Letters to Mom 004: Anger and Denial Suck


Hi mom,


It’s been a while and even as I start to type this I can feel myself about to cry and I’m sorry. I guess I’m going to say sorry for a while even though I know you wouldn’t want me to.


The check came in the other day. It got sent to Jason because I didn’t know where I would end up. I didn’t want it to get lost in the mail so if it were sent to Jason at least I knew it would end up in good hands. So he got it, told me it came in, and I gave him the address to my PO box. I knew it was coming. I knew it would be there one day when I went to open that stupid little gray door.


And it was there. Wednesday afternoon. I opened the door and there was a white USPS envelope in it and I knew it was the check from Jason. I didn’t want to open it. I didn’t want to touch it. I didn’t want it to be there.


But I did touch it. It was real, and physical, and I took it out and held it in my hands as if it were some precious thing, burning my hands with fire to the point I couldn’t hold onto it but couldn’t put it down either. I walked to the front of the post office. No one was there as I pulled the flap open and pulled out the papers inside. There was the unopened envelope from the insurance company and a photocopy of your obituary.


I was so angry with the check. I still am. I want to hate it. I want to have a person that I can turn all of this anger towards. I want it to be someone’s fault so I can yell and scream at them. So I can tell them how they ruined everything. How the money is insulting because all I want is you. All I want is to be able to give it back… No, not give. I want to throw it back at someone. I want to hurl it, fling it, with all of the strength I have at someone and have them cower from my fury. I want my anger and rage to be enough to have the Universe return you to me, to allow you to come home and hug me and tell me that it won’t happen again.


I miss you, mom, and while I’m at work or doing laundry or trying to figure out how to move forward with my life I can make it through my days most of the time. I’ve only called out of work twice. I went to the second meeting for the woman’s leadership initiative. I mailed off the papers for the ticket “I” got since Zane ran a red light back in February. I’ve been eating at least one meal every day. I’ve been going to the gym. I’ve been doing all of these things and even on the days that sort of suck and I’m low energy and I want to do nothing at all I still end up doing things because I’m me and I don’t know how to not do things.


But it sucks, mom. It sucks so much sometimes and I really wish you were here to do I don’t know what… Make it better. Be there for me to talk to and escape from my life. I miss our hour long conversations about nothing. I miss hearing your voice. I miss you and it’s only when I stop that I am able to process through this emptiness but I so rarely let myself stop. I don’t want to stop because stopping means figuring things out emotionally and that hurts and I’m so tired of hurting. I’m so tired of feeling alone and like I’ve lost something, something that will never, can never, be replaced.


I talk about how the inside of my self is empty and white. Barren. There isn’t wreckage or debris. I don’t know what there is. I don’t want to be a new person. I don’t want to change. I’m not using bits of broken pieces to make something new. I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know what I’m picking up or touching or finding that causes this pain when I’m alone and talking to you.


I know you left the money to help. I know that you wanted me to have it. I talked about it a lot in therapy this week. I got the check Wednesday and had therapy Thursday, so at least I wasn’t able to stew about it in my head for a super long time. Just long enough to know that I’m angry. Just long enough to figure out logically that my anger is misplaced and the most immediate thing I need to figure out a way to cope with said anger.


Yay logic. Who said you can’t have a to-do list while grieving?


In therapy I said it felt wrong for me to benefit from the money. It would mean I was benefitting from your death because the only reason the money is there is because you died. I don’t want your death to be a good thing, mom. I don’t want it to help me be a better person. I don’t want it to destroy me because I know you want me to keep living. I don’t want it to be a neutral event, one causing no emotional reaction within me, because that would mean your death meant nothing to me. Being neutral would mean you meant nothing, and that’s not true. You meant the world to me. You were my sun, my light, my mentor and best friend. You were my mother.


You meant everything to me.


So your death isn’t good. But it isn’t soul crushingly, life-endingly bad. But it’s not neutral, either… So what is it?


I don’t want to hate myself for progressing in life but if I use this money as a stepping-stone to do it, to move forward to where I want to be, then I think I would have a hard time not hating myself. In my head it’s fucked up for me to, in any way, “gain” from the loss of you.


I hate all of this, mom. I hate the confusion and the hurt. I hate the tears that are always there when I drive to work because the thought of obligations makes me realize how trivial everything is. I hate the tiredness that I wake up with because it’s not tiredness from not sleeping well. It’s tiredness from being mentally and spiritually injured and exhausted. I hate using the word hate because I don’t really “hate” anything, I just dislike it to the point of feeling a physical aversion.


