Friday, June 6, 2014

Day 98: One Day I'll Stop Counting

June 6, 2014

One day I'll stop counting. The days since the accident. The days since he died. I count the days looking for relief in larger numbers.  Day twenty is better than day 10. Day fifty is better than day twenty. Day eighty is better than day fifty. But not always.

Grief has no set guidebook. There is no valid timeline. There are no 5 fluid stages. It's messy and it tricks the griever into thinking the hard days are behind them or the kinder days won't ever come again. Both are not true. At least for me.

At the moment I have a day off. It's a public holiday today in Korea. I had a day of great classes yesterday, a bit shadowed by the news of a student who fell from a building and died a few days before. (Really? Come on, Universe.) I find I'm present and then I'm not. I'm laughing and then I'm numb. This happens throughout the day, everyday. At least for now.

I had some anger towards and illogical fears about someone who's really quite insignificant in my narrative of grief, and it was pointed out to me that perhaps those feelings are misdirected and really meant for Gareth. Perhaps I'm angry that he chose continued abuse of alcohol and refusal to get help over me. Perhaps I'm angry that he could have gotten help and chose not to. Perhaps I'm angry that he had it all set out before him as far as intimate relationships go- a girlfriend who deeply loved him, understood him, and was truly good for him and that wasn't enough to stop him from making bad choices. I tend to not let myself feel that anger because I believe on some level he was not able to chose what it was he really wanted. He was not able to accept the good that was there for him. He returned again and again to what ultimately killed him (whether that be illogical thinking or drinking or both) and nothing could be done about that.

I've had moments of anger, but they've been fleeting. I've really been wrapped in the memories of the love. The amazing journey. The irrefutable connection. All of the laughter. The good. Because there was so much of that. And because I don't want to blame him for something he wasn't fully responsible for.

However, I am to write a letter to Gareth, getting all of the anger out (and not being afraid of it), and then without reading it, destroy it and go for a run. That's my assignment before Tuesday and I can't say I'm looking forward to it. But if it will help me move through this and also help me not focus misdirected anger towards others (that's not the kind of person I want to be in this world), then I'm willing. I'll do it.

It reminds me of a moment at the hospital. Gareth's phone and keys were needed and I opened the black plastic trash bag (which had been under his hospital bed) containing the clothes he had been wearing when he arrived at the hospital. I want to write about the details of opening that bag- the smell, the feel of the damp clothes, the assault of the senses and the realizations I had of the events that took place based on the condition of his clothing- and I feel able to write that. But I don't think this is the place as I'm not the only reader of these words.  I'll leave it at the fact that going through this bag and his pockets was not a pleasant task, and if I'm truly honest it was perhaps a bit traumatizing. But it needed to be done and I remember clearly the feeling of taking a deep breath and saying "Ok. Let's do this. I can do this. Just get in there and get it over with." And I did.

I feel the same about anything I may have to do to get through this grieving process. Get in touch with anger? "Ok. Let's do this. I can do this." Deep breath. Go.

Ride a wave of intense sadness? "Ok. Let's do this. I can do this." Deep breath. Go.

Drive into Gyeongju to meet some friends for dinner and hiking the next day? Take a route that happens to bring us by the place where Gareth was cremated, Gareth's apartment, the hospital where he died? "Ok. Let's do this. I can do this." Deep breath. Go.

The place where we ate many dinners. The ice cream shop where we sat and ate ice cream, played cards, watched people from the window with the two chairs by it. The favorite coffee shop of ours. The place where he popped in and bought me flowers. The corner near his apartment where he pulled me close and kissed me, making us late to meet friends and we didn't care. Walk into these places. Walk past these places. Enter these places and feel the intense ache. The missing. The wishing things had turned out differently. "Ok. Let's do this. I can do this." Deep breath. Go.

Korea is a small country. I can't drive in any one direction without being reminded of times spent with Gareth. The entirety of my introduction to this country and my life here is saturated with memories of him. I can't avoid it. The only way out is through.

I found myself thinking about doing some exploring in these few days off. I went to the online Korean tourism site this morning and a few minutes in felt overwhelming sadness. Not the kind that comes with tears, but the kind that makes me want to crawl out of my skin, abandoning my shell like a cicada. Unable to do so, I find myself instead sitting painfully long moments without moving. I have hit myself with a memory stun gun, as the times Gareth and I went to this site to pick a place to explore are too numerous to count.

My plan of hopping in the car and checking out a nearby hiking trail or temple or museum has been halted by grief. And this is not new. It is nearly 2:00 pm and I'm in the same clothes I was wearing yesterday, having finally fallen asleep on the couch last night about about 3:00 a.m. I have not eaten yet today. I am 8 feet from my refrigerator and I have not eaten yet today.

It takes a bit of something to get oneself up and going, fed and clothed, and sometimes a wave of grief, even a silent one like I'm experiencing now, comes in and dismantles that bit of something. I feel actually incapable of doing anything but writing. Thank God for the writing, as it will eventually move me past the point of immobilization.

What I know now is this state will not last. I know I will eventually eat something. I will eventually connect with people again and I will enjoy it. I went on a fantastic hike the day before yesterday with three rock-solid friends and despite some moments of crying (which just comes- no particular triggers)- I felt good. I felt alive. I ran through the trail at the end, sweat matting my hair to my forehead and ponytail making swishing noises on my backpack with each step, and I felt alive. Energized. Ready to hold my arms out to the world and take what each future day would give me.

And today I can't seem to move. I can't seem to smile. I don't particularly want to talk to anyone or see anyone. So, there's that.

Through this all, I believe I'm moving forward. Up or down, I'm moving forward and this will soften. It will not pass, but it will soften. Gareth's birthday is fast approaching. Then there is the anniversary of when we met. Halloween. My birthday. Christmas. These days will hit, and they will hit hard, I'm sure.

But one day I will stop counting. I will stop counting the days between the present and the moment he fell and I will become full of love for the possibility of the days ahead. Days which have no certainty in number and therefore are full of possibility in their preciousness.


  1. Dear Bridget. Keep moving forward. Nothing wrong with counting.

    You write so well. You are putting so much into this journal - and you are purifying and polishing your writing while you do so. I'm writing as a former English teacher here - you are doing all the things we tell people to do to improve their writing. Write a journal. Write every day. Write about something that concerns you deeply. And you are. You are going through the fire, and as you come through I hope you will see that this journal is a fine thing, writing that I know is helping people now, and in some form will go on to help people in the future.

  2. Listen to Lynne McDonald. I totally agree there is nothing wrong with counting. And you are, indeed, helping other people, as you help me so much. Remember me telling you about Eleanor Vincent, a journalist, who wrote "Swimming with Maya: A Mother Memoir..." She wrote in her journal as soon as she could get past the immobilization and talks her writing and her process in her book. My loss was a child loss, likes hers, but had a different complication to the grief process. Yet I could totally relate to what she wrote. Perhaps writing more would help me. I'm not reading for an angry letter to Jessica; perhaps, when I am, it could help.