I sat down with my new supervisor for the first of our weekly one-on-one sessions. “I don’t know what CN told you,” I said with little warning, “but there were two deaths in my family last month.”
“I knew you went to Florida,” JC said.
“Yeah, so I fell really behind. I’m still catching up.”
Death is like that. Still catching up. AA, my cousin who came to our grandmother’s funeral, was given three days of bereavement leave from her office. I took nearly a week and it still wasn’t enough. I’d still been reeling from the news of my uncle when my mom called me at work and told me my grandmother was in hospice. I retreated to one of the conference rooms in the office. I sat there in silence for several minutes before I began to cry.
I went home after that and sat in the shower with the water running until the steam and scalding drops turned cold and the redness in my skin faded. I’d barely been functional at work since the news of my uncle–the day I buried myself against W and my body rocked with sporadic, uncontrollable sobs. I spent the rest of December useless. I’d sit at my desk, sometimes just staring at the screen, looking out the window, doing nothing for hour after hour other than listening to my own breath and watching the clouds move.
I won’t lie and talk about how close I was to either of these people. I was closer to Alec than I was my uncle or my grandmother. I felt, I feel, bad about how deeply I was–am–affected by these deaths. I grin and say I’m okay, that it’s not that big a deal. Both were, in their own ways, expected. That didn’t make them any easier for me. I didn’t want any sympathy and I didn’t want to share it. I had the liberty of privacy. My grandmother, the last of her generation, had been an extraordinary woman with a quiet life. My uncle’s death was not reported by anyone outside of his family. No one knew unless I told them and, even though I told the internet, it passed with silence. My sadness was my own. I needed it to be. I needed time to process and understand and grieve and I still do. Three days could never be enough.
Someone I was–am–in love with once told me that how I feel is how I feel–it doesn’t matter what anyone else says I should feel. I shouldn’t be apologetic. I return to my grief, the grief I feel I don’t deserve. I grieve for my student and Jeff, who both killed themselves years apart. I grieve for Moses and Alec, my grandmother. Now I grieve for Aaron. I am angry and sad and my heart aches for my friends who lost someone. This grief is mine, this struggle for understanding is mine, and I deserve it.