 

It’s not real. 

And my stupid stubborn brain thinks “if I can’t trust my senses this much, couldn’t he still be alive?”

Ugh. Stomach churning episode of I’m actually here. Dissociation is real, kids

I don’t know how it’s possible that I actually have to be here to experience this. The only thing I want to be real is that this is some horrible really long dream

I’m not ready. I’ll never be ready 

Upcoming support group

“Frozen” is a feeling I have a lot lately. Can’t bring myself to do anything. Aimlessly sit there and get anxious about the fact that I’m accomplishing nothing. Cry for a while. Procrastinate some more. Flip through the news and digest nothing from the words in front of my face. Do a bit of work in the evening after kid is in bed because I failed at daytime. Beat myself up for not being able to handle anything. You know, fun times. 

I go to a support group tonight. I’m dreading new people. It’ll be a mixed group rather than widow(er) specific (couldn’t stomach going to a group full of mainly retirement age folks; their “worst case” of losing their partner at 60 or something was already my “best case”). Who knows if I will feel it’s worthwhile. 

But I’ll try it in hopes it helps.

I know I’m not alone in experiencing loss but I feel alone in the intensity of my grief. 

a million little things

There is nothing beautiful about grief, nothing that makes a tidy little narrative, exquisitely delicately painful in a poetic fashion

there’s only every day full of pinpricks and burdens and memories and the insurmountable hurdle of just trying to be a working parent while your world is shattered

and crying, and tons of snot

and all the never agains

You’ll never again make fun of me for the absurd amount of butter I like on my toast, for the absurd amount of cream cheese I like on my bagels. Twice what you think is reasonable. You laugh at it, but then you make them that way for me anyway.

You’ll never kiss me goodbye in the morning, a blur of suit and tie teasing me for still being sleepy in bed, text me later in the morning making sure that I’m up to face the day and encouraging me to be productive (not that you did that recently, anyway, as we both sacrificed our sleeping in for the kid). 

You’ll never offer to finish a chore so I can go to bed, you’ll never handle the communication to make plans with friends and get me out of the house, you’ll never go off on some righteous nerd rant about a broken system, you’ll never complain that you hate the beach, you’ll never ask me to write labels or the inscription on a card so the handwriting is legible. 

I’ll never take the kid to the park so you can work on your homelab. I’ll never read a book and summarize it for you so you don’t have to read something that had one interesting idea and two hundred pages not worth your time. I’ll never offer to drive us so you can have some drinks with your friends. 

every day it seems wrong, when I’m getting up or making toast or going to the park or trying to arrange some plan for myself

to have to do it alone

I feel adrift, purposeless, pretending like I give a fuck about anything without you