Last night I paid a somewhat regular visit to my favorite psychologist. I find it comforting that he knew Ben and can carry on a personal conversation about him. Plus, he is as blown away as I am that Ben is gone. I like that. A little solidarity. And he doesn’t pretend that he can bring Ben back, although I do confess to holding my breath a little each visit, just incase he shouts “Surprise! I found a way!” and then Ben pops out to say it was all a bad joke.
I also like my shrink because he’s not afraid to say “fuck.” Or “fuck off”. Which is sort of / kind of / a little bit what this post is about, only in a much kinder and gentler way.
Let me begin by explaining to anyone who doesn’t already know this about me, that I am a very “guilty” person. That’s who I am. I feel guilty about everything. I spend my life wondering “Did I thank this person, or apologize to that person? Did I show an appropriate amount of gratitude? Did I offend someone by laughing too hard? Did I make someone feel too badly about my situation when I stopped in my tracks and sobbed uncontrollably for 30 seconds, gasping for breath? Am I grieving too much? Am I not grieving enough?” Right this minute I am more concerned about who may read this post and think that I am writing about them in particular, then I am with trying to just spit out what I want to say. (Also, side note, I wonder if mental health professionals are offended by the word “shrink”. Now I’m worried that my shrink may google Ben, read this blog, and take offence to that word.)
In order to clear my conscience and not have to worry about what everyone is thinking, please know that I am not talking about you in particular, in this post. Whoever may be reading my musings, this is not about you. This post is all about ME. I won’t be offended if you don’t read it, as long as you aren’t offended by what I have to say. Deal? If you think you may be offended, stop reading now. Do me that favor, because I can’t handle the guilt of worrying about it.
Back to the visit to the shrink. He let me know right off the bat that I didn’t look good. Nothing like diving right into it. I wasn’t feeling good, so I wasn’t really surprised that I didn’t look good. Here’s what I told him:
I feel like people think I should be over it, or at least moving on. I feel pressured to grieve in a way that others think I should. I feel that people think I should be going out to do things that they think I should be doing, instead of hiding in bed on occasion like I sometimes want.
I feel like I should do what others think I should do, because everyone has given me so much over the last year that I owe it to everyone. And I do. I do owe everyone. I could never ever repay so many people for all they have done for me. Maybe someday I will have the opportunity to give back, but right now I have neither the ability nor the desire. I cannot. I just can’t.
Sometimes I have brief moments where I forget what has happened, that my whole world has imploded, and I find I can talk about normal things. Most of the time I just want to talk about Ben. I like to look at his pictures and watch the video clips and just remember him. I like hearing other people talk about him. It reminds me that others loved him too.
Every day I can hear Ben’s voice break telling me how scared he is, and how he doesn’t want to die. It hurts me so badly that I just want to crawl into bed and try to remember how to breathe. That’s all I want to do. Not every moment of every day, but sometimes. And I know that I am loved and that those who love me want to try to help me with that pain. I know that people don’t want me to have to feel it. But I want to. Please let me feel it.
The pain is getting worse for me. I told my shrink that I probably could have gone back to work the day after Ben died and coped. I was numb. I was relieved that he wasn’t in pain any longer, I was so very busy, and there were always people around. But now things have slowed and people have gone back to their lives, and I hurt so badly that my stomach actually cramps up with pain. But here’s the kicker … I want to feel that pain because I do not want to get over this right now. I don’t want to forget. I want to feel everything. If I stop feeling it so much, it means time is passing and taking me further and further away from him. I don’t want to be further away from him.
I still spend a portion of my time every day trying to figure out how to bring him back. I’m not losing my mind. I know he’s gone and that it’s not possible to bring him back, but then I pause for just a moment and I have a fleeting thought of “what if? What if I just do this, or what if I just do that, and maybe he’ll be back?” I don’t enjoy those thoughts and I would rather just have the pain, but I can’t stop them. What if? What if? What if? That’s how I lived for ten months … saying these words out loud to those who could handle it, “Ben is going to die. He will not survive this.” But in my head I thought “What if? What if? What if?”
I have nightmares I don’t remember. Last night I had some type of night terror that caused Jaime to fly out of bed screaming “What?! What?!” I was yelling and asking if everyone was ok. I don’t remember why.
My body aches. I physically hurt. I have some swollen lymph nodes for unexplainable reasons in uncomfortable places. I’ve been sick twice since Ben died and my latest bout with bronchitis was almost over when Jaime and I (along with two friends) stumbled upon a house fire. I breathed in black smoke while I was inside and now my cough is back. (everyone lived, dog died.) My throat feels like it has a lump in it. My hypochondria is back with a vengeance. I know that logically my throat hurts because I’m sick and because I inhaled smoke, but my mind whispers “cancer … cancer … cancer…”
Back to the whole point of this post. I cannot grieve in the way that others want me to. I know that seeing my pain causes pain for people who love me, and I know that it would be easier on everyone else if I could cope in the way that makes them most comfortable. But as my shrink said, “No one is living this with me.” I’m all on my own for this one. Everyone has to let me feel it.
