Am having a ridiculous, totally dumb feeling that I didn’t expect: I’m worrying about whether I’m over-reacting to my father’s death.
This feeling is taking the form of a hyper-rational, straw-Vulcan thought process, which goes roughly like this: My father was almost 80. He was sick, and had been very sick for a long time. His quality of life had not been good for years, and had been seriously declining for months. Everyone close to him — including him, probably — wanted him to die, was ready for him to die, thought it was long past time for him to die. It’s not like this death was in any way unfair or unnatural, either: his poor health was largely self-inflicted, and anyway he was almost 80, and anyway death is a natural part of life that happens to all of us. And it’s not like he’d been in my daily life in any significant way. He hadn’t been for years. We talked on the phone for a couple of minutes every couple/ few weeks, if you can call it “talking” when one person’s language function is profoundly disabled and he’s literally incapable of saying more than a few coherent words. Even before the stroke, our relationship wasn’t close, he wasn’t in my life that much. In a day-to-day sense, my life after my father’s death isn’t going to look very different from my life while he was alive. And, of course, it’s not like the very idea of death is a surprise. I know that we’re all mortal. Like, duh.
So why should I be so upset about his death? Why should I feel so paralyzed by it? Why should I be cancelling plans, speaking gigs, writing deadlines? I’m being such a baby, such a wuss. I should just get over it.
I know. This is dumb. You don’t have to tell me that this is dumb. I cannot imagine even the most hyper-rational straw-Vulcan rationalist telling me it’s irrational to grieve over my father’s death. In fact, the hyper-rationalists would probably point me to those lists of stressful life events, ranked by how stressful they are, and they’d point to “death of a parent” right up there near the top. They’d point out that yes, death is natural and unsurprising — and so is grief, every bit as much. They’d probably even tell me, ad nauseam, all about the neurology and neuropsychology of grief. (Which I’m curious about, by the way: if anyone knows anything about it, I’d be interested in hearing it.)
Not sure where this “worrying about whether I’m over-reacting” thing is coming from. I’m wondering if it’s an attempt to keep the grief at bay a bit, by minimizing it and trying to see this death as no big deal. I’m trying to just accept it — and also to accept the meta-feeling of “boy, is that dumb” — as part of the whole “my emotions are going to be all over the map for a while and I need to let that be and not give myself a hard time over it” program.
I do have to say that, hyper-rationality aside, being evidence-based and skeptical is helping, more than I’d thought. Mostly it’s helping to know that what I’m experiencing now is natural, common. Having my moods be this disrupted and unpredictable is very alien to me, and it’s been good to hear other people say, “Yup, I totally had that, it’s completely natural, it’s part of the process.” And just in general, it feels comforting to know that… I don’t know how to put this. It feels comforting to know that reality is real. That reality is solid. I’m feeling very disconnected right now, almost dreamlike: I’m having a hard time remembering what day it is, what time is, what I need to do, what I’ve already done, whether I’m hungry, whether I’m tired, how long I’ve been staring at that spot on the wall. I feel like I’m taking a trip into the land of grief, and it feels surreal, like one of Calvino’s invisible cities. It feels comforting to know that reality will be there when I get back.
Speaking of being reality-based: I’m having a hard time telling if I’m really hungry, or just stress-hungry. I was hoping to take a break from counting calories during all this, but now I’m thinking that’s not a good idea. I feel somewhat shallow for even worrying about this. My dad just died, and I’m fretting about my weight? On the other hand… my weight is one of the few things I feel that I more or less have under control right now. I’ve been having a little upward drift lately, but I’ve stayed very close to my target. I don’t want one of the things in my life that’s actually working and that’s actually somewhat under my control to slip out of control. And besides… see above, re: my dad’s poor health being largely self-inflicted. I don’t want to inflict that on myself, or on the people I love, if I can help it.
I’m also having a weird thing about participating in life online. I’ll be distracting myself by reading blogs or Facebook or Twitter or what have you, and I’ll think of a comment to make or I’ll want to re-tweet or “like” something… and then I’ll think, “No, that’s inappropriate.” It’s weird. I’m fine with the idea of having a private life that’s not totally focused on death and grief — I can play with the kittens, distract myself with stupid TV, dick around online reading blogs and Twitter — but it somehow feels weird to have any kind of public life right now that isn’t about grief. The kittens did this hilarious thing the night my dad died, Ingrid and I were cracking up and taking videos of it… but I think it’s going to feel weird to put that video up in public. It feels weird to even mention it in public, even though it felt totally normal and right to do it. Not sure why this is. Maybe I’m afraid that people will judge me for not caring enough. Or maybe I’m afraid that if I start to move on a little bit, people will expect me to stay moved on, and judge me if I slip back into the grief.
I know. Dumb. I’m not saying it makes sense. I’m just trying to record what’s in my head and my heart and my flesh right now, and not worry about whether it makes sense. I wonder if one of the natural, normal parts of grief that everyone goes through is “worrying about whether you’re doing it right.”
I also wonder if poking at your grief again and again, like poking at a bruise or a sore tooth, is one of the natural, normal parts of grief that everyone goes through. I think I should knock it off for now, though. Time to go read something distracting, and try to sleep.