Tag Archives: Grief

George’s Tree

Photo: Jenny Bristol

Photo: Jenny Bristol

Today I got to see some of George’s family. His sister and her family were here visiting George’s mom. Jenny and I swung over to say hi before they left town again, and to see the new addition. George’s mom and step-dad had a beautiful Sycamore planted in his honor on their terrace. (Pictured above)

This culminated in us all standing around a beautiful (if late-seasoned) sycamore tree, with tears in more than one set of eyes. In the end, grandkids and crew were being swept up the path to the house, and I found myself saying, “excuse me, but I’m going to be silly for a moment.”

I then tried to hug a sapling. It didn’t go so well, at first, because the trunk is about 2 inches across. I ended up with my arms stuck through branches, and my head poked in through the most convenient gap. I felt very silly indeed as I felt some not-quite tears fill up my eyes. It felt good, though. Really good.

I came home and celebrated life with a friend (whose birthday is Thanksgiving Day), and played D&D until the kids called it off for the night. It was nice. In the growing quiet, I found myself sitting alone in the living room, half-heartedly playing Spider Solitaire, quietly crying.

I miss my friend. I miss seeing him every week, and I miss talking to him. And partly, I miss having another person I could trust completely. Life can be hard when you carry too much alone. Thankfully, I have a wonderful wife. I don’t carry anything alone, not really, not anymore. But it was nice to be there for George, and for him to be there for me. His friendship made life feel a little bit bigger, somehow.

Now, it’s smaller, but that’s okay. I met a beautiful shade tree today, and I remembered that life goes on.

Getting Back to Real Life

Image: Rory Bristol

Image: Rory Bristol

Getting back to “real life” while depressed can be fucking difficult! Yesterday, my dad was released for the physical therapy/rehab center, and he got to go home. First, though, he came over to have chipped beef on toast, because delicious food is delicious food. While we hung out, I organized my Magic: the Gathering cards. It was nice.

Sometimes, the best way to deal with grief is to commune with the person who passed. I do not mean sitting with a Ouija board and candles. I mean spending time doing something you love as if that person were there. George had a large chunk of my card collection, which came home last week. They were all out of order, and some were sleeved at random, and stuff. It was a task to organize it all, but I got to think about George the whole time.

No crying. No sadness. I did something I enjoy doing, and I got a little more closure. Part of closure is accepting that someone is gone. Putting my cards back in their proper boxes felt like coming home. My collection was reunited, and my (rare) annoyance at my collection being split up was finally put to bed. It was good.

After I thought about it, I realized that I had some old D&D character sheets that George and I had made together. I got to go through them, and remember how odd his choices could be. He wanted to play something fun. Not overpowered, not too weird, just fun. Of course, that man could out-strategy Gen. Patton in any game, so he didn’t need crazy tricks to win games.

It was good to get some of that into/out of my system early in the day. After lunch, dad and I looked at a house nearby that he’s considering renting (with much bullying and encouragement from our house). After that, I was happy to see him off on his adventures with his new bionic knee.

Then something neat happened: Normal life just took over. I didn’t have to convince myself to finish my assignments. I didn’t have to agonize over what to submit to my editors. I just did it. It was like a weight had been taken off of my brain for the day. It was kinda great.

Of course, I ended up working well into the evening, because I spent most of my morning with my dad, and my ever growing collection of all things fantastic. But I didn’t feel guilty about crap work. I felt like I was doing my work well. I accomplished enough to spend some time with the kids before bedtime. I also managed to give myself a blister, and tear it off before noticing it, while playing Rock Band. I’m still bad at the drums…

Yesterday felt oddly normal, and I’m thanking God for it. I am also hitting up our DM for some more D&D action. I want to blow some stuff up. That’s normal, right?

Resting Bitch Face

Image: Rory Bristol

Image: Rory Bristol

There’s this thing I do. I do it all the time. Whether I mean it or not, whether or not I want to. I smile. I smile all the time. It’s an old habit. When I was very young, my mother coached me to smile. It probably started with the normal mom-impulse. She wanted to see her kid happy. Later, it changed. If I looked unhappy, maybe I would be taken by the police because my life was bad. Did I want to be split up from my family? Shit like that.

So I started smiling. I smile by default 99% of the time. Mostly, I think of myself as also being happy all the time. For the most part that is true. But recent events have reminded me that when I am 100% out of fucks, I look like I’m pissed off. It’s actually just a matter of not forcing myself to smile.

