It was about a week after Patrick’s death that I chose to stop taking anti-depressants. What I was taking was wiping my mind clean every few minutes and I still have very few memories of the days immediately surrounding that time. I know I was surrounded by friends and flowers and well-wishes, but I was too out of it to keep track of my living children, which was too much for me. It took a good day or two for it to completely clear my system, and I remember distinctly the moment that I “woke up”.
I was sitting at the kitchen table with a few friends, Danny and my sisters. I remember shaking my head to try and somehow physically clear the dust, looking up at my phone in front of me and the faces around me with the first shred of coherence in days. Everyone was silent, looking back and forth at each other, wondering the next step until my sister Amy said, “Um, do you want to go for a walk or something?” My immediate reaction because of my empty arms and the quiet house was, “Well, I should probably wait until Pat wakes up…” and any remaining energy was sucked from the room.
I realized from how quickly and simultaneously everyone’s faces and hearts fell that I was speaking from habit a sentence I would never have reason or opportunity to repeat- and I broke. I absolutely crumbled. I remember crying at his viewing and burial, and I probably cried for most of the time in between, but it was the first time that I consciously came back to my life and had to face the reality as if it were new.
The tears came in a heaving, choking rush so much that all I could do was bury my head in my arms on the table and sob, leaving a room full of my closest friends and family speechless, helpless and in tears, too. I felt awful for them AND myself, which made it even worse. There was nothing to say, nothing to be done to fix it by anyone- it was one of the most pitiful, sad moments after his passing that I can recall.
After several minutes- how many, I couldn’t say, there is no time in GriefLand- I contemplated being able to lift my wrecked-up, shuddering, snotty, drooling, tear-stained head to meet their concerned gazes, desperately searching for words for myself, words for them… but what is there to say at a time like that? We were all looking at each other for answers.
My mind and heard were aching, breaking, racing… and then I lifted my head and heard a familiar voice say, “I’ve found four places matching “Boo-hoo” . Fucking Siri. Are you kidding me right now?! Faster than I could blink, all eyes were on me, waiting for my reaction. I wanted to scream and cry and throw my phone and set it on fire and smash it to pieces, but I had no energy for any of it.
And I laughed.
The room broke into a relieved echo of laughter, and we just kept laughing until the tears all came all over again. It was the first time I’d smiled since the night he died, which made me feel as guilty and hopeful as much as it was a mixture of burden and release, which is how my tears tend to remain, even still.
And that’s really when I got my first dose of learning to cope on my own… no drugs, no therapist, no special situation, just support and perspective. It was my first after-loss lesson that life goes on whether or not you’re there to feel it- the sun will somehow keep rising and setting and my friends and my phone will keep trying to help as I am able to ask for it- and sometimes when I don’t even realize I need it. It was the first time I had to really wrap my mind and heart around the fact that I’ve been given a broken heart with pieces that can never heal, but also that there are still people who care and moment after moment where I will have to learn to choose to laugh or cry- and how relieving and tragic both forms of expression can feel.
I can’t always maintain perspective or find a smile for the way my life happens sometimes, but I’m glad in that moment, for myself and everyone around me that I could choose love- and I hope from your deep down, dark places when you look up, there’s something or someone to help you find perspective and choose love, too.