Hate is too strong a word for most of the things I feel, but it’s an easy word to use so I use it. At this point it really is more of a laziness issue because “dislike” isn’t all that hard to type, but hate is easier so that’s the word I use… It’s also more dramatic and who doesn’t enjoy drama from time to time, especially during a pity party?


It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to, dammit!


I don’t want to hate the money because I know it’s a gift from you. And so there’s confliction over that. I want to love it. Accept it. Cherish it, forever and for always, just like the USPS box that you sent my Christmas stuff in. But the money isn’t what I want. I want you, and having the money reminds me that you’re not here. You’ll never physically be here again, and that reminder sucks.


I remember we had a conversation one time. I can’t remember if it was before I moved out or if it was one of the times I was visiting home, but I remember we were at home, in the living room, on the couch. Somehow we were talking about death and you said you knew it was going to be really hard for me when you died. You said something about how you raised me to be strong and that meant not doing stupid shit like hurting or killing myself.


Ok… so you didn’t say “stupid shit”. I can’t honestly remember your exact words but that was the gist of it. “You’re strong and I want you to keep going, even after I die.”


I know the money is your way of trying to help me through this.


I don’t want to go through this though, mom. And I want to say sorry for that, for not wanting to go through this experience, but I’m not sorry. I’m not sorry that I don’t want you to be dead and that I want you to be here, and I’m not sorry for wanting something selfish and unrealistic and childish. I’m not sorry for loving you and missing you and for feeling sad.


Well… actually, I am sorry for feeling sad, because I know you don’t want me to be sad. Which is sort of weird, because I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t want me to be angry either but I’m not sorry for the angry side of things… Maybe that’s something to meditate on and look further into… why do I think some emotions are ok to feel, but other emotions, like sadness, aren’t ok and make me feel guilty…


Blah… So I guess this is where I’m back in the denial stage and resisting reality. I don’t want this. I didn’t ask for it. I want to give the money back because that’s how refunds work. If you give something back you get the original thing returned to you.


But that’s not how life works and so right now I’m stuck with the choice of hating life or accepting where I’m at, and hating life is so much easier right now, mom. It’s so easy to sit here, alone, and to feel sorry for myself because the rest of the world can somehow keep going, prattling on with their lives, while I sit here, alone, without you in my life to sit across from me. I know you’re with me, you’re around me, you’re inside me, but I wish with every fiber of my being that you were still physical and could hold me right now.


I still plan to take time off from life. I still plan to use the money to pay for bills and to pay off the credit card, and to have a membership at the dojang. I opened a Navy Federal account so I can get away from Bank of America. I’m waiting for the check to clear so I can pay off the phone and switch it to MetroPCS because there is coverage in Vegas for it.


Everyone keeps telling me the money is a gift. The people who I consider acquaintances make the customary, though annoying insensitive, comment about spending the money wisely.


Every time I hear those comments this conversation plays out in my brain. No joke… Every time…

Irrational Grief Brain: Thanks… but I know this is a gift from my mom. A very special gift. And even though I don’t want it, I’m not going to give it away or do something stupid. It’s precious to me and I want to hold it close to my chest because that’s the closest I’ll ever get to being able to hug my mom again.

I’m not going to go set it on fire or spend it on stupid shit. I’m not a child. I don’t need a reminder to be an adult because I AM a fucking adult.

It’s not your place to tell me what to do with a gift, any gift, especially the last gift I’ll ever receive from my mom. Your not my parent, and trying to be “parental” reminds me that the only pesron who ever had a right to be “parental” is my mom, and that she’s gone because she’s dead so welcome to the “I’ve made myself Jen’s target” club.

Go burn in hell you insensitive jerk-face.


It’s exhausting thinking such emotionally intense thoughts. It’s a lot like when I had to tell people you had died.


“I’m so sorry for your loss. If there’s anything I can do, or anything you need, please let me know.”


Irrational Greif Brain: I don’t know what I want other than for mom to come back. Since I’m pretty sure you can’t do that, there’s nothing that you can do other than leave me alone.

I don’t know what I need. I don’t even consider eating to be a need right now. If you want to be helpful then proactively do something for me, rather than making it MY obligation to figure everything out.

Do you even know how many obligations I already have? I’m not going to remember to delegate things to you. If you want to help than “do” something for me. Take a task, any task, away from me, without me asking, because not only do I not like asking for help to begin with, in this situation I most likely wont remember that asking for help is an option.

I’m alone in the world, ok? I don’t care that you actually exist and breathe and have a life that you’re living with goals and ambitions and dreams. Right now there aren’t other people, ok? There is only this emptiness and Jason and Jon and Lio. And if there are other people, they’re obligations that I have to take care of.