People keep thinking I’m mad, or grumpy, or something. The truth is, I just don’t feel much right now, and that’s okay. Just remember that I’m not angry, or mad at you, or thinking bad things. I’m not upset, or suicidal, or anything. I’m not feeling much, and that’s why my face looks like this. I have a resting bitch face. I don’t mean it, it’s just how I look when I don’t try to look any other way.

Three Very Mature Adults Play a Game

Last night was a blast. We had fun eating too much pizza, eating ice cream, and playing games with the kids. After they had adjourned to enjoy the last week of summer break, we busted out Cards Against Humanity. We all dreaded playing without George. It was one of our favorite games to play together. Preferably while drinking. We decided to get it over with, and start feeling like normal, horrible human beings.

At some point, we nearly gave up. We weren’t having fun, and it just didn’t feel right. We decided (by lack of decision making) to keep going. God, I’m glad we did. All hell broke loose with this combination:

Image: Rory Bristol

Image: Rory Bristol

Guess which answer was mine?

It broke the tension so hard. So hard I thought we’d all laugh until we split our sides. Later, another card made Jenny and our other friend laugh really hard. I loved the card, but gave them this quiet are-you-done-yet look until they settled down. Then I whispered, “bad, bad girl.”

That was it. The tension was so damned broken by that point, I wondered if I’d ever stop laughing. It felt good. It felt really good. Sitting down with two amazing people, playing an intimate game of horrible everything, and laughing at how horrible we actually aren’t. It was great. I was still depressed, but I felt like my soul had seen some of that magical stuff called “sunshine”. It was just what I needed.

The tears came back later, but they came with a smile for the red-faced laughter that George would have been wearing for twenty minutes after that card had been played. It wasn’t quite so terrible, somehow.

Sharing Your Pain – The Dumping Circles

I’ve long since learned, and try to live by a simple rule. When in pain, grief, fear, or frailty, there are only a couple of rules for being a good human. I call it the Dumping Circles Rule. When someone has died, for example, there is an order of who gets to dump sadness on whom. Because of current events, I’ll use George’s passing as the example here.

Dumping Circles

It starts in the middle, with Family. Family should always be allowed to dump out, and should never be dumped on. If you are not family, you do not get to say, “I can’t handle this,” or, “This is just too hard,”  or, “It’s not just about you,” to the family. Ever. End of story. The only things that should go “in” are compassion, support, respect, and honor.

The next circle is Close Friends. This isn’t about people who know someone a little bit. This is the circle of people who know all of the deceased’s fears, illness, weaknesses, and passions. Friends are the people you trust so much that you’d die for them. Friends are the kick in the ass you need when you aren’t looking hard enough for a new job. Family gets to dump on Friends. Friends do not get to dump on Family. It’s the responsibility of the Friends to comfort the family if they can, and bring support from others even closer to the Family.

The next section is for less close Friends, and Friends of the Family. These are people who knew the deceased, but not everything about them. This circle knew their schedules, and their birthdays. They knew what the deceased liked on their pizza, and saw them on a regular basis. These people may have known the deceased a long time, or a little. These people don’t know about daily struggles, or successes of the day-to-day. This circles gets to dump out to the next level, and help in their own ways.

The last section is for everyone else. If you knew each other by name, or you attended some of the same parties or restaurants, this is your circle. This circle lacks knowledge of hobbies, diet, birth dates, religious preferences, and/or passions. This is not a bad place to be. It’s just a guideline for who to cry with, or who to support.

Now, none of this negates your experience. Whether you had a short but powerful bond, or you knew the deceased your whole life, you can’t compare pain. I’m not saying you should minimize your emotions, or make them less. What I’m saying is:

Know your audience.

If you think you might be dumping in, then stop. Bring the conversation back to them, and maintain your composure if you can. If you can’t handle it, greet the person in the inner circle, wish them your best, and then find an appropriate shoulder to soak with tears.

To George’s family: If you feel like I’m dumping in, tell me. This blog isn’t for dumping in. It’s for sharing my experiences as honestly and plainly as possible. It is not in any way meant to affect you negatively. I cannot fathom the depth of your loss, the memories now changed, and the pain of losing a lifetime partner and friend. I am always at your service, and send my love, respect, and prayers with you. But I can’t leave this experience off. Terminally Intelligent has become one of my most powerful coping mechanisms. I can only hope you understand.