Everyone deals with grief in a different way. When I was sixteen, my grandfather died. My dad offered up our house for the wake, and my eccentric aunt came to stay with us. Well, maybe my dad actually had less choice in the matter, but this is the perspective of a sixteen-year-old, housed in a memory from more than a decade ago, so bear with me.
I remember several things about his death, but one moment that sticks with me happened in the car, on the way to a restaurant with my parents, sister, and the eccentric aunt – I’ll call her Stella. It fits. Being sixteen, I was about as self-centered as any other sixteen-year-old, and I was feeling rather put out that Aunt Stella and Uncle Max had to stay at our house – why couldn’t they stay with Aunt Beth and Uncle Joe? They had a spare room. And why was the wake at our house? Surely there was a better venue for a good thirty-odd people to gather for this whole thing. Why did we have to go to that restaurant? And at six-thirty? I was starving.
Being sixteen, and me – which probably closely resembled a sixteen-year-old Stella in looks and personality – I voiced my frustration at being put out by all of this. Aunt Stella, who was driving my father’s car (still not sure about how that happened; I guess her OCD won out over his that time – I come from a long line of folks in denial that they have OCD), bluntly told me that it wasn’t all about me and to stop being selfish.
Knowing what I know now, about the process of grief, the way I handle emotion (or didn’t handle, at sixteen anyway), and that everyone has their own method of dealing with death, I would have said something more like, “You feel ignored and you have no control over what’s happening in your own house. I get that. But I’m not in town that much and I’d really love to try this restaurant I’ve heard such good things about.” If I had been in her shoes.
But then, I have a five-year-old. This is pretty much how I talk to him. Maybe not an appropriate way to talk to a five-year-old or a sixteen-year-old. Eh.
I’ve gotten sidetracked.
This time it was very different. The circumstances were very different. Not an elderly relative who had been ill for several years, not natural causes, not with me a self-centered teenager. This was a cousin who was making plans – for her wedding, for her birthday, for a big move out West, for a new career now that she had graduated from college. This was a kidnapping and a murder. And now I am a mother who can’t even imagine what her parents are going through.
She disappeared. Just up and disappeared. The sweetest, most level-headed girl said goodnight to her fiance, just days before her birthday, and went to bed. Then she was gone, with nothing but her cell phone. Her dog, her car, her purse, were all still in her apartment. A missing persons report was filed. The police investigated. Searches were conducted. Nothing was ever found.
That was more than a year and a half ago. This week they found her skull. A few days later they concluded that it was her skull. Now her family is having to face the police, the media, and the assholes who think her fiance did it, all over again.
When I found out I called my mom. Gave her a vanilla version of what I knew, asked for prayers and positive energy. Told her it was good. At least now everyone can get some closure. And thank Goddess she wasn’t being held captive and forced into prostitution (ever since I saw Taken it’s been all I’ve thought about). Thought about lighting a candle, but didn’t feel up to consecrating, charging, blessing. Had a bottle of Woodchuck instead. Didn’t read the news article to get all my facts straight. Mostly just ignored.
The next day I knew I would need to face it. My mind would not let me rest until I got those facts and allowed myself to cry. I held it together until I began to read all of the sympathetic, pitying, comments on Facebook. Not to diminish what my friends and family offered, or to somehow insinuate that their words weren’t genuine and their hearts weren’t pure. I believe they were. But there’s always a little pity there, isn’t there?
I knew the best way for me to cope at this point would be to write about it, but I wouldn’t get a chance until well after the kids went to bed. My daughter takes two naps with a lot of convincing, but my son (who only has the requisite hour of quiet time now that he’s outgrown naps) is never down at the same time.
I broke down. At least my son was at preschool, and my daughter, being less than two, doesn’t have the words to ask about it. I just picked her up a couple of times during the day, and hugged her for awhile. I had a hard enough time explaining it to my son when we picked him up. I told him that we might be going out of town to see Grandpa and that when we got there, everyone would be very sad because somebody died.
Now we’re not even going down. Money is too tight while we wait for our tax refund and I continue to look for full-time paid work. We’ll make the trip for the funeral, or whatever arrangements end up being made, but none of that will likely happen until the case is closed.
And I will continue to drink alone. No tequila with Aunt Terri. No comforting words from Oma. No eccentricity from Daphne, my in-laws’ version of Stella, to distract me. My husband doesn’t even really drink that much. He works too much. Probably good that he doesn’t. He snores when he drinks.
How does one wrap up this kind of post?