Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Back Story

It was an ordinary day, in fact.

But at some point I wondered, Do you count the times when your thoughts are interrupted by a flash of pain so intense that you think you will not get to the next moment?

Karen commented that she wonders whether rituals like Ash Wednesday are perhaps made for those who need to be broken open to the hurt in the world. Perhaps. I know that I feel no desire for more of it.

Gabriele wrote a beautiful post in which she talks about a shift in her feelings about Ash Wednesday after years of avoidance.

Last week I responded to two questionnaires produced by graduate students studying parental loss to suicide. Both of them were designed for parents in the first two years of loss, and I gathered from the questions that the students have some kind of idea that the pain recedes by the end of the second year.

I think that they are going to find that they need to reframe their studies and start over,

But then, it does change. It does. And it must become fairly invisible.

Otherwise, why would you even ask how often a parent thinks about her lost child? Isn't "all day long" the obvious answer? No one will respond to any of the other choices on the surveys.

One of my professors was astonished when I explained, in January, that I had come late to every class in December because he insisted that we open the class by singing Advent hymns and I simply couldn't stand to begin the day that way.

A friend whose husband is close to death wondered what she would do with his clothing, and expressed some kind of combination of surprise and horror when I said that I haven't done anything about clothes yet. "It takes that long?" she asked.

The presenter of that webinar my advisor and I watched last week advised clinicians to rethink their assumptions about length and intensity of grief when it comes to parents who have lost children to suicide. I think that that suggestion applies to parents who have lost childen by any means at all.

And no, I didn't count the times yesterday.

But late last night I went outside to move cars around and there was a U-haul truck parked in front of one of the houses across the street and I felt a sharp breath contract my chest. We rented a U-Haul in Chicago that October to bring our son's belongings home. I have had the same reaction whenever I have encountered one of those trucks when I have been out driving. I have lost many of the memories of those few days, but the feelings associated with them are almost as strong as they were originally.

A U-Haul. Only the last of maybe a dozen things yesterday that stopped me in my interior tracks.


karen gerstenberger said...

This kind of thing happens to me a LOT. It's such a relief to know I'm not alone, not crazy (though, of course, I'm not happy that you are going through it). For me, it's encountering things that she loved, or things I assumed we were going to do together; actually, it's hundreds of other things, as well. And it does break into whatever I am doing, and it STOPS me. Just: STOP. And the feeling is like, "Oooof." A punch in the gut.

I think you're right: as time moves along, it gets to be a bit less frequent, as in, not all day long, every day. Then perhaps, it's the bigger things, more traumatic things, that stick out the most. Like the UHaul. I'm so sorry, GG. My heart is with you.

You are going to teach those students very valuable lessons by your honest responses.

Karen said...

Is it possible to feel so much pain that you just stop feeling? I feel like I'm holding my breath again...underwater...not thinking...not feeling...just floating...waiting for it all to go away. It's either/or, and neither option is pretty. My heart is with you. It's a terrible thing when a U-Haul truck, and a hundred other common items, become a trauma trigger.

Cynthia said...


Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

Sending you hugs. That's all I can say.

April said...

Been a while since I wrote. On Mon.15th post, I would like to add one. "Good will come out of this and you will grow from the experience" - What the hell does this mean?! It's going on 3 years and as far as I can tell there's no good for anyone in the family.

Stratoz said...

reading about U-Hauls made me think about fig newtons.