Today I sat at my computer, ready to work. I had my coffee, and a small snack ready to munch. As I logged into my work’s phone system, I saw a backlog of 39 calls and a wait time of 48 minutes. I caught myself up on slack and read emails – per my usual routine. As I got closer and closer to the moment where I switch myself to available for calls, I felt dread. I tried to shake this dread, but I couldn’t. Maybe, I thought, I should buy myself a few minutes by saying my internet was wanking out again. I went into technical difficulties mode and said I was restarting my modem. There I sat for about ten minutes. I tried to psych myself into working my shift. Finally, after about half an hour of stalling, I admitted to myself that there was no possible way I could work today. I slacked my supervisor and hit the metaphorical door. This story is a textbook example of what I call a grief attack.
What started my grief attacks?
My dad’s death
A few months ago, my dad passed away (rather suddenly). He literally just keeled over and died. While the paramedics took seemingly forever getting to my house, I was busy doing CPR. When one takes CPR, they warn you that if you do it right, you might crack the person’s rib. That warning did nothing to soften the blow when I heard my dad’s own rib crack. At least he didn’t feel this, as he was most likely already dead by the time I started chest compressions. But I digress.
The suddenness of his death was both a blessing and a curse. It was a blessing because he didn’t suffer from his death, or my attempts to save him. The curse comes because he didn’t have time to prepare, and he never made a will. If he knew his death was coming soon, maybe he would have gotten his affairs in order. Now I’m not only left with his death to grieve with, but with the pains of lawyers, probate, becoming the executor of the estate, and a million other things.
That’s just one death of many
This is only one event in a series of griefs. Over the last four years, I’ve had a ton of shit hit the fan. My grandma died. Her son, my uncle tried to rob me and my cousin. My mom died of a prolonged illness. A week before my mom passed, my kitty died. My dad’s only living brother (not the one who tried to rob me) died two weeks after my dad. Amidst all of this, I lost my job of ten years and really have not been able to get on my feet since. It has been a rough four years, and with each new grief, all the old grief seems to return. This especially comes with the death of the family. I’m the only one left. I have no siblings, no kids. I have no immediate blood family.
The pandemic certinaly does not help
I personally have not been touched financially or physically by COVID. I feel fortunate for this fact. Heck, I even got the job I have now because of COVID. With that said, COVID still interfered greatly with my life. The lockdown of course – not getting to go see a movie in a theater. Not getting to go hang out at a coffee shop till midnight and write or what have you. The fact that most of my favorite coffee shops didn’t survive the pandemic also hurts.
What’s really affected me, however, is the infighting. My father called COVID the CCP (Chinese communist party) virus, implying the virus was manmade (even though WHO says this a lab incident is unlikely). He ranted so many conspiracy theories, and he could steer any unlikely conversation into a rant. He also thought democrats were using COVID to control us. I spent the last year of my father’s life trying to steer the conversation away from COVID, as I knew this would trigger another conspiracy rant. There were times I just didn’t talk to him because I was afraid of where the conversation might lead. So many conversations we could have had that we didn’t.
Again, I’m grateful that COVID hasn’t touched me physically. Regardless, COVID took its toll on me and certainly did add to my grief load.
Other examples of grief attacks
Getting back to “grief attacks.” A few weeks ago, I was having a relatively calm week. A few days into the week, however, I woke up sad. Not my normal sad – I’m always sad. But nonfunctional sad. It was our day off, and we had a few stupid tasks to accomplish. One errand, I needed to complete some paperwork for and bring it to an office downtown. I tried to complete the paperwork and got flustered when I couldn’t provide the answers needed. Finally, after a half-hour of trying, I got to the end of the paperwork, submitted it, and expected to get something to print off. I was greeted by a message saying “this will take ten business days.” I lost it. Absolutely lost it. I screamed, I cussed, and I cried.
Another example of a grief attack – I get short with strangers. I was in the grocery store a week or so ago, and refused to filter my filthy mouth. Any little thing that went wrong, I bitched about. Hard. I was aware that’s what I was doing, and maybe that helped me be a little more civil, but at the same time, I was not well. I even felt physically ill because of my extreme mood.
Still another type of grief attack manifests itself in a very dark and disturbing way. Sometimes I just shut down. Literally. Catatonic like Cameron in Ferris Beuler’s Day Off. I know it’s happening, I know I can get out of it anytime I want to – but I don’t want to. Oftentimes, this ends with an intense burst of emotion or an intense numb feeling. It just depends on the event that triggers the grief attack.
Dealing with a grief attack
A few things to help me weather the storm of a grief attack. One of the first things I did, I adopted an adorable kitten. I’ve been wanting a new cat for some time, and now seemed like the proper time. He’s brought me a ton of joy and was probably the best thing I could have done.
I’ve also been seeing a therapist for a couple of months now. It’s an odd feeling and an odd relationship. I’m not used to verbally talking about myself, but there have been a few breakthroughs, and there has been a lot of healing.
The most recent thing I’ve done to help the grief is to realize I’m not the only one with grief. This sounds a hell of a lot easier than it actually is by the way. My partner suggested it as she called me on my shit one day. I was in a pity party about how “most people get to go back to normal after the pandemic, I don’t.” She took issue with the term “most people.” How so many people have lost so much. I knew this was the case at the time, but grief likes to isolate. Grief likes to tell us we’re all alone in this world, and no one can feel like you’re feeling. While that part might be partially true, no two people have the same experiences, It’s not ok to invalidate the experiences of others simply because they don’t match your own. I’m thinking about finding a grief support group to maybe help with this – we’ll see.
Finally, the best thing that helps with my grief is to have a life. This is the first time since my father’s passing I’ve written anything long-form. This is the first time I’ve put my actual thoughts into (virtual) paper. It’s literally taken me weeks to write this, but writing brings me joy, and it’s part of my life. I also love to share music. I’ve published a playlist almost every single week since my dad passed. I’ve also been more gun-ho about my coffee brewing than ever! Considering what I’ve written in the past, that’s kind of scary to think about, but I digress.
Moving forward from Grief Attacks
I missed my therapy appointment today due to a scheduling mishap. At the same time, I was wondering what I was going to talk about with my therapist. It’s been a decent week – I worked all my schedules, and I’ve generally been ok(ish). I had my dad’s service a week ago, and I feel like I turned a page. That doesn’t mean show an end to my grief, not by a long shot. I feel sad most of the time still, but I feel like I just might be on the path to accepting the new normal. Notice, I don’t say recovery – there’s no recovering from times such as these. However, the heart is a resilient thing, my friends. The heart learns to gradually accept things as they are – and make the best of life.
About twenty years ago, my dad talked to me about losing his own father. He had lost his own father ten years prior to that and said it will always hurt. And yet, he lived his life just the same. This is the example he left for me. It’s an example I want to follow. Again, I might not be there yet, but it’s the path I want to find.