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Day Three: Denial?

It’s the third day. If my mom was Jesus, she’d be getting up right about now. That seems unlikely.

I have become uncomfortably numb. I don’t like Pink Floyd even a little bit, but that is the best description possible. I have seen “All That Jazz” enough times to know that I am in the first stage of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s model of grief response. Denial is described as follows:

“I feel fine.”; “This can’t be happening, not to me.”
Denial is usually only a temporary defense for the individual. This feeling is generally replaced with heightened awareness of possessions and individuals that will be left behind after death. Denial can be conscious or unconscious refusal to accept facts, information, or the reality of the situation. Denial is a defense mechanism and some people can become locked in this stage.

Well, I’m kind of in denial. I am preoccupied with her things, using her Chanel Lift Extreme, transferring my own wallet and keys into her yellow Dooney & Bourke. It isn’t because I want stuff, per se; had I asked her for money to buy my own Chanel and my own purse she would have given it to me. She always did. It’s about wanting her around right now. The person who always comforted me most was her, she is unavailable, and I am making do with things she touched.

I am also experiencing “heightened awareness” of people who need to be called, and particularly of my father. He ruminates about business things that need to be set in order, and I tell him again and again that it will be alright, that we can’t really do anything until the death certificate is released to us, that he should relax. After telling him to relax I pay the bills at my house, change the laundry over, clean the counters and e-mail her picture to the funeral home so that they can be sure they are cremating the right person.

Which stops me cold. And I sob. And then a shield goes up, a kind of psychological Xanax defense that blocks all thoughts of a process which was her wish, but which I find horrifying and brutal. I sit for a bit, reminding myself that a body is just a shell.  I say it to myself over and over like a mantra: a body is just a shell. It means nothing. Nothing.

Then I make myself some soup for breakfast. It’s very good; my friend Diane brought it over so I wouldn’t have to cook. Her own father died recently, and I know she gets this. Then I think about what “this” is, this grieving, this loss. I am not sure I’m doing it right. I am a person who, many years ago when I was in therapy, used to check my watch periodically to make sure I closed the session before the therapist had to say “I guess our time is up.” I didn’t want to be a bother, a babbler, a person so out of control that she lost respect for the feelings and needs of other people.

I imagine those women who keen over coffins, and I think about every movie, every book in which someone responds to a loss by losing themselves in alcohol, regret, or irresponsibility. I like that idea, the idea that I could just sink in and be with the pain for a while, lie on my couch and cry and watch movies, but the override is too strong. I think it is part of the psychological Xanax defense. This voice says “you can’t leave your dad alone all day in that empty house. You have to fold the laundry. The house has to be clean because people might come over. If you’re going to miss work you have to make sure they all know how to cover for you”

I don’t feel bad enough to stop doing these things. I don’t feel like wailing, at least not all the time. I am cocooned in a thick swathe of Stuff Doing, looking out for other people while a small part of me wants nothing more than to fall away and let other people do everything for a while. My husband does a lot, he’s a rock, I am lucky.

I am confused.

I am so freaking tired.

I think this is denial?


About imagineannie

I feel like I'm fifteen - does that count? I'm lots of things, I get paid to be the Managing Editor for a local news publication, and I love my job. I am also inordinately fond of reading, animals (I have four), elephants, owls, hedgehogs writing, tramping in the woods, cooking India, Ireland, England, avocado toast, Sherlock Holmes, Harry Potter, Little Women, Fun Home, Lumber Janes, Fangirl, magic, Neil Gaiman, Jane Austen, YA books, not YA books, classical music, Salinger (OMG SALINGER), Brahms, key lime pie, indie music, podcasts, sleeping in, road trips, marmalade, museums, bookstores, the Oxford comma, BBC, The Miss Fisher Mysteries, birdwatching, seashells, kombucha, and stickers. Not a huge fan of chewing gum, jazz, trucker hats or dystopian and/or post-apolcalyptic fiction (but I'll try anything).

2 responses »

  1. I have stumbled across your blog, how I managed to get here, no idea. I was looking for a recipe for tonights dinner and now over one hour later I am still reading your blog. You have the most beautiful way of writing, I have been totally captivated, as if I was sitting beside you listening to your story about your Mum. Then I see she has recently passed away. Have just shared it to my face book page as I know some of my friends would be as captured as I am. My Mum is 86 next month and I feel all the things you express, she lives in NZ, unlike you I do not see her regularly, but speak all the time. I am aware of the declining days when Mum will not be here, not that she is ill anymore. I can relate to absolutely everything you write about, I can sense the feelings as if they were my very own. When my dad died I felt the same as you do, no medium needed to be there, he was in my DNA, in my soul he was was omniscient. You have made my Sunday, your writing has certainly touched a chord within, thank you so much for sharing your feelings. Your Mum will always be there I am sure, just not in the physical world. You know the luckiest people in the world are the people who feel needed, that is what makes you special. All the best and thank you, Petrina.

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