I’m just feeling down today.

The memorial service for Elizabeth was last night. We drove up from New York so that we could be back in time to make it there. It made for a long day, and a lot of time in the car. Poor Phoebe was not happy to have to get back in the car after only an hour back home, following close to 5 hours in the car. John ended up needing to take Phoebe out to the vestibule before the service began, as we were heading into a meltdown.

It was a nice service, if long. It was the first time I’ve been in a temple, as far as I can remember. I haven’t been to many religious ceremonies at all, and felt a bit like a visiting anthropologist. (I feel much the same way when I’ve been in a church.) I appreciated the ritual and the music. Though I did find myself craving to hear more about my friend. There was a 3-page paper of thoughts about Elizabeth from her family, but I found I couldn’t read it there without risk of excessive blubbering. The service included some words from a college friend of Elizabeth’s, and a poem written and read by her aunt. I found the poem particulary moving, as it spoke of the Elizabeth I knew. Her wit, her quirks and her complexity.

Some of my other friends who also used to work with Elizabeth also went, and I was glad to see them, and to be able to sit with them during the service. A couple more friends couldn’t make it, due to travelling for Thanksgiving.

There were a lot of people there, overall. It was moving in some ways. But in other ways it made me feel small and insignificant. I felt an outsider. I was glad to meet some friends of Elizabeth’s whose names I had heard, but had never met. I saw her parents, met a sister-in-law. But mostly there was a crowd of strangers.

The friend who spoke said that Elizabeth made everyone she knew feel like they were her best friend. And for some reason, this made me feel sadder. I wonder how often people feel this way at memorial services. Peripheral. One of many. It made me feel a bit like I wanted to stake out my claim in the grief. Declare that I had known her for 12 years. Proclaim that I had shared in the pain of witnessing her illness. Announce that I felt her loss deeply.

At the same time, I feel like I didn’t do enough. Or maybe that I really was a bit of an outsider.

I feel bad that I didn’t visit her more often. I didn’t know about her other hospital stays till after the fact. But maybe I should have known. Maybe I should have called more. When I’d call she’d often be too tired to talk, or on her way out the door. So I didn’t call much. I took her to her chemo treatments twice, and would gladly have gone with her more. Maybe I should have offered more.

And I feel bad that I hadn’t told some friends about her illness. And I feel bad that I still haven’t contacted a couple of other friends I’ve lost track of.

Mostly I just feel bad today. And I find myself missing my friend all the more.

Is sulking a stage of grief? What about crabbiness?

19 thoughts on “sulking

  1. oh honey. the complexities of loss. the guilt. the what we should have done. even the staking of our place as you so eloquently said.

    it’s all part of a horrible process. there aren’t good ways to lose someone too soon, someone with this much life yet to live.

    so i’ll leave knowing you made her life richer and more comforting by your presence, and that alone is an enormous gift.

  2. i just left a lengthy comment that of course, was eaten.

    but the gist of it was that there are no good ways to do this, to mourn a life that ended too soon, and all the complexities will continue to surround you, and in the end, i think it’s comforting that you were there, that you loved her, and that she knew it well.

  3. so it wasn’t eaten after all, and you got more of my fortune cookieness than perhaps you wanted, but still, it’s the thoughts that count (and there’s one more)

  4. I think that whatever you’re experiencing as you grieve is officially a stage of grief. And that something closely related to that grief, such as a memorial service, is going to bring out a full range of emotions, especially once it’s over and you’re left with “what now”?

  5. I think that regardless of what you feel you could or should have done, she knew she was cared for and in the end that is what really matters.

    I agree with PM, sulking and crabbiness are perfectly reasonable, there are no limits on grief. No process you must follow. It is a river that carries you along and one day, you’ll find yourself on the shore again. For now, just let yourself be carried.

  6. loss has so many side effects not the least of which is a bad mood.

    I can’t begin to imagine your hurt, and I am sorry you have to feel it.

  7. I think it is at those times when we exhibit things that make us worry we are acting inappropriately, that we are in fact grieving the greatest. I wish I had more than “I’m sorry.”

  8. Sulking, crabbiness, even anger. When emotional floodgates open there’s no telling what might show up. Just ride with it and things will settle down with time. And whatever you were able to do for Elizabeth is worth remembering with love. Try not to dwell on the ‘what if’s’. *hug*

  9. Alejna, I don’t have any advice to give you. I just want to say that I appreciate your openness and your sharing your very interesting thoughts with the rest of us at times when it might feel awkward to do so.

    I know the sort of “outsider” feelings you mention. I think they tend to come whenever we’re involved in a group event surrounding someone we’re used to a one-on-one relationship with. Funerals, yes, but weddings, too, in my experience. Not to mention graduations, bar mitzvahs, and the whole lot.

    To put it bluntly, we’re each used to being the center of our own world. So it’s very strange to be forced to witness a world centered around someone else, since by definition it forces us into the periphery.

    Perhaps the thing to remember is that it’s all just a big network. You can draw all sorts of shapes from a network, but in the end the thing to remember is that we’re all interconnected.

    Hmm, is that a piece of advice, then?

  10. What you are describing is so completely normal. Everyone feels this way. It is so common that is probably is a part of grief. I think it is how we separate ourselves from the dead. If you were not thinking about the relationship you had with her, you would be odd, I think.

    We also all feel like we should have done something differently when someone dies. But you cannot live every moment of your life as though everyone you know might die tomorrow. For example, if you had done all those things you say you should have done for Elizabeth — even if it were possible — the time would have come from elsewhere or someone else. And then you wouldn’t be treating that someone else as though perhaps he or she could be gone tomorrow.

    I suspect — although of course cannot say for sure — that your friendship did mean a lot to her and you were a good friend to her. I also suspect that, if she knew of your doubts now, she would be surprised that you thought you were anything less than a fantastic friend.

    In a year, there will be an unveiling of her grave (almost all Jews have this). So, you have a year to contact all those folks you want to contact to allow them to pay their final respects. I love this tradition because it allows us to spend a whole year processing out feelings for the dead before coming back to say a more reflective and less guilt-ridden goodbye. I think if you go for the unveiling in a year, you will find yourself thinking much more positively about the friendship you gave her.

  11. I have nothing more profound to say than the brilliant comments above me, but I will say I am SO sorry for the loss of this friend of yours and your crabbiness or sulking are not only normal, but healthy. Hang in there.

  12. Hi Alejna, I’m stopping in via the link on Jen’s blog… Just wanted to let you know that I was here, and that I’m thinking of you today. It is so hard to lose a friend. I definitely know what you mean about wanting to stake a claim and announce your grief. I wish there was a better way in our society to process grief and loss. It seems there are no systems in place to help one deal with it.

  13. Sulking and crabbiness- totally okay and expected. it sucks. What a difficult time. I hope you’re feeling a little better now. And have comfort in knowing what a good friend you were to her. That she knows.

  14. I just got around to reading this. So, so beautiful. And I’ve felt the same. I’ve been to the funerals of both a dear friend, lost suddenly and unexpectedly, and a niece, lost after a long illness. And in both cases, I felt very insignificant and very alone in my grief, even though surrounded by at least a hundred people both times. Just know this…whatever you *were* able to do for your friend, it was enough. And also, you grieve the way you must. Be gentle with yourself and allow yourself the space and the time you need to grieve.

    And also, the crabbiness? Check, and check mate. I’m with you. Hang in there…it WILL get easier.

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