I record my private journal on an app called Day One (Mac only, I think). I started using it before Eric died, and sometimes I torture myself by going back and reading through the banal entries I wrote before my world imploded.
The normalcy, security, and stability in those entries is just so cute. It’s like re-watching a movie that ends in disaster. She doesn’t know yet, the woman who wrote about yoga class and cleaning out the garage, that she’s days away from unfathomable, devastating loss.
When I first started writing again here, my therapist was surprised I’d share so much in a public space. She was a relatively new therapist and didn’t know I’d spent almost two decades writing about my life on the internet (at that point, anyway—we are now past my 20th blogging anniversary, huzzah & confetti & etc). But what I wrote here is nothing compared to what I wrote in that little app.
And the other night I thought I might be ready to read some of it again.
I remember crying over the title for the first entry after Eric died. I was tempted to just type in a string of incomprehensible letters… like my brother and I do over text when we’re frustrated: adlksjfsdkfjsdlfjdslkjdjf. Such a little thing to get tripped up over, and yet, I cried about it for a solid hour. Eventually, I landed on: The Worst Kind of Update.
I started writing December 8th, 2020. Twelve days after he died. Four days after the funeral.
It took me two solid days to write it all; I kept breaking down. I wasn’t eating and I wasn’t sleeping, but the act of getting it all down before I forgot any of it was a tiny, half-inflated life preserver in a raging storm. I broke it up into sections with red, capitalized headings and tried to make sure everything was entered in an organized, chronological way.
One of my prime survival modes has always been carving out a corner of order—however small—when everything feels like like chaos.
This particular tidy corner of words felt like an uphill battle at the time. Such a pathetic way to cope, I thought. Words, words, words. Nothing will fix this, but all I have is words, so I’ll keep throwing them at the screen. Record, document, capture… a last ditch attempt to save, preserve, and hold on to.
It doesn’t feel pathetic now. Writing it all out when it was still new and raw, when my soul was still seeping blood, throbbing, after having been torn in two so abruptly? Holy shit. I cannot believe I managed it.
I still haven’t been able to read all the way through. I got to the end of the excerpt above and couldn’t continue.
Even though I know what happened next.
I know he fought so hard to hang onto life while we waited for help. I know the ambulance took a wrong turn and took forever to arrive. I know the EMTs moved through our house as though through molasses. I remember the look of shock on Eric’s face and the way his arms lifted as if to fly away. I remember how I still believed he’d be okay even as his heart stopped beating. I remember how he looked on the gurney, his eyes blank and staring. I remember the drive to the hospital, I remember how quiet the night was, and how the ambulance lights cast strange shadows across the entrance to the ER.
I remember, I remember, I remember.
I’ve done so much work. I know the body keeps the score. I know my body remembers this trauma on a molecular level. But it can still take me by surprise when headaches and insomnia start plaguing me in the days leading up to the 26th of each month.
Tuesday will be 17 [redacted explicative] months and I have not slept well in three days.
I’ve never shied away from talking about it; from expressing my thoughts and feelings about that night or about what happened. I try to sit with the flashbacks when they come, or tell myself I will sit with them as soon as I can (if I can’t nurse a breakdown in that moment). So my reaction to trying to re-read those journal entries surprised me. It was a full body, biological response and it slammed right into my chest and took my breath away for a few seconds. Fight or flight was initiated and I felt strangely frozen, though poised for some kind of primal action. Like I could either tear off all my clothes and run screaming into the night, or curl into the fetal position and cry myself into the driest of husks.
I closed my laptop and I haven’t tried again. I will someday. And maybe it’ll take me a while, but little by little, I’ll read it all.
I’ve logged into this blog countless times, starting entries that I never published, or re-reading drafts that never made the cut. I am grateful I gave myself some grace when I started writing here again. I had no agenda. I wasn’t going to try and stick to a schedule or worry about engagement. It was just going to be here for me whenever I needed it.
My instagram account transformed into a grief account, but after the first year where all I did was post about grief, my relationship to that space is changing and I’m not sure how to navigate it. I’ve met so many incredible grievers there; I don’t know how I would have survived any of this without that network of human beings who intimately knew and understood what this is like. And yet, I post there less and less.
I’m trying not to question it. I’m trying to give myself the same grace I gave myself here.
And I’ll figure it out, eventually. Writing and sharing is still an important part of how I’m processing this. I haven’t found words yet, to describe what it feels like to try to sort out who you are after a catastrophic loss. In so many ways, it feels as though I have been hurled through space and time back to my early twenties. It’s a time period when I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted, exactly. It’s a place of deep insecurity where I felt largely untethered and unmoored, and found myself more prone to outside influences; my people-pleasing tendencies at their worst.
It’s the spot on my timeline where Eric and I existed on different planes, our paths not yet crossing. It feels very Twilight Zone and wrong. Upside-down, even—a strange reflection in a broken mirror. I’m not twenty-two. I’m nearly forty-six. My path already crossed with Eric’s, and our respective lives wove themselves into one. And yet, here I am, without him again.
Almost forty-six is so different from twenty-two, it is sometimes difficult to believe we could possibly be the same person. I have more tools than she did. I have done more work than she was able to do. I know myself far better than she ever dreamed possible.
I’ll be okay. There’s just such a peculiar feeling weaving itself through this, the most profound of losses; it’s the pressing feeling that I have to start over.
And in some ways I do—figuring out who I am without Eric takes an extraordinary amount of uncomfortable work. In other ways, I know I am not starting over from scratch. I’m building the next phase of my life (our lives) from a place of wisdom, of growth, and of power.
And yet, it remains the most difficult thing I have ever done.
This is the point where I start questioning everything I’ve written, certain it’s just a rambling wall of nonsense nobody needs to see but me. But instead of saving it to drafts with the countless others, I’ll hit publish, if only to say hi to those still checking in.
So, hi. I appreciate you. Thanks for reading.