That is how my brain is functioning right now. No one is here to help me. I am alone aside from my family. If you want to help, do the laundry for me. Don’t ask. Just say, “I want to do [insert task here] for you. Is it ok if I come over [insert specific time here] to help you out with that?”

Holy fuck, that would have been so much more helpful than making me remember more things when the only way I’m functioning day to day is by scrawling on my arms with a sharpie marker because there isn’t paper near by and if I don’t write it down I’ll forget it and then fire and brimstone will fall from the sky because I’m the worst daughter ever and mom would be disappointed in me for failing at life.


Yeah… irrational grief brain isn’t a very fun brain… And those thoughts were there literally every time someone said, “Let me know if you need anything.” Which was every, every, fucking conversation I had to have with anyone. So exhausting. And the only thing I said was, “I appriecate it. I’ll let you know if I think of anything,” because that was so much easier than actually trying to think of or remember things that needed to happen right after I had just had to say those words again, “Mom died.”


The best conversations I have had, the ones that make me introspective and not instant Irrational Angry Jen are with my friends. True friends who know how I am.


They actually take a step back and say how I’m one of the few people they aren’t worried about spending the money poorly. They know that I’m responsible and they know that I’ll use it wisely and for things that will truly help me or be a good investment.


There’s slight guilt in that regard because getting a PS4 so I can play Witcher III in my head isn’t responsible, but I know that I need some sort of escape and “down time” sort of thing. I was thinking about getting back into Guild Wars II once I’m back in Vegas as well, though with both of those outlets I’ll have to be careful. It would be all too easy to allow myself to slip into a gaming addiction where all I do is sit at home gaming, absorbed in another world. There’s just something about running around picking flowers to brew crazy potions, or crafting in general so I can whore the action house that totally does it for some part of my brain…


But yeah… to me games don’t really seem all that “responsible”, but if it’s something that’s for mental health then it is responsible… but it’s still a game, so wouldn’t it be more responsible to find a more constructive outlet…


You can see where my confliction comes in…


I suppose if that’s the biggest, most irresponsible splurge I have then I’m doing pretty good. I know you would want me to do something “fun” related. I’m always work and no play. At least that’s how it feels, especially the past year or so. The past how ever long it’s been since I gave up aikido. I feel like that was the last thing I really did for myself, and I had to give that up when Zane became unemployed. There was the Warrior Dash, which was awesome, but I already had the gym membership, which was a big part of that goal. I don’t know. In my head my race doesn’t count all that much because it was such a finite thing. One day doesn’t make up for the months of having to go without, you know?


I guess it’s the way my friends approach the conversation. It’s not a “This is what you should do,” talk. It’s more of a, “You’re going to do whatever it is you feel is right. I have faith in you,” talk. And the, “You’ll do what’s right,” makes me stop and think.


It makes me question, the world, myself. What is right? What would I be ok with? What wouldn’t I be ok with? It’s not an obligation or an order. It’s openness and acceptance and it lets me explore and question rather than being forced into a box.


I haven’t really spent a bunch of time figuring it out, shocker I know since that’s basically my catch phrase right now, but I do have one rule in regards to your gift. I’m not allowed to spend it on anyone else. Ever. The money has to be spent specifically on me, and only me. If I want to take someone out to eat, I have to have some sort of other revene to do it with because your money isn’t meant to take someone else out. It isn’t meant to help someone else survive. It’s meant to help me survive.


So at least there’s that rule. I’m not sure if there will be others. I’m pretty sure they’ll come to me as I find and think of situtations that I wouldn’t be ok with. It’s nice to have at least something to define “right” verses “wrong”. Honerable verses dishonerable.


I keep thinking about the feeling I felt when I got to the hospital that day. April 4th. I keep thinking this past week how it’s still been less than two months and how crazy that is. So much has happened in such a short span of time. It can’t have only been a month and a half…


But is has. It’s been such a short amount of time, mom.


On April 4th I stood in the elevator for the last time as it road up to our floor. I walked down the hall to our room for the last time, sort of surreal like. Almost out of body as I kept telling myself that I would make it through “this”. I would be ok. Somehow. Somehow I would keep breathing, and I would make it to tonight, and I would make it to tomorrow and the world hadn’t ended and, somehow, somehow I would be ok.


I remember seeing everyone standing around. The nurses that we had been interacting with, tons of new people as well, most likely from the rapid response team. I didn’t ask. I didn’t care. I kept walking, walking. I could see our room. Your room. I remember how the hall was so crowded but near your room it was so empty. So quiet and still. I remember Jon coming out of the room when I got there like he knew I was there. It was like a scripted TV scene. As soon as I was there, in the right spot, he came out of the room as if to prepare me for what was about to happen. He had his hand out as if to give me something, so I put mine out as well, to receive whatever it was.


