One of the first things I picked up from my daughter’s apartment was my coffee mug given to me by a friend. It was an image of a zebra with the words “nothing is ever black or white”. It seemed fitting for the situation. When I tried to look up reasons for insomnia, and the general lack of meaning for daily tasks, such as cooking and shopping, the definition complicated grief popped up.
The Mayo Clinic states, “for some people, feelings of loss are debilitating and don’t improve even after time passes. This is known as complicated grief, sometimes called persistent complex bereavement disorder”. The timeline is a bit unclear, some define it at six months out, some a year and further out. I think all grief, besides the loss of possibly a 97-year-old grandmother that died peacefully in her sleep, is most likely complicated. I realized today that my therapist was already having me work through some of the tricks of the trade such as writing a letter to people I have unresolved feelings about.
I think some of this work, dealing with the before, during and after of a deep loss, and facing your anger, your many emotions, is like untangling a wad of necklaces. If you are a woman or you have ever helped a women untangle such a mess, you know what I mean. There are some tangles that have to be left and for now, at least, cannot be undone. Dealing with all of these unresolved feelings and emotions, writing them down and acknowledging them on paper or a tablet, is part of untangling of those complications. At least I hope.
A few weeks ago, probably due to my lack of sleep, I stuck my thumb in the door jam of a very heavy door early in the morning at work. The door slammed shut and my thumb went flat for a second like the Flat Stanley the kids send around. Immediately the thumb began to swell. When I was at home I realized my pain was at a ten out of ten and I had to drill the nail. With a hot paperclip and a glass of wine, I put it through the nail like butter. It drained like the Bellagio fountain. I realized that I never thought I would have the ability to do the procedure on myself, but as I now know, you never know what you are capable of until you are faced with it. I have had multiple people tell me they are amazed by my strength, but like my nail, I had no idea what I could endure until I had to endure it. A couple of weeks went by and I could feel my nail was loose. As I tried to paint it, the sad nail came off.
Day after day I have been looking at this exposed nailbed and it has been the closest thing visually to describing the process of loss. The nail that is growing in is small and permanently altered. The nail bed is exposed. The new nail is thick and stronger from the damage. Like the process of dealing with the emotions, the exposed nail sits raw and ready to heal. Never the same, but heal, very, slowly all the same.
If you know someone going through this process, just know there is usually many emotions swirling around and every day offers its own challenges. If you ask that person how they are doing or what they are doing this weekend and they shrug their shoulders, just know that’s code for, It’s complicated.