In many ways, I appear to be doing quite well lately. I am doing the final revisions to my dissertation and working on another research project with my supervisor. I am keeping the house clean and the fridge full. I am having fun with E. I am living a ‘normal’ life much like the one I lived before Anja died.
But all this acting normal comes at the expense of pushing down the grief, pushing it deep down and holding its head under water so it can’t come up for air, can’t try to pull me back down with it. I know this isn’t healthy, but I can’t see another way to survive right now, to get through the next weeks. I have to finish my PhD, which I have been working on since 2006 and which I was so close to finishing when Anja died. I have to feed my family, make sure they have clean clothes and healthy food to eat. I have to play with E, laugh with her, keep reassuring my sensitive little girl that her mommy is ok. I have to work so that we can afford to live in this beautiful but hard city.
I have no time right now to grieve. I grasp at 15 minutes here and there to dash off a post on this blog or to exchange emails with other mamas, but I can’t find the hours I need to sit and think, to remember, to sit with Anja and just feel her. She is packed away like her few things shut in the box in the closet, like the jar of her ashes with its top firmly affixed.
I know it’s not healthy. But right now I don’t know what else to do. I look toward October when my dissertation will have been submitted and we will head back East to visit R’s parents and hope that then, then I can be with my daughter. My little dead daughter whom I can’t seem to mother. I can’t bottle her up forever. I don’t want to.
One way that the grief manages to manifest is through a terrible rage and misanthropy that seethes just below the surface of my seeming calm and that surges forth at the slightest provocation. Are you lining up at the wrong end of the counter at the coffee shop or riding your bike the wrong way on the seawall? Feel my rage, then. I will immediately cast you as a narcissistic asshole who assumes the whole world should accommodate your special needs. ‘You think you’re special?’ my mind will hiss. ‘You think the world is a place where you can do whatever you want? Where everything will work out for you? You think nothing can touch you? You think you’re immune? Well, maybe someday your baby will die and then you’ll know.’
Yes, a little over-the-top for lining up the wrong way.
God forbid you block my way in the grocery aisle. And if I see you litter…well!! I nearly spat at my brother last night at a family dinner as he lectured us about the caveman diet he and his girlfriend are doing: ‘diets are for people who have nothing real to think about,’ I want to yell. ‘When you have a dead baby then you can lecture me about what I should or shouldn’t be eating.’
It doesn’t feel good, this anger, this belief that most people are walking around empty-headed, oblivious, self involved. When Anja first died, I stared at everyone on the street wondering what sadness, what grief each was carrying. Now, I see ignorance and entitlement.
I am a grumpy old man muttering about the kids today.
I am a grieving mother who cannot grieve.
This can’t last.