nolongerinbetween

bereavement ramblings # 9

Posted on: November 3, 2022

We have a strange relationship with loss. We rarely experience it on its own. For too often loss comes accompanied by other strong emotions that somehow manage to take the stage completely and overshadow the sense of loss. Anger. Guilt. Outrage. Shock. Bewilderment. Regrets. Denial. Frustration. Vengeance. Helplessness. Resentment. Disbelief. My life has been marked by loss in so many ways, but I am yet to experience it pure, raw, unadulterated by any other affect. Ten years ago, when I lost my boyfriend, I was surprised to realize that, despite the emotional turmoil I went through, it wasn’t loss what I felt but outrage and a deep sense of injustice. The resentment over the way our relationship had ended shattered any sense of loss. When Tori died, for a period of time it was anger and rage over her cruel fate that took over while loss took a back seat. When my dad died guilt and disbelief were my main emotions. When I lost some friends recently the sense of loss, again, was lessened by disappointment and disillusionment. In all my experiences these secondary emotions took the reins, muddied the waters and made a mess of the emotional realm. They were supposed to be marginal, accessory, acting as backing vocals or sitting quiet in the background but they stormed the stage and took the lead. When I was a Christian, I used to think that this might be one of God’s ways of helping us deal with traumatic events of the sort. By throwing a red herring our way. Diverting our attention from loss to something more tolerable. Tricking us into suffering from a more lenient affliction. Because no matter how horrible these emotions are (anger, remorse, outrage, disgust, disappointment, bitterness, resentment etc) they are not as painful and devastating as the sheer sense of loss. Anything but that lingering ache of having lost something we had. Anything but that melancholic malaise eating at you. Now I no longer believe in God, but I still think this is a defence mechanism, our way of dealing with traumatic loss. Our way of deflecting the real drama. Juggling and trading off different pains. Playing tricks to dull our senses. Disguise. Camouflage. Substitution. Replacing loss with something akin to it but less horrendous.

*

My dad is not dead, he is missing. Every time I think of him, I cannot find him in the appropriate drawer of my mind, where dead people usually end up. I don’t think I can put this down to a residual Christianity that survives in me, to the idea that we are actually immortals, that death is an illusion, since this misplacement doesn’t apply to other people. My mind doesn’t reject the label in itself, the category of dead people, for that compartment got well populated over the years. Grandparents, uncles, aunts, friends, pets, neighbours, you name it. It’s just that when it comes to my dad, I cannot visualize him as dead. He is just missing, absent, hidden from us, unavailable, somewhere to be found. But not dead. And this is one of the reasons why I feel that my mourning is lacking. You cannot properly mourn someone unless you give up hope and accept the finality of their death and their irreversible disappearance. Once the disbelief is shattered the grief can go full-on, unrestricted. You put everyone in their right boxes and the strange http 404 error is finally fixed.

*

On his deathbed he never mentioned the fact that he was dying. The elephant in the room … had a scythe but nobody talked openly about that. Which I found to be odd since he was a man of faith. There were no wise words passing on to his children. No sermonic rambling or Bible quotations. No formal handover of our mum’s care to us, like Jesus did with his mum. No attempt to apologize, to settle accounts and emotional debts. The patriarch of the family went full French exit with his departure. Even though I was there at the time I was left with this strange feeling that we didn’t have a proper send-off and that we didn’t say goodbye to him.

*

We all indulge ourselves at some point in counterfactual reasoning. Fantasizing about turning the clock back and removing a link in a chain of past events in order to fix mistakes we made or to change painful outcomes. So here an exercise to put yourself at the test, to see where your heart is (Matthew 6:21): if you were given a chance to counterfactually erase one single event from your past what would that be? I’m sure for all of us the competition would be fierce, for we all have tons of things we would alter if possible. From nasty things that happened to us to nasty things we did to other people. As far as I am concerned, erasing her death would be my first choice, without blinking an eye, without the slightest hesitation. There’s a long litany of horrors I would gladly change but her death tops everything. I would rather keep every instance of violence, bullying, abuse, disappointment, rejection, humiliation, betrayal, failure etc and save her. Nothing comes close to the pain of losing her. The longing to be reunited with her will never fade away in me.  