He gave me your mother’s ring, the one I had made for you for Christmas. I remember how you always wanted one because MawMaw had one and you said yours would be so pretty. Two aquamarines for Jason and Jon and a turquoise in the center for me. You loved your ring so much, mom. I know you did because you showed it off to everyone and bragged about how “amazing” your children were even as I felt like a total fuck up half the time because of the stupid choices I always made with my relationships.


They had put tape around your ring so it wouldn’t fall off while you were in the hospital and get lost, and I remember when I got into ICU and held your hand for the first time through this whole experience how I was so grateful that you still had it on. I don’t know why I was grateful, but I was. Maybe because it was normal. Because it was a reminder of life. A reminder of how much we loved you.


I will always remember what it felt like for Jon to put your ring into my hand. I will always remember the weight I felt when I saw the little gold band in the center of my palm.


That was when I became matriarch. That’s when I knew that I had to grow up and be an adult. I remember how it hurt so much to see that ring, and how my face felt so pained, twisted into an expression I’ll never see as I put your ring on my ring finger before breathing in deep, holding back the tears and sobs as I walked into the room.


I saw you there. You were laying in bed. They had taken out all of those stupid tubes that had made it so hard for you to sleep. You looked so peaceful, mom. So beautiful. You weren’t in pain. You weren’t uncomfortable or tired. You didn’t have to worry about anyone coming in and poking you while you tried to sleep anymore.


I remember holding your hand and after a minute or so had passed I asked what we needed to do now. I took charge. I talked to the nurses and the case worker. I called the funeral home and asked about your insurance coverage. I made sure you wouldn’t have to go to the morgue in the hospital. Even then, less than ten minutes after getting to the hospital, I was doing things, because that’s what needed to happen. Things needed to be taken care of, so I did them so other people wouldn’t have to.


I didn’t want Jon or Jason to have to do that. I didn’t want them to have to call and tell a stranger, “My mom just died and I don’t know what to do. Please help me.” And I think the only reason I was able to do it was because while I said those words I was holding your hand, your ring secure on my finger while I squeezed my eyes shut against the tears that wouldn’t stop, while I squeezed your hand against the pain in my chest that made it so hard to breathe even though my voice was steady.


You were there to help me make it through that conversation because that conversation sucked really, really bad, mom. It was so hard to make that phone call and to remember the answers to all of the questions they asked. It was so hard to not just break down and start thinking about how the only thing I wanted was for you to wake up. For you to truly be asleep and to just wake up and for things to be ok. How I wanted to give the ring back to you, to slip it back onto your finger and for it to somehow bring you back to me because it’s your ring and how I needed you to not be gone because I loved you. Because I still love you.


I don’t know what matriarch means to me yet. I don’t know what I want it to mean. I haven’t spent much time meditating on it. I really haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about anything to be honest. Small snippets here and there. Small working throughs. Breakthroughts. Therapy helps with taking steps.


In regards to the money, instead of thinking of it as benefiting, I’m trying to look at it as your way of helping me survive, because that is my main goal right now. Whenever anyone asks me how I’m doing, which I still hate that question, more so now then ever, I answer with, “I’m surviving. You?”


Literally, without even realizing it, that’s the answer I’ve been giving. Yeah, surviving is still benefitting I guess, but it has a different meaning in my head. I’m not ok, and using the word “benefiting” makes it seem like I am ok. It gives this whole situation a positive spin rather than conveying the feeling of it being an agonizing trial that I didn’t ask for.


You’re helping me survive in one of the few ways you still can. I know that I personally need time, and I can use the money to give myself that time, that space, to figure out how to keep going on my own. I have to relearn how to walk is what it feels like. Fuck running at the moment. Maybe even screw walking. I have to make sure I can stand first, let alone do anything else. It feels so awkward at times. I feel wobbly, squishy. I feel like I just came out of some sort of cocoon that I didn’t know I was in. I’m not a butterfly, though. I’m not something nearly so pretty and fragile.


I don’t think I’m a newborn hatchling dragon either though, because what was I for the past 27 years if I suddenly just now hatched?


I don’t have an analogy yet, other than I feel squishy and vulnerable and that doesn’t bode well for other people because I don’t like feeling vulnerable.


I need to figure me out. I know I do, and I know that will mostly happen in Vegas, and so I’m not giving myself crap for not having the answers yet, especially with the realization that it’s been less than two months. Well, duh, I don’t have the answers. Who would, right?


I’m working on that whole “being kind and realistic with myself” thing… I think I’m getting better at it.


