For the last couple of months, two ladies who are Jehovah’s Witnesses have been stopping by our house every third week or so. They are very aware of my status as a Jew because the posts by my front door make it clear where I land on matters of the spirit.
While I am firmly rooted in my “religion” (I put that word in quotes because Judaism is so much more to me than just a religious practice), I also believe in being kind.
It’s common knowledge that as we get older, we become more aware of time. It seems to pass more quickly than in our youth, with the months and years marching past so fast that we feel dizzy.
When my father died, I initially counted his absence in days. It was important to do so because for the first 30 days, I wore a torn ribbon over my heart as an outward sign of my inward grief. Once those 30 days passed, I still counted in days, ensuring that I recited the Mourner’s Kaddish each evening before saying the Sh’ma. As time passed, I began marking the loss of him in weeks. Every Friday, I’d say to myself, “It’s been X weeks since Dad died.”
I’ve been silent these past months, not by choice but because grief, depression, and crippling anxiety attacks have rendered me immobile. I have felt stationary – unable to muster basic interest in most things besides sleeping, reading, and endlessly scrolling through social media feeds. I’ve still pushed myself everyday; I’ve still gotten out of bed and gone to work, but that in and of itself has caused anxiety as I question my ability to do my job, my career choices, and my prospects for the future.
These days, I measure the passage of time based on my father’s passing. In these subsequent 22 days since his death, grief has taken its place in my life like a shadow. My only real reprieve is for a few hours of work each day when I’m so immersed in the crazy world of employee relations that I can compartmentalize my pain.
My dad died nine days ago after having suffered a massive stroke two days prior. He died in a hospital in southeastern Indiana while my connecting flight was sitting on the tarmac in Salt Lake City, getting ready to take off for Indianapolis.
I’m the first to admit that I’m a total stranger to grief. At 33 years old, I still have both my parents as well as all four of my grandparents. I’ve never even lost an aunt, uncle, or cousin. As a result, the grief I’ve experienced this week, after having put down my beloved dog, Kyle, on Tuesday, has been nearly unbearable. Today is the first day that I’ve felt even close to “normal” and even then, I’ll go from completely fine to sobbing in absolutely no time. My chest and stomach ache most of the time, like I’m worrying a hole right through both of them. I don’t feel well, I don’t know how to relax, and nothing seems to keep me occupied for longer than a few minutes.
I’m just… sad. I miss my companion and friend. I miss his bossy barking when he wanted outside or when he was hungry for a treat. I miss the insistent way he’d bump his hand against my palm when he wanted petted. I miss his inquisitive stare and his happy bounce. And most glaring of all is that his presence is missing. From where I’m sitting, I can see the wooden urn holding his ashes. That’s all that’s left of him, except for my memories.
The house feels so empty without him. Roxie, our younger dog, has spent her week getting her bearings now that she’s no longer submissive to the alpha dog. She’s testing her limits and testing my patience. There’s no back and forth banter barking now because she has no one to “talk” to. All is quiet. Well, all except my heart, that is. It’s a rough, choppy mess that feels like it’s been sliced into a million little slivers. Everyone tells me that I’ll feel whole again someday. Right now, I would prefer to not feel anything at all because this grieving thing? Pure hell.