Friday, September 12, 2008

Stages

On my flight back to the U.S., I was reading an article in this magazine about coping with loss. It said that the five stages of grief don’t necessarily come in order, and you can keep skipping from one stage to another and back again. This describes precisely how I have been doing—from feeling fine, to feeling completely devastated, to being angry at the unfairness to it all, to wondering if this is all a bad dream. Most of the time, I feel so emotionally exhausted that I am numb.

The four days and some odd hours I spent in my home town were the most emotionally exhausting days of my life.

Two hours before I landed, my grandmother (my dad’s mom) died. She was 93. Her mind has been slipping for quite a few years now, and when I saw her in the fall of 2006, the last time I was home, she could barely remember my dad, who was taking care of her. But she remembered me—and she remembered so many details about my life that my dad and I were stunned. Grandma and I shared a special bond. She always made me feel so good about myself. She was so proud of me. Even when her memory began to fade, any time my name would come up, Grandma would begin her sentences with “In a foreign land, in a foreign language, my amazing Kate built a life for herself.” We teased her that she sounded like a broken record, and she just smiled and looked at me, shaking her head as if in disbelief that I am real.

Her death was the last drop for me. I didn’t have as tough of a time accepting her death as I did with my dad (she was in her 90s, after all, and I expected that she may go soon), but what hurt me beyond words is that I did not get a chance to say goodbye. Not to my dad, nor to my grandma. I missed both of them by a matter of hours. I could have called my dad at the hospital before he died… I could have caught an earlier flight that would have brought me home before she died…

Two funerals. Two cemeteries. Two coffins with people who looked nothing like my dad and my grandma. Too many tears. Too many anxiety attacks to count. Too few hours of sleep. Going through their apartment, sorting through decades of memories, deciding what to keep, what to toss. How do you decide? In three days, that entire side of the family—gone. Our last name is no more.

There is a lot to be said—or written. A lot I need to come to terms with. But where these words belong, I am not sure. Here? In a folder on my laptop? In my head? I’ve been putting these thoughts aside. I have been focusing on the kids and work and the day-to-day of temporary single-parenting. My husband returns tonight after being away for a month. And for better or for worse, this means that the flood gates can now open.

4 comments:

Lindsey said...

Oh, Kate. Tears of sorrow for you and your family. I'm sorry it rained down so hard on you all at once. I can't imagine how you must be feeling right now, and to have to be the solo care giver as well just seems too much. I'm glad your husband is coming home. And I hope you can find some solace in him and your boys to carry you through.

Rachel said...

Wow, I just read your e-mail and was sharing your story with my husband. Now this too. I am sorry for your losses and the way they happened. I hope your husband holds you and allows you to express your grief if whatever way you need to.

Tinker said...

Kate, I'm so very sorry. How tragic to lose your grandmother on the heels of your father's passing.

Sarah said...

oh gosh, i feel terribly that i'm just now reading this post. i so wanted to be there for you. you've had more time now, i hope it has gotten easier. surely it must, though i know there are always backslides along the way. i am thinking of you.