I think a big step, the next one I want to take, is figuring out “matriarch”. I keep coming back to that word, to that moment at the hospital where the word infused itself with my being. It means something to me. It means a lot. It’s a heavy word inside my head. I need to understand why it is important to me and what it changes because it changes, a lot. I felt it at the hospital. I feel it now.


I always thought that I would die young, and in my head that meant I would die before you. I never told you that, but I’ve written it before, and it’s always been something in my head. To me, young meant you would out live me, and I know writing that, saying that, drives some people crazy.


Sir mentioned that despite my “feeling” that biologically, realistically, children are meant to bury their parents. This is the natural order of things, and if you had had to bury me it most likely would have been a much harder situation because that’s not how life is supposed to work.


I understand that. I do. After hearing him say those words, I’m grateful for how things worked out. I’m grateful that I didn’t hurt you by dying. I would never have wanted you to feel this type of pain. Or worse pain. I would never have wanted you to have to call and tell someone that I had died and that you needed them to help care for my body.


It’s still odd for me. I had thought things would be different. What I had thought isn’t what happened, and so I’m having to adjust to reality. It makes me wonder though… There was such a shift in myself at the hospital when Jon gave me your ring that I wonder if that’s what “my death” was. It was most certainly an ending of something, and the start of something else.


Other than that, I don’t know what it was. I’ll most likely never know what it was. A lot of spiritual and emotional things aren’t meant to be understood. They’re not things you can analyze because they’re not analytical. They are things you feel, in your chest, in your being. They are experienced rather than explained. And so I have this experience before me, within me.


I am changed. Of that there is no question or doubt. Is it a death? Is it a shift? Is it nothing? Is it everything? I don’t know. I suppose it’s up to me to say what it is, and I guess that’s why figuring out the word matriarch is so important, because it is so entwined with this change, this feeling, this experience.


I realized the other day the black widow from my dream was you, rather than me. That actually made the dream make more sense. The widow in my dream ended up disappearing in the end. Sort of like how you were here, and now you’re not, at least not in a physical form. I should have known it was you when it felt “wrong” to think of myself as the widow.


I didn’t know what else, who else, it could have been, and looking back at the dream, it seems so silly to have not seen the connection to you. Other people mentioned how it was most likely you because the widow is a symbol of strong female power, but in the dream that wasn’t important. The spider wasn’t you because you were a strong independent woman. We both are. Actually, there are several women in my world who are amazing examples of strength.


You were the spider because you were there, and there were so many problems and issues and tasks associated with you. Thousands of baby spiders, and then suddenly you were gone and the baby spiders were still there, getting bigger, taking over everything that was special and sacred, and I had to take care of them all, kill them all, in order to keep what was important to me, to us.


I think I’ve gotten most of those spiders for you, mom. It feels like I’ve been at war. I’ve mercilessly killed and slaughtered most of the issues and obstacles in my life. I’ve systematically beaten down anything that has made itself look like a task. If I get too tired to finish something I save it for the next time I have energy. I hack away at it until it’s off of my to-do list because nothing shall survive this war. I will take NO prisoners and I WILL NOT accept “no” as an answer. These things WILL get done, and they WILL get done the way I want them to be done because that’s what I said will happen.


It was a warzone, mom. My life. Showering… Actually, even before that, just getting out of bed, was, still is, a battle sometimes. And every day I do it. And every day I count it as a victory in my list of vicotries and accomplishments and conquests. I count all of my tasks as part of the horde of spiders.


I still have a few “big” spiders here and there to squish. They’re pretty small, though, when compaired to some of the ones I’ve had to kill in these past two months. They just seem big in relation to all the other small ones, and really, even those spiders are almost gone. Most of the time I want to go to the gym now. Most of the time I want to get out of bed. These normal, daily tasks, aren’t always part of the overwhelming wave from the dream any more.


It’s getting better, mom, and I know I’ll be ok. And I know I’ll be ok in large part because you’re still here with me even if I can’t see you in the form you had for so many years of my life.


I’m sort of written out. It was good to cry, a lot,  and let so much of this emotional confusion out. I still have a lot I want to say, and while I’m alone in a hotel room again I may write more. Maybe to you, maybe as just a musing moment post. I don’t know. I’ll most likely end up falling asleep for a while again because I’m allowed to do that, right? Be a slacker on the weekend… that’s a socially acceptable thing, and I’ve already done laundry so there’s literally nothing super adulty that I have to do. Go me. I know you would be proud about that. : )


I love you, mom. Thanks for being here and for listening to me. You’re helping to keep me sane, even if it’s by making me seem crazy for talking to myself. : D


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