Friday, August 26, 2011

Sneaky Grief Spiral

I was telling David the other day that I think I've been feeling sadder lately.  These last couple of weeks, actually.  It seems harder.  I feel weepier.  Tears come so easily, my throat feels tight, and my chest is always aching.

Really, though, I might just be tired.

I said this to him, too, as I puzzled through why I would be feeling worse when really most things are okay.  In fact, pretty much everything in my life is okay.  Pretty good.  Maybe even great.  Except that Eliza is dead.

My friends are sticking around, dragging me out to dinner, crying with me, buying me lovely gifts, and sending me sweet e-mails.  I'm still connecting with new friends and I'm discovering that we have so much more in common than grief and baby loss and getting to know them really does feel like a gift from Eliza.  I have this new job that's just what I want to be doing and it's going okay so far.  I have a car that gets reasonably good gas mileage, a house that's freshly repainted inside, plans to do some back-to-school wardrobe shopping this weekend, two dogs to love on, and little projects to keep me busy.  Really, I can't complain.

But I don't have my baby.  And that makes it impossibly hard sometimes to appreciate the good things I do have.

So lately I've been feeling weepy and worn down and wiped out by grief.  And honestly, I think I'm just tired from my new job, new schedule, new responsibilities, the burden of getting up and leaving the house every single morning.  This combination of old grief + new tired threatens to send me on a sneaky grief spiral any given day.

The new job has me finished teaching by noon most days, but it also has me setting my alarm for 6am (which, for me, is simply unheard of).  I know it will just take a little while to adjust.  Right now, the problem isn't waking up early because I'm still a little anxious about first-week stuff, so it's more like I just feel stretched and jittery all morning, and by late afternoon I'm just useless and tired but I don't want to take a nap because I'm afraid I won't be able to fall asleep at night if I do that.  Bluh.

Of course I miss Eliza and I know that will never stop.  But I thought I'd gotten better at carrying that burden.  These recent events--the tears that bubble up and threaten to spill over during quiet office hours, the pit in my stomach that leaves no room for an appetite when I go to the dining hall on campus, the chest-ache that becomes a headache on my drive home...  These things feel like early grief all over again.

But really, I'm probably just tired, right?  The problem is that if you start out sad and you add tired, you end up in a bad place.

I saw the Sneaky Hate Spiral today (which is hilarious and true) and I thought that a less funny but equally true version of it would be the Sneaky Grief Spiral.  When you start out sad, mild irritations suddenly feel like major catastrophes, and if you're not careful, by the end of the day you could be totally spiraling out of control until your husband says, "Honey, what's wrong?" and you shout, "EVERYTHING!"

And then you feel really annoyed because it really FEELS like EVERYTHING IS WRONG but somehow saying that out loud just makes you sound like you're suffering from teenage angst.

It's true though, that when you're dealing with grief, and you feel tired on top of that (or, sick, or stressed, or whatever), any interaction (or lack thereof) with someone else moves from Random Occurrence to Personal Attack:

Inconsiderate drivers:  How can you cut me off in traffic when I'm already feeling emotionally fragile?  What are you trying to do to me here?  Why do you HATE me?

Whiny puppy-dogs: Why are you guilt-tripping me with your big puppy-dog eyes when I feel terrible already and I just need to lie on this couch and feel sad about Eliza and NOT get you another treat.

Forgetful/busy husbands:  OMG he said he was going to call me at lunch and he didn't and he's probably so sick of talking to me because I cry all the time and now we're going to be one of those couples who loses a child and gets divorced and I already lost my baby and now I'm going to lose my husband.

Busy friends:  She never calls me anymore and I know it's because she feels like she has nothing to say to me because I'm not the same and she feels awkward and she doesn't want to be around me now and now is when I lose all my friends and I should just stop wearing deodorant because WHY BOTHER no one wants to be around me anyway.

Inconsiderate neighbors:  How can you take my parking space in front of my house when you KNOW my baby died several months ago?

NPR reporter:  My WORD can't you talk about something more cheerful?  Do you really have to give the report about the animals who were taken from a hoarder to a shelter while I'm driving to work?  I mean I am already on the edge here.  What are you trying to do to me?  

Friendly store clerk:  How dare you ask me how I'm doing today?  Obviously I am TERRIBLE!  LOOK AT ME!  I look like crap!  I can only wear waterproof mascara!

Person Who Bought the Last Bottle of Essie's Turquoise and Caicos Nail Polish:  Why would you take the LAST bottle when this is the only color that could POSSIBLY cheer me up today?  How could you be so cruel?  Don't you know how hard my life is right now?

