Monday, April 25, 2005

Bits and Bobs (grieving... again)

Just a few quick random thoughts...

The MBA student died. I feel terrible for his family and his girlfriend. I actually remember his girlfriend- she was in a problem study group (the incoming MBAs are assigned to work groups- they take all their 1st year classes together, do group projects together, etc.), but I think she managed to switch out of it early on.

I don't know if the family decided to turn off the respirators, or what. The school was smart enough not to make that information public. This was no Terri Schiavo case, though. This guy didn't have any higher level brain-stem functions. The brain stem controls your breathing, your blood pressure, basically, everything you do automatically to keep yourself alive. If your brain stem isn't functioning, then you can legally be considered "dead." People in a persistent vegetative state have a more-or-less functioning brain stem, from what I understand.

It's going to be a really hard road for his family and friends. The grieving process is so hard, and so slow. Unbearably slow. I remember wondering if I would ever be happy again. I remember being curled up in a ball on my kitchen floor, sobbing uncontrollably because something incredibly minor was just too much to take. I think it's only been in the last year or so where I've had a day go by where I didn't think of my friend.

I was trying to think of what I could do for his girlfriend that might help her. I was trying to think what might have helped me. The only thing I could think of was doing some practical things like cooking food for her, which seems like a silly southern thing, but you have to eat something, and you might not be able to pull yourself together to make it. Since she's surrounded by many people who were also his friends, I'm sure they'll all be able to have their outlet to talk about him as much as they want. I think this was the only helpful thing for me, really, besides time. It sounds cliched, but you just can't force the process.

The one thing I really, REALLY wish that people had told me, and in fact INSISTED upon, was that I didn't make any big decisions during that first year. During the first year after my friend died, I

  1. Moved from a perfectly reasonable apartment to a new apartment that was slightly cheaper and closer into the city. The week after my friend died, he was supposed to come up to my then-city for job interviews, and the idea was that we would be roommates. I had given my notice before he died, and despite a few comments from other people that I could probably renege, I was a "stubborn ishig," as my mother would say. Moving was hugely stressful. Terrible. I hate moving. Movers messed up my furniture. Big mistake #1.
  2. Decided to move up my timetable for applying to Ph.D. programs. Moving my program up also meant that I didn't really do enough research, so I didn't have anyone telling me, "Don't do it- it's hell!" I might have listened, had I heard that. I was iffy enough on Ph.D. programs. But I didn't. Big mistake #2.
  3. Decided to go to grad school anyway. Big mistake #3. I won't go into why. But if you're reading this, and thinking of going for a Ph.D., let me just tell you, don't. The reasons why are a whole other post.
  4. Quit my job. Not a mistake, per se, unless you think about why I quit my job (to go to grad school). I won't list this as a mistake, because quitting was a good thing. I should have tried to move to another job, though. Not grad school.
  5. Moved across the country, away from my beloved then-city, to a soulless place with all the horrible things about both the big city (traffic, pollution, high housing prices) and the suburbs (terrible restaurants, nothing to do but go to the movies or the mall). Even my mid-sized, modest, no-pro-sports-team-at-the-time hometown has more things to do. Big mistake #4, for a variety of reasons. Basically, I hate California. I didn't think I would, but I do. A lot. I will say that the actual program I chose is quite good, and nurturing, and nice, and should you be insane enough to decide to get a Ph.D. in my area, I would highly recommend it. Mistake #4.
  6. Randomly decided to take up my then-boyfriend (now husband) on his invite to go to his family's Christmas celebration/family reunion/grandfather's 95th birthday. In Europe. This meant missing Christmas/my dad's birthday with my parents for the first time ever. Not a mistake, but definitely out of character. He was shocked that I took him up on it. As it was, it was a good thing, because his grandfather died about 2 weeks later.
  7. Got engaged. Also, not a mistake. I had been dating him for over a year when my friend died, so it wasn' t like I took up with him on some kind of rebound/grief process. We also had a 2 year engagement (yet another post...), so I had plenty of time to rethink it. If I had a 2 year period to rethink grad school (or if my program gave terminal masters degrees if you leave), I wouldn't have gone (or I would have left)!
Unfortunately, I'm still suffering from the consequences of mistakes 2-4. Again, that's another post.

