Today I finally decided to bite the bullet and go to the police department to get the items that they took that night for “evidence”. If I’m honest with myself, the truth is that I’ve been dreading getting Brandon’s things back…a part of me almost didn’t even want them to ever give them back to me. I know that’s silly, because the other truth is that I do want those things. Much like everything else about this experience of widowhood, it is a double edged blade. On the one hand I wanted Brandon’s things back, desperately. On the other, I wished to never have to see or touch them again. Try and explain such opposing emotions occurring at once to someone that hasn’t walked this path…so few people understand.
I know enough about psychology to recognize that for the past few months something in me had turned off. I haven’t cried. I haven’t had the “bad days” I had so many of in the beginning, where all I could manage to do is lay in bed for days and feel like I was dying, the weight of the grief, the memories from the night I found him dead, and the missing of my Brandon crushing me under its enormous shadow, physically making it painful to breathe. Oh, how vividly I remember the actual physical pain I felt in my chest constantly then…I never thought it was possible to actually have your heart hurt. No, I haven’t visited those dark places in 2-4 months. I’ve been going on with life, jumping feet first into a new relationship with a wonderful man, smiling and laughing at work, and just overall acting and feeling normal. It has been so nice to just feel NORMAL.
But it isn’t real. Nothing is normal. I know that; deep down I know that. I know there is a myriad of emotional mess I haven’t even begun to deal with. The therapist I saw for the first four months, I remember her telling me on multiple occasions how proud she was of me, for always dealing with my emotions, for taking them as they came, for letting the waves take me where they take me, for not rushing or being in denial about reality. Oh how disappointed she would be now.
I think the day the detective told me that the case was being ruled a suicide, I honestly think that was the day I started to shut down. I think I completely shut down emotionally on Thanksgiving, when I opened the autopsy report the medical examiner sent me. I remember feeling overwhelmed and devastated after sitting down and making myself read every word of it, and after a meltdown where I sobbed and sobbed, I think my mind and body finally decided to activate their defenses.
From that point on, anytime something would come up that would make me sad or hurt, I would just push it down, ignore it, and let it get swept under the rug. I’ve unconsciously done that for months now. Months. During Valentine’s Day and the one year anniversary of Brandon’s death, I truly wanted to cry. I wanted to grieve. I wanted to feel the sadness of losing him. But I couldn’t. I seem to have boxed that up…I don’t know how to stop being so shut down emotionally when it comes to Brandon and his suicide. I don’t want to be. This is the reason I’ve been saying how I want to find another therapist to talk to.
I realize that this is not a healthy approach to grief. I know that even though it’s nice to not have been miserable and in tears for the past few months, I know it isn’t real. It’s just a facade. Because the truth is that if my mind wasn’t protecting me from all this pain, I would be living and breathing in it; I know I’m damaged, I know I’m wounded. Something Will said the other day brought that home. I forget what we were talking about, but he said, “Val, you’re still hurting.” If he can see that, why can’t I feel it? It was after this that I realized that something was wrong, that it wasn’t normal to feel as much of nothing as I feel when it comes to Brandon and everything that happened.
So, with that background, we come to today. The day a nice, polite, sympathetic lady at the police department came up to the glass counter, made me sign some papers, and started opening yellow manila envelopes, each labeled with red “evidence” tape and its contents. I got back 33 bullets, a magazine clip, a cell phone, a hip holster, and the gun that Brandon, in his drunken state, pushed up to his throat that night and killed himself with. Watching her put all of these items in a brown paper bag, I felt the old familiar panic well up, felt my eyes wet. But instead of giving in to the emotions that obviously wanted to come out, I somehow managed to push them aside, smile at her, take the bag, and say thank you. I then proceeded to go and eat lunch with my dad, carry on normal conversation, and come home. I felt exhausted, dead tired, when I got home, so I took a nap. I know that exhaustion came from the emotional weight of today, because I didn’t do anything that would exhaust me, other than go and pick up Brandon’s things.
I still haven’t cried. God, this isn’t normal.
Now, sitting here, I feel like a coward. I can’t bring myself to open that brown paper bag and to look at or touch his things. Every time I think about doing it, I feel that panic lingering close behind, I feel my heartbeat increase, I feel my chest start to hurt, and it scares me, and I don’t want to touch those things. I hate feeling so weak and pathetic. Is it because for the first months I felt this panic and overwhelming sadness, and now that I’ve had a reprieve from those terrible feelings, I can’t bear to feel that way again? That I won’t let myself feel that way? Because I know that when I open that bag, I’ll open a lot more than just that bag. Would I rather just live in this fake bubble of “feeling okay”? I know it isn’t real. I want to burst that bubble, but I’m scared of everything that will come pouring out of it. I feel like such a weak, weak, coward – hiding from reality.
A song by Blue October sums this up perfectly:
“I have to block out thoughts of you so I don’t lose my head
They crawl in like a cockroach leaving babies in my bed
Dropping little reels of tape to remind me that I’m alone”