Really, it just gets more ridiculous from there.  The sneaky grief spiral.

You take grief.

You add tired.

You get crazy.

So I think maybe this afternoon I'll have a good cry and then go ahead and take a nice nap.  I obviously need it.


  1. Oh, Brooke. For what its worth, I felt terrible around the 6-9 month mark...the combination of thinking I should have "felt better" by then, life trudging on in spite of the fact I wanted it to stop, missing Sam, being tired of being that all just wears on you. Sending love and hoping you have some gentler moments coming your way.

  2. I feel like I'm in one of those as well. Trying to snap out of it, but for now all efforts have been unsucessful.

    Hopefully you will have brighter days soon.

  3. We are definitely in sync! I have had the same kind of tears are on a hair trigger, I am tired yet have trouble falling asleep, get up earlier than I want and I am pretty sure the universe is conspiring against me. Yet in the grand scheme of things, excluding missing my boys, life is pretty good.

    I guess what I am trying to say is you are not alone in feeling this way!

  4. The common denominator to my really REALLY bad days is when I don’t get enough sleep too. You are so right, grief+tired=crazy. All those “crazy fears you have are things I think about too, I am constantly making scenarios so much more complicated in my head then they actually are. And that friendly store clerk is the worst! Why do they always ask how we are…how dare they…that’s when the blinking neon sign above our heads would come in handy…I’m just saying!

  5. I think it's easy to underestimate just how much energy it takes to cope with grief on a daily basis. Wishing you some peace and good sleep, and hoping the spiral lets you come up for air.

  6. I so wish I could give you a hug sometimes!

    No sleep makes everything seem harder. I hope you can get some rest this weekend!

  7. I think getting into the grind of going back to work everyday plus grieving is pretty brutal. It took everything I had to get through the week with some semblance of sanity (and having to deal with people every day.) By the time the week was over, I crashed and burned for the first couple of months (literally spending almost the entire weekend in bed crying.) It did get better. Hang in there. xoxo

  8. I agree with Erica that it is totally easy to underestimate how much energy grief requires. Also, grief + tired = crazy fo' sho'.

    I be crazy this week, too.

    And also, I pretty much LOVED that hyperbole link. So damn funny. And to finish it with the Subway cheese triangles? Made. my. day.

  9. I agree with Monique and Erica as well, which figures given we're all at three years out. I feel for you so much, Brooke.
    This line especially struck me: "In fact, pretty much everything in my life is okay. Pretty good. Maybe even great. Except that Eliza is dead."
    I wish she wasn't dead, I really do.

  10. it's a sneaky bastard indeed. Sometimes for me it sometimes was/is:

    World: How can babies continue to be born and women continue to get pregnant? Don't you know I just need everyon's life to pause for {<>?

  11. I agree with everyone else... grief is exhausting, nevermind adding in a new job, new routine & all the other factors you're dealing with right now. You are at the point where most people probably expect you to be "over it" when in fact you need their sympathy & support just as much if not more than ever.

    When dh & I trained as support group facilitators, there was a graph in our manual based on an academic study, showing the ebb & flow of bereaved parents' grief over a year. There is a real spike in grief around the four month mark, six month mark (big one) & it starts rising again around nine months through to the one-year-later mark. We saw it play out over & over again with the people who came to our group. You are not alone!

  12. LMAO!!! I love this post! Because it's totally me. It's almost a certain mindset I get into, and I suddenly find myself feeling like the entire world is out to get me, and it's so freaking irrational but like you said it seems REAL. Great post, thanks Brooke. I am totally looking up your fave nail polish color now , as I am in need for some pampering. OH, and I totally get the whole back at work / tired / sad combo. This is my first week back teaching, and it is brutal. I'm ready for bed, and it isn't even 8:30 p.m. xoxo

  13. I have read many of the other posts by hyperbole and a half but this one is so hilarious and very fitting on many days.

  14. ah good ole' Hyperbole.. I don't know how she does it but she hits the nail on the head every time. I am so sorry that the spiral sneaks up on you in the way it does.. you described it so well.. and it all just stinks. Hoping tomorrow is a better day (even though I know this post is several days old).

  15. Beautiful and poignant Brooke. This line really got me: "The problem is that if you start out sad and you add tired, you end up in a bad place." SO TRUE.

    I feel this so much in my grief - there is always this need to assess everything else going on in my life besides grief.

    We are only a few months behind you and can feel this depth of sadness so acutely. God, shouldn't this shit be a little better by now??

    Anyway, lots of love and peace to you today.