I had this insane idea that I would leave you with Frankie’s departure and then move on to my new life and my new(er) blog — as though my years with Frankie could be put aside that easily or that, maybe, if I didn’t write about it, the pain wouldn’t be there. But that’s not honoring Frankie’s memory, my grieving process, or the journey of loss I’ve been taking with you all.
So here’s my first dispatch from the other side.
I’ve said it on Facebook but in disparate status updates and in different places — and, besides, not all my friends are on Facebook, shocking as that may be. In any case, it bears repeating, over and over: I am grateful for every acknowledgement of Frankie’s passing, no matter how brief. Of course I value the detailed assurances that what I did was an act of love, and appreciate every personal comment. At the same time, those brief “Bon Voyages” also say to me “I read what you wrote, and how you wrote it. I’m thinking of you.” And that means a lot.
Which brings me to…
Grief — and Bad Behavior
I left the house about half an hour after saying good-bye to Frankie on Friday, setting off on a writing assignment-related research trip around southern Arizona with a friend. My mission: holding it together through emotional and physical exhaustion to get my job done and then having a cathartic evening of wine and conversation with friends who know what I’ve been through.
For the most part, I succeeded in the first part of the mission. The second part, not so much. I didn’t yet know what I expected or wanted with regard to my grief. It was unreasonable to expect that others would.
People Who Know vs People Who Don’t
I discovered that, at least for the purposes of my research, I was okay around people who didn’t know what I was going through. It was a relief not to be “Edie who just lost Frankie.” I went to several nature preserves, which were very soothing, interviewed wildlife experts, B & B owners, restaurateurs. I was functioning, all pistons charging, being my professional self.
It was the designated relaxation portion of the trip that proved the most stressful.
The mutual friend that my travel companion and I were visiting lives in a lovely, remote location — so remote that it took a longer time to get there than expected. It was nearly dark by the time we arrived, and for the last couple of miles on a dirt road, the fuel light was on. I was super stressed.
Our welcome was warm. Wine and a wonderful comfort food dinner were provided, as promised. So why couldn’t I relax? Because of the one thing I didn’t get: Any mention of my loss, or questioning of how I felt about it.
I won’t go into the gory details. Let’s just say I drank more than I should have and got more and more upset as the conversation rolled around topics that weren’t foremost on my mind, people I didn’t know. I began feeling more and more disaffected, until I finally lost it and yelled very bad words at my hostess and my other friend.
I stormed out to the car to get my phone, to return a sympathy call received earlier that day. If you will recall, I was in the middle of nowhere. It was pitch dark. I had been drinking a lot of wine. I tripped and fell on my face — luckily in the dirt.
This did not improve my mood. Ice was provided, Ibuprofen…but no “Can we talk about why you’re so upset?” A call from friends in California allowed me to vent my anger and grief. I sulked in my room by myself for the rest of the evening, posted a few cryptic status updates on Facebook, and went to sleep.
The next morning
I woke up with a black and blue chin and scraped nose — and a heart full of remorse. I had behaved badly. My hostess had prepared a lovely dinner, provided me with a lot of excellent wine. She is a nice, sympathetic person, an animal lover, just not a mind reader.
I did not exactly apologize but explained where I was coming from. She in turn said she had thought we would get to discussing my loss later in the evening. Fair enough.
But people in pain are not disposed to being fair.
The moral of the story
I can’t speak for anyone else; I can only attest to the efficacy of this advice for a small sample of one. But I would suggest that if a person you know has suffered a loss and they know that you know, tell them you’re sorry and ask them how they are. Then ask if they want to talk about it. If they say no, let it go.
But do it immediately, especially if they are from New York and disposed to be a bit clutzy. Don’t wait until they have worked up a head of steam, told you to go fuck yourself, and fallen on their face.
It just adds remorse and guilt to the grief.
At least for me. What about you? What do you hope for from others when you’ve experienced a loss, whether of a pet or a person?