Thursday, February 8, 2018

Grief is Not Linear

When I was in my third year of medical school, my Dad asked me to feel a lump in his armpit.  Seven months later, he died of the melanoma that had metastasized from a tiny mole on his arm.

Surviving my Dad's death was one of the hardest things I've ever done.  I wrote about it here once, in the part of the blog that was lost in the great purge, and I described it as being like walking around without skin.  Everything hurt.  I made it through my last two years of medical school only thanks to some very supportive friends and terror at the thought of not matching to a residency program.

And then my Dad was gone and medical school was over, and I thought that I had left grief behind.  I didn't think of him often; I could talk to patients about death without crying; and I started to feel happy again.  (Or, as happy as a neurotic first-year Internal Medicine resident is capable of feeling.)  I was moving on, and grief wasn't coming with me.

Until it did.  When I matched to fellowship, I grieved the fact that my father would never know what specialty I had gone into.  When I started dating my first girlfriend, I grieved the fact that he would never see me dating a woman, even though he'd reached a tenuous peace with me being bisexual.  And then again, in the middle of my last and longest relationship, I grieved that my girlfriend would never get to see firsthand how much I am a clone of my father.

I have been surprised over the past eight years to realize that grief never goes away.  It lies dormant for a while, sometimes long enough that I can forget it was ever there, but it inevitably returns, each time just as painful as when it was fresh.  Every time it comes back feels like a surprise hit to the chest, knocking the breath from my body.

The same thing is happening right now with the semi-recent end of my relationship.  A few weeks ago, I found myself humming happily at work, and I distinctly remember thinking about how nice it was to be so happy.  I was even going to write a smug blog post about how good life was and how bloody happy I was, but I was enjoying my happiness too much to bother.

And then my ex-girlfriend started dating again.

And posted pictures of her new girlfriend on Facebook.

And now I feel like I'm 14 instead of 40, because I am hurting over my ex-girlfriend's social media activities.  I am supposed to be over her, and yet I find myself barely able to drag myself through the day.  I cry on my drive into work, because I have to pass the coffee shop where we waited while we got winter tires, followed by the restaurant to which we took her friends from Egypt to try schnitzel.  Grief redux.

And it is completely irrational, because there is no part of me that wants to go back to the relationship.  It's not even that I want her to not date, because I do want her to date and to be happy.  I'm not a horrible person wishing misery on her just so that I won't be miserable.  And yet, I am sad.  Horribly, inexplicably, unexpectedly sad.

And I can't even drink, because I'm still on call for eight more days.

12 comments:

  1. Thank you for writing this. I’m sorry you are feeling sad again. I think your feelings are pretty normal. I suggest hiding your ex’s Facebook feed. I wish there was something I could say that would make you feel better, but since there probably isn’t, have faith that these feelings will get better over time. I know you know that, though. *virtual hug*

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    1. You're welcome! Yeah...there isn't really anything anyone can say to make it better. It just is. It'll get better with time. And donuts.

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    1. I did!

      Now I just need to stop going directly to her Facebook page 12 times a day to see what she has posted.

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  3. That's so hard. Solidarity. Part of why I'm doing much better in my break up than I anticipated was her letting me know that she won't be dating for a long time. I, too, want her to be happy, but seeing the evidence of happiness with another person would make me ache. So much.

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    1. Thanks. Yeah...my ex waited less than a month before going back to online dating, and she found someone after about four months. I would have loved if she had waited a long time before getting back into it!

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    2. I think every major relationship end is best served by taking time. To figure out what you'd like the next part of your to look like. To figure out what choices you made with them that you would not repeat. To take time to create new habits and patterns. And sometimes, therapy.

      After one particularly bad relationship, I ran a marathon. I knew that having to train for four months would prevent me from pursuing anyone. I knew that I needed to get in my own way there. I love to flirt and needed to not have time or energy.

      This time, the breakup was not bad, but I still want time. To process. To be good at being by myself. Thankfully, I have this damn invisalign in and will for at least three more months. Hard to make out with new folks with impediments. I definitely don't want to start anything serious soon. It wouldn't be fair to the other person's heart.

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  4. I'm so sorry to hear about everything you're going through. I agree - grief doesn't affect you all at once. There isn't an "easy" day after you're more stable with your grieving. The most random thing can throw you off your game. I saw a diet soda can and cried about it, and it's seven years since I lost my mom and grandma.

    It's okay to not be okay. Find things can give small comfort, and hold onto them. It gets better. :)

    And you know your dad would be proud of you, no matter what. :)

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    1. Thanks. It's amazing how much one little thing, like a diet soda can, can bring back memories. Sorry for the loss of your mom and grandma.

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  5. I wish I had something comforting to say. Dating sucks sometimes. Bummer you can't have a drink yet. I'll have one for you, would that help???

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    1. Yes! Please have a drink for me. I am six days away from mine...

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  6. Grief is a real kick in the box. I'm sorry that you're feeling sad and it's totally understandable - even if you don't want to be with her anymore it doesn't mean you don't need to mourn for the relationship. My last ex made it SUPER easy for me by cutting off all contact almost immediately and not being on any social media. I actually googled her the other day and nothing - it's like she doesn't exist! Handy! Anyway, I hope your online dating efforts yield good things and in the meantime, if you can't drink, there are always the donuts.

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