Somehow, a whole year has passed since the night Brandon died.
A year ago, tonight, the life I knew and loved died. The man I love, my new husband, died. It was me who found him, me who frantically dialed 911 for the first time in my life when he wouldn’t answer me and I saw blood. It was me who had to try and hold on to the phone with my shoulder, keeping it to my ear, while the operator instructed me to perform chest compression, to check for breathing. It felt like it took the ambulance and police forever to get there, and it felt like a dream when a police officer dragged me outside and away from Brandon. That was the last time I ever saw him, fully. On the floor in his office…not moving, not breathing. Of course, the very last time I actually saw him was when he was in a black body bag, being wheeled out of the house, and into the morgue’s van.
That night was a nightmare. I think anything innocent and naive in me died that night. Besides glimpses and flashes, I really can’t remember much detail from that night, or the first few weeks/months. A year later, and my brain still won’t let me remember. I wonder if it ever will, and if it does how I’ll manage to deal with what memories swim to the surface.
It makes me sad that no one really remembers what today is. Brandon’s best friend did, and some of my coworkers did. I know that I shouldn’t be upset that more people didn’t remember, because after all, their world didn’t end that night. After being sympathetic, after saying all those things people say in times of sadness, everyone went home and resumed their life. It’s not their fault that the life I knew ended and theirs didn’t. I’m not mad. Just sad…sad because more people should remember the day when my beautiful, kind, best friend’s life ended.
Over the past year, I have learned that grief is like a rip current. Initially, grief hits you with a force so hard; it knocks the breath out of your lungs and drops you to the knees. While you are in shock, trying to take a breath, to understand what just happened, it wraps itself around your legs and drags you under the water, plummeting you deeper and deeper into the cold, dark depths. The first three to four months, you live under the water, in the cold dark. Here, the pressure pushes on you, it pushes and pushes. You feel like you can’t ever catch a full breath of air in your lungs, and when you do, it burns. You hear nothing but jumbled, random noises. Nothing makes sense. It feels like you have been ripped off of your planet and thrown somewhere new, somewhere alien. In these dark depths you curl into a tight ball and float, wondering what the point of trying to breathe even is. It’d be so much easier to just let go, to close your eyes and end the constant suffering that has become your life. Thoughts of death slither around in your mind, a seductive temptress.
At some point, you realize that the powerful force that dragged you down under this underwater prison, its grip has loosened a little. You try to kick once, then twice, and before you know it, you are slowly swimming up, up, up. No longer are you under the crushing, deafening, depth of the water. You see a light up above you, and you swim towards it, drawn to it like a moth. After spending months in the dark, your body and mind crave the light. Your head breaks the surface, and you find yourself alone, treading water in the middle of an ocean. You can finally take a full, deep breath; fill your oxygen starved lungs with air. You feel alive again, human.
But the sky above, it rages with thunder and storms. The waters you are in, they are not calm. The waves, they go up and down; some drag you back down under, some take you up high and then drop you swiftly. Sometimes, there are blissful moments of calm. But the waves, they constantly ebb and shift. For every moment of calm, there is a vengeful wave following close behind, ready to crash into you.
This is what I have learned grief is like. Once you make it out of that initial dark period, it isn’t over…I don’t think it is ever over. You just get breaks, moments of peace, but always, always something follows these times of peace and calm, punches you in the stomach, and drags you back under.