Grieving When You Don’t Know How
Rhonda and I met for lunch on Tuesday. She was heading down to Tucson with her fiance that afternoon and had a couple hours off. I was working from home. We sat outside on the bright colored patio of a Mexican restaurant and had a margarita. She brought me an amazing beach sarong with Frida Kahlo on it that she got the previous weekend in Cabo San Lucas.
It was a perfect afternoon. The weather had just cooled and we talked about how amazing the lady who owned the place looked. I told my friend that my new goal in life was to start wearing earrings. She made a point to tell me how happy our afternoon made her.
We planned to make lunch like that a regular thing. That would never happen. Four days later, she’d suffer a brain aneurysm that led to complications that took Rhonda from us forever.
To say that I’m devastated would be an absolute understatement. I’m a mess and I don’t know what to do with myself. A lot of us are.
The first time I lost a close friend was six years ago. It was sudden. Xavier wasn’t feeling well and checked himself into the hospital. A few days later, he was gone.
His funeral hit me like a ton of bricks and a deep sadness enveloped me. My husband at the time was an absolute angel that day. He missed the service but went with me to the burial. After, we had lunch at one of Xavier’s favorite places and my husband took me to a wine bar and filled me with wine while I cried on the patio until my head hurt from the wine and the tears.
“Pardon my wife. We buried her friend today,” I remember him explaining to a small group of ladies on the other side of the patio.
This time, I have no husband. I just have stillness in my house that I’m finding unnerving. I kept moving at 80 miles an hour this weekend. I had to. I couldn’t stop. I distracted myself with anything and everything until I ran out of steam.
Sunday night, I climbed into a hot bath with a glass of wine and despair hit me. It was a song that started playing that held a memory of her. I just curled up in a little ball and cried.
I don’t quite know what to do with myself. I don’t know what to say. I don’t know who to reach out to. I don’t know who needs space. I found the Frida sarong in my bedroom tonight and had to sit on the floor and cry a little.
I am fortunate that my difficulty in processing my friend’s death has so much to do with how little death I have seen in my life. I feel ill prepared. I seem to have a new emotion every few hours. I have no idea what one is coming next.
Rhonda was one of the happiest people you’d ever know even when she had valid reasons to act otherwise. I was listening to someone complain this weekend and I got filled with anger. What was bothering them was trivial and they chose to be petty. It was all I had in me to not yell at them, “No one fucking cares! My friend is dead.” I didn’t. Surprisingly.
I grief shopped online and in a few days my brand new Lionel Richie welcome mat will arrive. She’d have loved the stupid thing. I have no idea why it gave me comfort, but it did.
I can barely open social media. We had 102 friends in common. She’s everywhere. All I see her beautiful, smiling face. We’re all grieving but every time I see a new memory post, my heart sinks more. It’s overwhelming, especially when an old post shows up from several days ago when she was still alive. I understand everyone’s grief and I love them for it. It just makes me tired.
I’m an empath. I feel every one of my emotions intensely and take on the duty of feeling emotions for other people too. I just keep gathering their grief in my arms and I don’t know that I can carry it all.
The emotion I’m missing is joy but I know that will come. I’ll see something and instead of being sad that she’s not here, I’ll be happy that she was. The emotional migration will slow.
The best I can do it to keep celebrating her. When I feel anger, advice she gave me dissipates it. When I’m frustrated, I conjure her patience. When I feel loneliness, her sense of continual hope lessens it.
The restaurant where we had our last lunch has these brightly colored hanging pots with plants for sale. I’m going back and buying one. I’m going to tend to it with the same love I had for her. To be honest, I’ll probably kill the plant. I do that. A lot. But I know those beautiful colors will give me some peace. Those pots will hold not just flowers, but the most perfect memory I have of her. My last one.
*The last few weeks have taken a lot out of me. I don’t want to get good at this:
The Overdue Mortality Check I Desperately Needed
One friend’s near death experience was a clear dose of reality.