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Posts tagged ‘guilt’

Saying Goodbye

I just got home from my aunt’s funeral.  By the time the service was over, I had a pounding headache from restraining my emotions.  There were times when the girl inside me sobbed and sobbed, while the shell that held her in blew it’s nose and wiped away any tears that managed to escape.  My friend told me last night not to do that, to just let myself have whatever emotions I felt.  But that’s easier for me to imagine than do.

My main method of emotional coping is escape. Perhaps in some part, small or large I don’t know, it’s denial.  As long as I don’t face it, it’s not real.  It didn’t happen.  It won’t turn out the way we all know it’s going to turn out.

My aunt has been sick for a couple of years now, and when I was told that they found a cancer, I thought, “Ok, so now we know what to fight against.”

The next week I was told she had between a month and a year to live.  My heart sunk, but then I thought, “Ok, a year’s a long time…there’s time to fight or to make peace with it.”

The next week I was told the doctors couldn’t do a thing for her and she probably wouldn’t make it through the end of the year.  I thought, “Ok, I’ll go see her next week when she gets settled back at the house.”

Two days later I was told that she died.

In all that time, as quick as it seemed to pass, I only called them once.  As long as I stayed away, as long as I put off a visit or call, then I could believe she was well.  It was the same after she died, when I should have called or stopped by to offer whatever support I could muster – I didn’t.  I sunk further into myself and the shield that denial and escape offered me.  In my mind, I could still almost believe that she was walking around that house, the same.  Alive.

So, guilt tinges my grief.  I feel guilty that I didn’t say goodbye.  I feel guilty that I didn’t offer support to my uncle.  I feel guilty that I wouldn’t believe I had  any amount of support to give.  I feel guilty that I chose to believe staying away was better, since it was all I could do not to cry all over him in that last phone call.  Even today I kept my distance, because I could barely look at him without bursting into tears.

(So instead I came home and started crying all over you.  Thank you and also sorry about that.)

I’ve been alone for a while now, and emotionally speaking I’ve been alone most of my life.  That’s not on anyone but me, because there have been and are people who love me and are available to me.  But I am so much more comfortable – and safe – inside of myself.  Even today, as my mom or dad showed concern for me, I wanted to turn away from that.  I don’t want my uncle to have to comfort me in my grief, when his is so much greater.  So I abandoned him.  I don’t want my parents to worry about me, so I shut their concerned words down.  I just want to hide away – I want to worry about no one but myself and I certainly don’t want anyone to concern themselves with me.

I have been as open and honest and vulnerable to my aunt and uncle as I’ve ever allowed myself to be with anyone.  And in some ways, much more so.  And yet when this all happened, I sucked right back inside myself.  I disappeared again.  These are people who nurtured my relationship with Christ, who challenged me and helped me build my faith, who led by example.  And as much as they’ve done for me, as much as they’ve given me, I ran away instead of being there.  That sucks.

Death sucks.  Saying goodbye sucks.

Why can’t I say the right things?

This was a very stressful week, and yesterday was the worst of it.

One of our pharmacists, J, received a call on Thursday afternoon that her mother was severely ill and would probably die within the next four hours.  She lives five hours from here, and the hospital is farther away still, so you can imagine the emotional turmoil that call created.

I spent most of yesterday on the phone, trying to cover J’s shifts for Friday evening and today.   Occasionally, I would wish this hadn’t happened on a holiday weekend, at a store on the far outskirts of our district, where the Saturday shift is 12 hours instead of the typical 9.  Of course I wish it hadn’t happened at all, and I’d immediately feel guilty for being so stressed over covering a difficult shift, when my mom is healthy and enjoying her vacation right now.

I worked out the coverage eventually, but even the solution was stressful.  Two pharmacists switched to different locations, one took on additional hours, and another gave up his Saturday off.  No one wanted to do it, but they all did.  And so I feel bad about that, too.  I couldn’t have done more, but I still feel bad.

Finally I can go home, and I actually have the holiday weekend off (if I were a pharmacist, I would have worked those shifts!).  While I’m at the grocery store, J calls to say her mother has greatly improved, to everyone’s surprise and joy.

As we’re talking, I want to say the right things so badly.  I want to say that I care, that I’m sorry this happened, that I wish I could do something for her; I want to be supportive and make her feel better.  I end up saying all the wrong things.  I’m awkward and unsure, and I respond in ways that make her re-explain things she’s already said.  I’m sure she wishes she had just gotten voice mail.  I wish she had just gotten voice mail.

I wish I could blame it on the day. I was still hyped up, distracted and unhappy that everything didn’t go smoothly. I am glad there is coverage, but it bothers me so much that it’s not to everyone’s satisfaction. But that’s not the reason I wasn’t able to say what I wanted to say…or anything even remotely good or comforting. It wasn’t the day, it was just me.

Why is it so hard to say the right things?