What I can say about a year is that looking back, it seems like a lifetime ago, and like yesterday.
Over the past couple of weeks I have come to a new place in grief where I can find the peace in holding the past and the present simultaneously. I can go back into memories of last year at this time, and feel it and cry, and yet know this new safety and control that grounds me in the present. It happened. Auntie Barb died last year (still so bizarre sometimes) and I had to experience it. I experienced that horror and panic of, Where the fuck is Barb? She was just here, where did she go?? I experienced the terrifying lack of her physical presence, and the hole where caretaking was. I can feel all of that again like it was yesterday, and then I can make the shift in my mind that is the comfort of knowing that I don’t live there anymore. An entire year has passed and life is so completely different. And I am fully invested in my present. I have a life. I lived. I’m here now. And my life is pretty good, with the intention of getting even better. I’m here now. Not back there anymore. I can visit but I don’t live there. What a relief. I’m grateful.
Yesterday morning I went to grief group. I had skipped a couple of weeks – once because I just didn’t feel like it and once because I was in an amazing training (post to come). But out of a sense of duty I went yesterday. It was… nothing. The format is they have a speaker and then you break into groups according to your loss. I wanted to ditch after the speaker but I made myself stay because I thought I should. I’ll still never understand why there’s always one if not four people who have a significant mental illness in these groups, people who need a higher level of support than grief group can give. Still. I did my best to stay with it, but I just didn’t need it. I could comfort others. But frankly, I do that for a living and wasn’t feeling it on my free time. Plus, I’m just not in the overwhelming sadness anymore. So listening to other people in the depths of it, yes it tugs at heartstrings somewhat, but I’m not in that place.
Where am I? Maybe this is acceptance. I still cry sometimes, it sneaks up on me. But I love her, and I think back on things she said and her support and love. And I know that my leaving her behind in a sense… it’s good for me. I leave her behind and I take her with me. She is always with me. I wear her watch everyday. I put on her other jewelry. I think of her words of encouragement and support. I think of her long list of complaints about work and people and life. And I make choices to enjoy mine more. I love her very much and I am blessed to have had her for the time I did. She decided not to fight cancer the second time around and die on her own terms. And in her own sentiment, she expressed that this was a good way to die.
I don’t know where she is. I assume she’s with everyone she ever loved that passed away before. I’m not so angry about religion and spirituality and afterlife anymore. And I’m not trying to decide what it is or isn’t. Sometimes I think I feel her and then I try to rationalize it or quantify it, and then I let it go and smile let it be whatever it is.
Here is her favorite picture of herself.
And something else I think about a lot lately is that she left me her laptop with her iTunes library. I merged our music and discarded some things. But my iPod has saved the history. I’m somewhat repetitive about what I listen to, and I’ve been working with my same library since about 2007. Still, today, the 25 Most Played are a mixture of Arcade Fire and Danger Mouse (hers). She was nothing if not obsessive! She would always tell me about how beautiful she though those albums were.
I miss my beautiful, wonderful aunt. She’s here and she’s a million miles away.