Welcome, fellow travelers on the grief journey, and a special welcome to anyone who is new to The Grieving Room. We meet every Monday evening. Whether your loss is recent or many years ago, whether you have lost a person or a pet, or even if the person you are "mourning" is still alive ("pre-grief" can be a very lonely and confusing time) you can come to this diary and process your grief in whatever way works for you. You don't have to respond directly to anything written in the diary: share whatever you need to share. We can't solve each other's problems, but we can be a sounding board and a place of connection.
I've been writing what is best classified as creative nonfiction about the death of my former partner in January of this year. Those entries are Fade to white, Somewhere warm, and Day to day. On a walk a few days ago a title floated to the surface of my brain the way you might pull a piece of fruit from Jell-o, for everything that's happened to me over the past few years. I dunno. Writing it all down can't hurt at this point.
The things we learn after a death are not always pleasant. Eulogies, memorials, shrines; these are for the living so those who go on might negotiate their role in the lives of those who pass on, or determine culpability in their death. In the case of my former partner, her memorial was filled with family, many friends from the QUILTBAG community of Stupid Mountain Town and outlying areas, and of course all the people from the bar. I wasn't able to go as I live thousands of miles away and fantasize often about Stupid Mountain Town University in flames. I didn't think it would help the grieving process.
She touched many lives. She was largely seen as a survivor and hero because of the kinds of narratives and mythological production she engaged in: abused, altered, abandoned by family. I am discovering some of this was untrue. That’s fine—sometimes we create our own folklore because reality is painful. God knows I’ve done it myself: with my real name, with worlds other than this one, in how I’ve constructed my own identity around what feels at times like an impossible struggle. In this way I’ve come to understand why my former partner misled and deceived me about her past and to some extent her dual role as abused and abuser, how she carved those fables to justify it all. At first I thought she’s no more a blossoming rose than I am the ronin I envision. But does it really matter if our mythologies are true, when that’s what we believe, when it’s the very matter our reality unfolds with? I still imagine her, not as the shy, funny man I cared for but the person she was supposed to become. The person she always was. Felicia Day with more freckles and a sobriety chip in her purse.
However, those things don’t give me my time back: six and a half years being an unproductive waste academically. I’ll probably be atoning for this shit forever as I try and outgun (there’s that imagery again) applicants more qualified than I for a PhD, who aren’t playing endless catch up, who used their time as undergraduates to do something besides feed and scritch-behind-the-ears what Winston Churchill called “the black dog”. I don’t hate her, but sometimes that futile wish makes itself known and I dream of sundials and hourglasses and not being a monster. I re-read Frankenstein. Something I’ve learned in the month since her death is that grief means you’re okay mostly. Until you’re not.
Sometimes I forget to get off the bus. I get songs stuck in my head and don't understand why. I did realize one was about addiction - Catherine Wheel's Judy Staring At The Sun and REM's The Lifting, which according to Michael Stipe is a prequel to Daysleeper, the shiftworker's anthem. How many hours did I spend passing though the dark to support someone who lied to me, but worse lied to themselves through the intense numbness of end stage alcoholism?
I guess I grieve the path not taken. I grieve all the ways I seem irreparably broken by those years. I wonder what was real, or if those questions even matter now. I am haunted, by so much more than just her.