It’s been both cloudy and sunny lately in Los Angeles. I’ve become obsessed with taking pictures of the sky and trees. It seems I’m always looking up, which is interesting because I’m starting to feel more up.
Grief is such a strange beast. We hear about the various “stages” – Shock, Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Reconstruction, Acceptance, Hope. We hear they don’t happen for everyone, they don’t happen sequentially, there’s no set time limit, it’s all individual, there’s no roadmap, and so on. Despite these warnings, I can’t help but monitor myself to see if I can pinpoint which stage I’m in or just left. In May it will be two years since Kaz passed away.
I know for certain I am beyond the shock and denial stage. I can also say with certainty that these stages do exist. In the first few minutes after K took his last breath, I kept feeling for his pulse and not finding it, but was still unsure what had just happened. I needed the hospice nurse to confirm it.
I’ve heard others say in the beginning, they kept waiting for their loved one to return. For me, it was the opposite. For a long time, I felt like he had never left. I would tell people, “He’s here, he’s just invisible.” I cannot tell you if it was my imagination or something else, but I totally felt this to be true.
As time went on, this feeling started to gradually dissipate. If he was around, he wasn’t around as often. Then it felt as if he wasn’t around at all. I would beg for him to come back and be met with silence. It felt like losing him all over again, which made me angry. There was a period when I was angry all the time. Why did a man so young and in his prime have to die? Why did he have to suffer? Why couldn’t we have had more time together? The more I asked Why, the angrier I became with myself, G-d, the world.
At some point – I don’t remember when – I stopped asking Why and starting asking “Now what?” At first, this made me angry too. How dare I picture a future without him? Who was I to have a future? What kind of future was worth living anyway? The thing that kept me going was my writing. But even this was not enough to escape the perpetual cloud hanging over my heart.
Then I adopted the puppy. A few weeks later I got accepted to the Vermont residency. In Vermont I worked on my book and experienced life outside of LA and the apartment where K and I lived (and he died). After 5 weeks away, returning to LA produced the strongest culture shock I’ve felt in years. I hardly wrote anything except the blog for 4 weeks.
A few days ago I finally started writing again. And exercising. And feeling more like myself. I am thinking more clearly. I am more motivated, more disciplined. Dare I say it, I am feeling more hopeful.
The strange thing is that I’m also crying more now than before I went to Vermont. I seem to cry at the drop of a hat, at commercials, at songs. Sometimes I look at the dog and start crying. The other night I watched Fiddler on the Roof and bawled like a baby. I’m not sad, per se, but I have moments of extreme sadness. My mother used to cry a lot too. But I don’t think of her as a sad person either. Sometimes I wonder if the hope and forward-thinking is conflicting with other emotions. Sometimes I feel like I’m crying for both of us, for the past and the future. All I know is I keep looking up.