giving up the ghost

Stephanie Klein's post got me thinking about the way I have experienced dramatic and often traumatic events. Last summer some things happened that I could not nor still cannot disclose. The occurance dragged on until about this time last year. And as I think of it now, I'm more convinced than ever that Klein is right about not being someone defined by catastrophe. I easily could. I could commiserate on the anniversaries of all the shitty things that have ever happened to me. It's tempting, at times, to give in to the need to feel sorry for myself. But the thing is, why can't I do that on any day of any week. Certainly I have that right. And then I need to get over it.

The thing is, and this goes back to the Cheryl Strayed essay Amy raved about, there is no tried and true method for grieving. Sure, most people would agree that grief is a necessary emotion but most people want the process of grieving to be quick. Klein says, "Life is not for grieving." Not solely, but I think in some ways, we HAVE to grieve. But we also have to not let it define us.

Candace, the first girl I loved, died. I hesitate to say girlfriend because at the time we were together, I did not explicitly define our relationship as such. I loved her terribly and deeply, in ways I cannot describe. Her death crippled me, though we had broken up months before. It was a loss I felt on a physical level. Did I grieve for her? Not at first. At first I was numb, a feeling that lasted the same 2 years of my relationship with J. I escaped to England where I didn't have to run into friends who knew Candace. I lost myself, gave myself over to not feeling. When I returned home, I felt like everyone knew me as, the girl with the dead girlfriend. 'Oh, her? Yeah, her girlfriend like tragically died. And she's like heartbroken.' I once overheard someone say to her friend in the girl's bathroom as I was leaving.

Grief has come only in the past few years. I no longer remember with the clarity I once did, the day her father called to say she'd been in a car accident and was in the hospital, barely hanging on. If I force myself, I can imagine holding the phone until my knuckles whitened and the horrible buzzing noise took over where her father's voice once spoke. I have forgotten the day she died. I used to know what I was wearing, if I was sitting in the car on my cell phone or at home in bed. The date had been burned in my memory. But now, I only remember that it was winter. The day was particularly cold. I remember watching my breath fade as I stood outside, waiting. I know that a few months later I left for England where I would live for almost a year.

The anniversary of her death is not something I think about. I purposefully forget the exact date, though February's end always saddens me. I understand honoring the dead, remembering the time you spent together. And believe me, I haven't forgotten it. But I can't bring myself to celebrate the loss. There is, after all something to be said, for letting go, not of someone's memory, but of their ghost.

Especially when there are days, like tomorrow when I can revel in my 2 years and 6 months relationship with M. Loving her is like breathing in your favorite scent; it reminds you how to really be alive. Life, is not about grief. I think Stephanie Klein is right. It's about love.