*

Why do I feel I am no longer whole since she died? Wasn’t I whole before her? Do the people we love become a part of us and alter our substance that much? For good? Do they rip out bigger pieces from us when they die and leave? If we love lots and they die on us can we be lessened to the point of inexistence?

*

South Korea – 156 people crushed to death in Seoul at Halloween celebrations. Indonesia – 135 dead in a riot and stampede that broke out after a football match. Philippines – 98 dead in a heavy storm that hit the country. Turkey – 41 dead people in a coal mine accident. Somalia – 120 killed by a car bombing in the capital, Mogadishu. India – 182 dead in a bridge collapse, many of them children. You can find these headlines in the newspapers, right at this moment. Horrible disasters, taking place at the same time, in the span of a few days, not spread over a couple of months or a year. I used to agonize over such tragedies when I was a Christian, trying to reconcile them with the concept of a benevolent God. And it’s such a relief that now, as a nonbeliever, I am no longer subject to this mental torment, fuelled by a never-ending streak of tragedies. The easiness with which my fellow Christians dismissed the problem of theodicy was disturbing. “God works in mysterious ways” is such a nonsensical defence. There’s nothing mysterious about being crushed to death by a crowd on a street. Burned alive at a music venue. Raped and killed by a Russian soldier. Drowned in a river holding your child’s hand after the bridge under your feet collapsed. Torn into pieces by a bomb. If I were a parent and I would allow my kids to be burned alive I could never say “oh please, you don’t understand, I am being … mysterious”. And yet, this is our line of defence when it comes to God. We fill the gaps with this mysterious crappy matter. Being an atheist has a lot of downsides but not having to explain evil, death, pain etc is the main, if not the only, advantage you get. This doesn’t mean you are not saddened and flabbergasted at the view of these tragedies. The thread of life is so fragile, and it can get broken at any time. Witnessing all these disasters I got to the point where I am grateful for my life and for the years I lived so far. For I have lived longer than most of these people were allowed to. If I get to live more, I look at it as a bonus not as an entitlement. Not taking life for granted and knowing that life can be taken from you in such absurd, meaningless, petty, ridiculous ways and at any time should be in our minds constantly.

*

Haunted by this image of my mum, sitting at his deathbed, broken-hearted, lost for words, hunchbacked, overwhelmed with sorrow, holding and kissing his hands for hours on end. The same hands that used to turn into fists and hurt her. What a strange thing is this redeeming love that forgets and forgives everything. “Love keeps no record of wrongs.” (1 Cor. 13:5)

*

House of the Dragon. I watch the episode in which the king Viserys is dying in a state of horrified frenziness. The gruesome depiction of aging and the misery of death is haunting. A masterclass in cinematography. The decrepitude of his body and his mind takes me back to my dad’s when he was dying, and it fills me again with horror, shock and sadness. I watch Viserys’ demise and I relive all my dad’s degradation, his delirious agony and mental pain. I can’t for the love of me get over the misery and ugliness of our dying. Nothing shook me more to the core than watching Tori, my dad, and prior to them, a close neighbour, sinking into decrepitude and dying. For a while, death and life overlap, disputing the ownership of that body and mind. Witnessing first hand that fight between life and death is horrible and faith shattering. Nature is cruel. Death in itself, ceasing to exist, is already an outrage, a wound and a trauma to our existence. There’s no need to get there through a horrible process. The fact that most of us don’t die of sudden deaths but through a slow, painful, repulsive transition to death is adding insult to injury. We are punished for our sufferings; we are punished because we were punished.

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literatura e efortul inepuizabil de a transforma viaţa în ceva real

The priest: Aren't you afraid of hell? J. Kerouac: No, no. I'm more concerned with heaven.

literatura e efortul inepuizabil de a transforma viaţa în ceva real

The priest: Aren't you afraid of hell? J. Kerouac: No, no. I'm more concerned with heaven.

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