Falling apart

Gracious, what a fall this has been. I’m going to try very hard not to turn this post into the ubiquitous Apology For Not Blogging/Promise To Blog More Now, Honest blog post, but all of the where-I-am-now that I want to write about demands a where-I-have-been-lately, so let me explain — no, let me sum up: an unexpectedly intense fall class schedule, a slow slide into seasonal depression, an ongoing round of family illnesses that’s kept me at the constant beck of someone’s fever or cough or effluence since early November; and then, the weekend before Thanksgiving, just as I was climbing out of Sickville and diving headlong into and end-of-semester papers and finals, my grandmother died; so there was Aaron’s family Thanksgiving and then a quick trip to Tennessee for the funeral followed by finals week on top of church Christmas concerts on top of more sick kids, until at last here I am: writing to you direct from the brink of collapse!

When I write it all out like that, well, it’s no wonder I’m exhausted.

My grandmother died two weeks ago, and it hurts more than I thought it would. At thirty years old, I’ve experienced profound losses before, but I think this is the first time I’ve had to process losing a loved one in a way  that is deeply sad, but not tragic. How does grief work when the one you lose is old, is tired, is ready to be done with a body that has slowed to a stop? Losing a grandparent is the natural order of things; I had assumed that grieving the loss of her in a series of slow small losses — as my grandparents left their home for assisted living, left assisted living for full-time care, left that for hospice; as my grandmother spent six months fully bedridden in hospice care, shrinking away to 65 pounds or so, until there was nothing left of her — I’d assumed that all the little deaths along the way would make finally losing her easier to deal with, more relief than grief.

But it turns out there’s grief there after all, grief that feels like homesickness: for the stability my grandparents’ house represented in a childhood spent feeling cast adrift, for the warmth and safety of being surrounded by an extended family that loved each other and loved me. And because grief triggers grief, it’s tangled up in my own parents’ in-progress move from the only house my kids have known them to live in, a move that doubles the miles between us to what feels like an insurmountable distance, a fear that my parents won’t be able to be to my boys what my grandparents were to me. It’s tangled up in my mom’s death so many years ago, and tangled up in my deeply damaged childhood, and tangled up in all the ways I try to do better for my own children but sometimes fail. Grief triggers grief triggers grief.

Because my own fond memories of childhood Christmases are so wrapped up in being at my grandmother’s house, losing her right before the holidays means unexpected stomach-knotting tears at things that should be joyful: blue Christmas lights and “O Christmas Tree” and red velvet bows, fireplaces and tinsel. I’m already worn so ragged by an autumn that has left me utterly wrung out, so finding the energy just to cope with all my Feelings is almost more than I can manage, much less trying to do Christmas. Even though putting on a big Christmas huzzah would probably be good for me, would make me feel better, I just don’t have the energy to put it all together. This year will be about making do with storebought cookie dough and minimal decorations and every single gift coming from Amazon, and about begging God for the strength I need to make it to January, to get me through to the place where it doesn’t hurt as much.

Merry Christmas, from the brink of collapse.

My grandparents with baby me, thirty Christmases ago

P.S. Here is a very nice word you might like, brought to you by state-of-the-art German linguistic engineering. (Grief bacon!)

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2 thoughts on “Falling apart

  1. Feel whatever you feel and take as long as you need. Even if the person is, as you said, old and has died several little deaths, this is the final death and a transition. Transitions are sad, especially when it involves the loss of someone that has been such a staple of your life. I can’t say much more than that, except that your time is yours. If you need it to heal, then you do just that.

    God bless.

  2. I hope things start to be happier again. Grief seems to weigh much heavier on the soul during the holidays. I’ll be praying for you!

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