Come on, be a friend

I’ve mentioned numerous times in my recent posts that grief isn’t linear. Loss means you jump back and forth across the continuum and experience a full palette of emotions; that’s at least how I’ve been processing the death of Mark.

Two weeks ago, I felt a bit of creative intensity returning. I’ve been able to blog, mainly personal reflections about losing a son. However, I’ve been short on new ideas. Grief affects our cognitive abilities, just one of the “gifts” that grief delivers.

I remembered a friend of Mark’s that I met at his celebration of life. He had offered his eye as an editor for anything—taking a look at Mark’s work, or even ideas I might have.

Hesitant about sending something I’d put together—an idea for an essay related to Mark and my experience as his father processing death, grief, and some of the bitter/hateful reactions from some corners of the internet. I used an essay written by David Foster Wallace as my jumping off point, and the reaction that his subject had when Wallace later committed suicide.

At the very least, his reaction was disappointing. I’m fine with being offered a critique, and even some suggestions about how best to pitch something like this. Instead, he chose to be dismissive at best, offering little in the way of encouragement.

My mood over the past few weeks has been alternating between deep sadness and red-hot anger, with several outbursts of frustration. As disorienting as this up-and-down yo-yoing looks and feels, the counselor we’ve been visiting for two months assures me (and Mary) that all this is quite normal.

Someone I’ve never met, but who had been following Mark’s journey, initiated an online conversation shortly after he was killed. It’s obvious from his public profile and body of work that this person is immensely talented. He also knows compassion and how to extend it to those suffering loss. He recommended Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking as a place to find some solace and a book on mourning that was worthy of my time and effort. I’m grateful he did.

I’d read her memoir a few years ago, detailing the death of her husband, John Gregory Dunne. Just days before he died, their daughter, Quintana, was hospitalized in New York with pneumonia. This later developed into septic shock. She was unconscious when her father died. Quintana would die just prior to the book’s release. Didion refused to revise the manuscript and later wrote a second book, about Quintana’s death, Blue Nights.

I found the book riveting when I first read it. However, I had little experiential to draw upon. My second time through her book makes it feel like an entirely different read.

Didion details the disorientation and cognitive slippage—what she characterizes as “insanity and derangement.” She also writes about the lack of literature on this subject joined with grief. This is another validation of my own observations in terms of the paucity of helpful literature with depth on the topic of grief, especially if you’re not interested in what is available in spades—self-help drivel

Fueling my frustration of late has been a sense that as we’ve moved out beyond Mark’s death, there are scores of people that we never knew (and likely never would have known had Mark not been killed), presuming it’s okay to make requests for a variety of things—often related to Mark’s writing.

Then, there is the omnipresent phrase on the lips of many, “I can’t imagine how you must be feeling.” Note to the people who can’t come up with anything more original than that—take a few minutes or longer and actually attempt to stand in my shoes—use your imagination, if you have one. Then, you’ll know fractionally what both Mary and I are feeling and going through.

Of course, there have been friends and others that demonstrate that they have a clue. Like my old high school buddy, Dave. He dared to extend an invitation to ride along with him and another friend to see Foxygen at the Paradise in Boston. That was on March 25.

I vacillated about going. He never wavered in his offer of a ticket and a ride, however. He even reached out that afternoon (we were meeting at his house at 5:00 to head south) to make sure I hadn’t spaced out and forgotten.

The band was amazing and even though being at a rock club with a younger crowd (Dave and I were the two oldest dudes in the room, I think) was weirdly strange at times, I ended up having a pretty damn decent time. Dave even made sure we had a place to crash after the show, at his niece’s. We got up early on Sunday morning and drove back to Maine.

Another longtime friend and former colleague has been checking in weekly and we’ve done some cool things together; like meeting him and his partner at Maine Beer Company the first warm Sunday and drinking beer outside on their picnic tables.

Two of Mary’s triathlon “sisters,” Heather and Cathy, met us at Bunker Brewing last Sunday. We drove into Portland so I could get some photos for a freelance article on trails to taverns I’m writing about Beer City. Why not combine biz with friends and a bit of fun approaching normalcy?

There have been other longtime friends of Mary that know exactly what she needs and aren’t shy about delivering support and understanding. This might be baking bread or making soup early on. Or recognizing that she needed a day out. Something as simple as a getting a pedicure, like Mary  did yesterday with one of her oldest friends, Pam.

Easter Sunday, 2010 [Providence, RI]

Today is Easter Sunday. Holidays will never be the same.

While not enamored with the religious elements so much for most of Mark’s life, we are faced with knowing that he’ll never ever come home again for the weekend like he often did. An Easter dinner sans ham, done up vegan style would have been fun, and another thing we’ll never know with him.

Yesterday was three months. Things don’t feel like their getting any easier.

Count your own blessings today if you are spending it with the people you love and care about.