Grief is like fog. It obscures the landscape around you. What was once familiar is now mystifying, cloaked. You can’t see very far ahead or behind. The only thing that you’re certain of is the space immediately in front of you. Sometimes, you’re not even sure of that.
My short-term memory is terrible since James died. Sometimes I realize that a month has passed since that day, and it’s breathtaking in the shock it brings. I have trouble remembering what happened in the last 24 hours. My attention span is extremely short. I always feel fuzzy – as if a cloud hangs over everything. I can’t read books. I can’t even watch TV. I can’t sit in the living room anymore, on the couch. Once the girls go to bed, I retreat to my bedroom and sit on my bed. I write. Listen to music. Meditate. Burn James’s candle.
Grief envelopes. It is and is not like I imagined. I thought that grief would be this overwhelming, crushing pain at all times. Instead, it’s a weight, a stone sitting on my heart, on my chest. I can never take a deep, cleansing breath or let one out. Sometimes, I sit quietly, and I can see him in my mind’s eye. I can see his bright eyes, hear his little voice speaking to me. I can smell his hair almost, almost, almost, almost remember the feel of his chubby arms. It’s never quite enough.
Sometimes it literally feels like a clammy hand is squeezing my heart.
Do you want to hear something crazy – something grief made me think?
A few days after James died, and we buried him, I became convinced that we’d buried him alive. The reason being that at the end of his life, his heartbeat became very, very slow. Only 1 beat every couple of minutes or less. The doctor listened to his heart and pronounced him dead. Having pronounced many animals dead, I know that occasional beats can still happen – even if the brain has stopped functioning. The heart is just a big dumb muscle.
We brought him home, and we placed him on the Cuddle Cot – which lowered his body temperature dramatically and preserved his body. He stayed there for 2 days, more or less.
And after we buried him, I woke up one morning convinced that his heart hadn’t completely stopped and then we cooled his core body temperature down (similar to people drowning in ice water/frozen lakes), and he was actually still alive. We’d buried him alive. I was convinced to the point of panic.
I thought that maybe we should exhume his body. I wanted to lie full length on the ground above his grave and press my ear to the dirt, listening for his weak cries.
It sounds insane. It is insane. The blood pooled in the dependent areas of his body after he died. That means that his blood wasn’t flowing. And that means that he couldn’t be alive. I’m a doctor. I know that. And yet, panic nearly blinded me for a few days.
Grief. It changes every day. It makes you feel crazy. Maybe I am crazy.