So my advice to anyone who happens to be reading this and is going through the grief process-- don't do anything drastic for at least a year. Don't move, either in town, or to a new place (exception: unless you're moving back home with your parents. I had a friend whose mom died in a car crash that they had while she and her mom were driving to her new job across the country. In that case, you're in limbo anyway, so you might as well go home and be with your dad and youngest sister, as my friend did. It's probably more theraputic). Don't have a baby. Don't get engaged to a brand new boyfriend (I said "brand new", people!). Don't make a big career change. Some things may seem positively insufferable when you're in pain. But you may end up doing crazier things that have a worse consequence than sticking with whatever you're used to.

The other advice I have is to try to get back into your normal routine within a reasonable frame of time (depending on who died. A spouse or a child probably requires longer than I needed with my friend.). Doing things like going to work helps. It takes your mind off the pain, however briefly. You have to have some relief. The first day I was back at work after my week off for my friend's funeral and all the post-mortem trimmings, I was miserable. I think I just stared at my computer teary-eyed all day. Eventually I got back into the swing, though. I might have been a total mess at home, but I was okay at work. My friend's parents were had both just been laid off at the time of his death (talk about unlucky), so they both just sat around the house all day being sad. This is really bad. It does not help you move forward at all. And your goal should be, eventually, to move forward, to have days where you don't have uncontrollable sobbing fits, to be able to deal with the realities of every day life, even if at a reduced capacity (I'm still there, and it's been over 3.5 years.). You will never get back to the way you used to be. Grief changes a person, and not for the better. But you can get back to some semblance of normality, and success is when you have more good days than bad.

Okay. That wasn't so quick. This may end up being a "musings on grief" blog. I have a lot to say on that subject, although I might end up saying it pretty fast.

The other thing I was going to comment on, that is so frivolous compared to the rest of this post, was just to complain about the snack I made myself. I mixed some Hidden Valley Ranch powdered salad dressing in with some sour cream, and it is horrible. It is incredibly, unbearably salty. And I was trying to eat it with some soy/flaxseed chips from Trader Joe's (my love for TJ's is also another post), which aren't lacking in the sodium supply department themselves. Blech. I'm going to stick to TJ's delicious Roasted Tomatillo Salsa instead.

Random thing Number 3: I've gotten back into playing Sims2. I had quit for months after playing it all the time around Christmas. I discovered it's more fun when you make your own Sims rather than playing with the stupid cranky assclown ones they give you (Pleasant family, I'm looking at you!). I made a great family- the Mirabiles. Mirabile is part of a Latin phrase that uses my all time favorite Latin part of speech- the supine! Mirabile dictu means marvelous to tell. Mirabile visu means marvelous to see. My family- the Marvelouses! Dad Marvelous is a fortune seeker, Mom Marvelous is a family gal. I made them have four (!) kids, since I'll never have that many myself. And the mom still wants more! I say, "no way!" I sold their cribs and toddler toys and everything. Three of the kids are now teenagers, and the youngest one is a child. They all have nice dispositions, and hug each other, congratulate each other, play with each other... everything that real siblings won't do. The three teenagers have aspirations of knowledge, popularity, and fortune. I think I may make the youngest have a family aspiration. I don't like the hoochiness of the romance aspiration, so I won't choose it for any of my Sims. They're all A+ students in private school.

I love the aging on/off cheat on that game, by the way. It makes things so much easier. I turn it on to get the kids to age, then turn it off, and get the parents to drink the Elixir of Life so they stay relatively young. I figure I'll age them eventually, but I want them to have a couple of grandkids first. Having the aging off is kind of tiresome when you have toddlers, though. They're high maintenance, but when you have 4 kids, when are you going to teach them to walk, talk, and be potty trained? Aging off cuts you some slack.

Okay. To quote my friend Chris, "Enough for Today."

No comments: