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?