On Grief and Empty Spaces

It is hard to explain the tangible feeling of grief. This morning at 4:00 am I was startled awake by a disturbing dream. Once the fog of sleep and the distress of my pounding heart subsided, all that was left was this “pit-of-the-stomach”, nauseating feeling of sadness that basically drove me to the fetal position.

I had a friend tell me a story once about a family member that was forced to live the rest of their days in a facility due to a very serious past drug addiction. Their knowledge and their memories became this loose concept that prevented them from functioning correctly. My friend would tell stories about how they would go and visit this family member and how sad it would be that the family member could not remember who they were, who the visitors were, and anything about the past. The saddest part though, as my friend told it, was that there were these brief times during some of the visits were the family member would have these moments of clarity and everything came back into perspective. The realization of it all would drive the individual into this catatonic, melancholy state. To remember what they had done and where they were would overwhelm them. Then they would slip into sleep and that feeling would slowly dissipate and the numbness of ignorance would take back control.

The hardest times for me concerning grief is when I fully remember something. How something tasted or felt. The emotion connected to an event or an idea or an object. The words that I said and did not say. The words that were said to me. These moments of full and complete clarity related to an actual event that took place in my life and all of the emotions related to that event. I think I am having trouble getting around the grief because it all feels so real. These moments (which unfortunately continue to play out in my dreams) have this powerful effect on me. They make me miss what was lost, regret what was done, yearn for missing intimacy, and hate what I did and did not do. To the point that I eventually feel overwhelmed before slipping back into a feeling of numbness.

It is hard to function in this state. It is hard to stay focused, when all I can do is play old memories of times of happiness and sadness in my head. It is hard to enjoy things like friendships and experiences, when eventually something will remind me of you and it all comes flooding back. And it is hard to sleep, when I can still remember the feeling of reaching out and finding you a foot away from me. But now when I reach out in the dark all that I find is empty space. I think I feel like empty space.

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