I know that everything that people do and say is done and said with the absolute best of intentions. I know that no one wants to offend me or hurt me, and I know that it is human nature to want to help me hurry through this so that I won’t be in so much pain. But you can’t. Please …. you can’t hurry me through this. I do not want to go about life as normal. I want to be allowed to grieve in my own way, even if it doesn’t seem “healthy” to someone or even if it’s not the way they think they would grieve in the same situation.
I don’t want my pain compared to anyone else’s. Its not a competition and I guarantee it’s not the same. Not better, or worse, but just not the same. It’s just mine. And sometimes if I want to isolate myself, let me, because otherwise I will be bitchy and unkind, and worse then hurting someone’s feelings will be the guilt that I will have to live with for doing that because that is who I am. Guilty. I don’t want that right now.
This was my shrink’s advice. “Tell people what it is that is actually helpful to you, as opposed to the things that they think are helpful for you.” So here goes:
If you want to help me, please let me talk about Ben or not talk at all if I don’t feel like it. Please watch my video clips when I play them for you, and pretend that you like watching my husband as much as I do.
If you work for the same company as I do, I’d be super thrilled if I could hand you a pile of receipts along with a letter of instruction and have you complete all the shitty paperwork that needs doing in order to claim back a whole bunch of expenses to do with the funeral. I’d also be super thrilled if you could claim the kid’s medical expenses that I haven’t dealt with yet. And while you’re at it, perhaps you could review and organize Ben’s medical records and complete a pile of paperwork for Veterans Affairs. This is a huge priority with a deadline and for some reason I cannot bring myself to do it. I have to have it finished by Monday. I haven’t yet begun. I kind of want to vomit at the thought of it.
If you want to go buy a wall mount for my upstairs tv (with my money) and hook it up for me, that’d be great. Same with a phone handset that would allow me to plug it in at home so that when my cell phone rings, it automatically rings on the “home phone” that isn’t really a home phone. Apparently there is such a thing and I want it so I can cancel my home phone but not have to worry about missing the kids if they call while I sleep. (Sleep. Ha! As if there is such a thing.)
If you want to organize my filing cabinet all by yourself without me having to make small talk – awesome. If you want to research and arrange family counseling and / or group counselling that’s suitable for teens through the White Rock Hospice, that would also be great. Langley Hospice is my second choice.
If you are good with tools and can drill holes and screw a bunch of handles onto a cheap, shitty set of drawers from Jysk – fantastic. If you feel like researching where to repair a broken door on a really expensive delonghi rialto coffee maker – awesome. That fucking coffee maker is the bane of my existence. But Ben loved it. So I want to fix it. And also I would like coffee.
If you are experienced with buying cars and are able to research good vehicles on Craigslist with Jaime (under $5000, low mileage) and then go check them out and test drive them with her, that would be amazing. Maybe even take her to complete the paperwork and get the insurance. Ben would have done that. Now I need someone to step in for him.
Those are things I really need. And I need to not have to feel like I must make coffee and chat or entertain while they’re being done, if I’m not in the mood. I just need them done.
I totally understand if no one wants to do them – I don’t really expect people to do those type of things. Everyone has their own life and their own things to do and I get that. But if you want to help me, then those are the things I really need. And if I’m doing them myself, then those are the things that I will be burying myself in for the next several weeks. Let me. I’ll see you when I’m done.
I know they’re not the type of things that people think I should need. I know that people think I need to be distracted, and to go out, and to find ways to take my mind off of things. But that is not what I want or need. I want to feel the pain from losing Ben. I need to feel the pain of my children when they cry. I don’t want to push it all aside, only to have it come back later. Right now I want to be consumed with the agony that I feel from losing Ben.
So please, allow me to feel my pain. I know its hard to do that, and I appreciate that people want to spare me pain if they can, but I need to feel my pain. If you want to help, any of those things I mentioned would be helpful. And please, understand when I disappear or when I am silent. I think it is ok for me to do that for awhile. If I find myself sinking to a place where I can’t climb out, I promise I will let my shrink know or I will reach out for help.
On the advice of my shrink, that is what I need. And I also need for NO ONE to ask me if this post is about them, or if you’ve done something wrong. It’s not about you. You haven’t done anything wrong.
On a completely different and utterly random note, I would like to let all you ladies know that wearing men’s lululemon underwear is extremely comfortable. I’m glad I didn’t throw them out with the rest of Ben’s undies. Also, Zak has pre registered for Kwantlen in the Business / Marketing program AND he will be celebrating two years of sobriety on April 6th. Yay Zak.