How’m I doing?

People have been (quite reasonably) asking how I'm doing lately, and I don't have a good answer. Mostly I say "fine" or "okay," because the real answer often seems to be (sometimes rather to my surprise) that I'm not up for talking about it, at least not in the contexts in which I've been asked. (A co-worker who I rarely see saw me at lunch the other day and casually asked how I was doing, and I felt like it would be too weird to not tell him about Peter's death, but also too weird (and probably more than he wanted to know) to go into any detail; I ended up just saying my father had died recently, and then sidestepping further questions.)

The other part of the real answer is "not so good." Spending a lot of time generally grumpy and off-balance. Easily irritable. Short on sleep. Last night I got more sleep than I've had in a while (about 7 or 7-and-a-half hours), but it was punctuated by waking up several times to the sound of hammering and other construction activity nearby. Also mixed in there somewhere was a mildly panicky dream about watching someone land a flying RV on a crowded freeway. I suppose I should be grateful that my dreams often have no connection to anything going on in my life. Unless it was a carryover from the flying-cars discussion the other day.

The main characteristic of my emotional state these days is that it's really precarious. Very small things can throw me completely off-balance, shift me from cheerful to annoyed/grumpy/angry for hours. Then I go stand in the sunlight for a little while and feel better, and then I overhear an offhand remark, or see an email subject line, or encounter a bit of bad customer service, and it throws me all over again. It's a lot like the way I get when I'm low on blood sugar, only it happens all day. (I should note that I wrote most of this entry before breakfast; food does help some. But not as much as usual, or for as long.)

I'm gonna look into seeing a grief counselor; been meaning to do that for a couple weeks now, but have been putting it off. But I think it would be a good idea, at least to give it a try.

Todd just sent a pointer to a really interesting piece about grief and bereavement. I haven't had time to read the whole thing yet, but on a quick skim I like it quite a bit. It's a little too quick to try to map the science of chaos theory onto the process (and btw, I meant to mention the other day that Bet Me does a better job of using chaos theory as a metaphor for relationships than most sf does—still not great, but not too bad), but the stuff about a linear limit really rings true to me; I keep having the feeling that it's been long enough that people are expecting me to be more or less back to normal, and that going on about it at this point may try people's patience. "That was a month ago," I imagine people thinking; "isn't he over it by now?" I know it doesn't work that way; I'm not entirely over my mother's death fifteen years ago yet. But it's hard to remind myself that it's okay to keep grieving, that loss doesn't conveniently stop hurting after a few weeks. I particularly like this line from the article (which I'm taking out of context, so I'm making it sound less nuanced than it is): "You don’t have to let go. People die, but your relationship with them lives forever."

I also like the sense that it's not a straightforward linear process of proceeding through well-defined stages to a well-defined goal. It's a chaotic and messy process, and it gets harder at times and easier at other times.

Anyway. On that note, I'd better go to work.

Btw, I know I owe a bunch of you email. Will try to write soonish—but I say that a lot, and I rarely actually manage to do it. Apologies, as usual, for delays.

4 Responses to “How’m I doing?”

  1. Heather Shaw

    Jed, I know what you mean about feeling as if you should be over it by now. My father passed away 5-1/2 years ago and I still occasionally find myself crying and missing him. It’s so hard sometimes.

    I don’t know if you’ve seen this, but my friend, Greta Christina, wrote an essay Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God. Not sure what your religious leanings are, honestly, but I think it’s a good piece and worth checking out.

  2. David Moles

    None of us expects you to be back to normal, Jed; we’re just happy for you to the extent that you are.

  3. beth o

    I think anyone who has been through a significant loss understands that grief takes as long as it takes. Also, anyone who has had such an experience has compassion for the emotional rollercoaster that grief puts you on.

    You are where you are with the process, regardless of what anyone else thinks or what you think they think. It sounds like you’re doing a great job of making room for the grief and that’s about all you can do.

    Finding a grief counselor is an excellent idea — lemme know if I can help with that in any way (or with anything else, of course).

  4. Ted

    It’s been said that, regarding the loss of a loved one, you don’t get over it, you get used to it. In my experience, I have found that a reasonably accurate description.


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