This post comes to you from Amishtown, PA. For those of you that don't know Mandy Moore or the shitstorm that's taking place in her life right now, I'll keep this brief by saying that she needed me this weekend, so I'm here.
My first few weeks back East have not gone exactly the way I expected them to. The day I arrived in New York, my mom sat me down and let me know that my grandmother would be taken off life support the next morning.
I don't have the kind of extended family that relishes in each others' company- Grandma was the peacekeeper, and I knew that after the service, there were some (a lot) of people that I would likely never see again. Luckily, my mother and my brothers made the situation a little smoother- we were all trying to be strong for each other, especially my mom, who had to host the funeral at the same place her father was buried. To make things more difficult for her, her cat was put to sleep just a few days later. I assisted in most of the arrangements, although my aunt later remarked that I was falling apart more than anyone else.
I was definitely not prepared for this, and what frightened me the most was that I had no idea how to deal. I've been fortunate enough to live this long without having to cope with tragedy or loss. I never knew my mother's father, and my grandfather on my dad's side had died almost fifteen years ago. I'd buried a few pets in my lifetime, but that didn't compare to this. My grandmother had been a very special part of my life- we were extremely close, and I considered her a friend. I took the news as well as one might expect- I sat in shock for a few minutes and then spent the next week acting like a complete asshole.
What hit me the hardest was when I went to the funeral home to schedule everything and make arrangements. The director asked my mother and my aunt who should be put down as the "Next of Kin," and I realized that someday, my brothers and I would go through this process ourselves. My mom grabbed my hand, and I was unable to squeeze back.
To make the situation worse, my friends back East are- how can I put this?- unresponsive. It took them all a few days to get back to me, and I haven't heard from them again after that. I understand that everyone has their own lives, and I respect that. However, if someone you care about loses a piece of themselves, would it take that much out of you to send a text every couple of days? Especially if you have the time to post pictures of your club-hopping on Facebook (I wasn't invited, BTW)? These are people I've known for years, and I am so disappointed in their reactions.
In order to cope with my swirling emotions, I posted a thread on 20sb. This isn't like me- I'm not one to whore out my sympathy on the Internet. I didn't post my grandmother's passing on Facebook, or Twitter, or send out a mass email, or ask any of my friends to attend the service. I did call Bad Monkey, my best friend in LA, who's been corresponding with me steadily, sent my family a card and is even coming to visit me next week. She was upset that she couldn't afford to fly out sooner, but just hearing her voice has been enough for me.
My 20sb posting wasn't to garner empathy for myself or to let people know what was going on. I just had never had to deal with a sadness this heavy and I was frightened and confused by its effect. This wasn't like sadness- that I knew how to cope with. I'm sad every time the Jets lose the AFC Championship, or when my brother eats the last spoonful of mashed potatoes. Grief is a mixture of depression, nausea and fear, and it was alien to me.
I didn't want to burden my mom, who was coping with her own feelings, and my friends who lived closest to me were of no help, so I turned to the next logical candidates.
The reaction I received was overwhelming. I knew that my blogoverse friends (I'm not going to distinguish you guys from "IRL" because, and let's be honest here, most of you have already crossed that line) would offer consolation, but I had no idea that your responses would leave this much of an impact. I was offered pages of advice on how to handle my dejection and mental anguish. People I'd never even spoken to or seen before posted their condolences. Coyote Tits started a "Worship Wednesday" thread where my friends wrote hilarious epic poems on my behalf (seriously, check this shit out. It is ridiculous). Shelly took over the posting of the Movie Review Blogring for the month because I didn't want to leave my family alone to find an Internet connection. Mandy offered to come to the funeral, and Sara Nips mailed me a bouquet of lilies and a card. When I called and left her a pussy, sobbing voice mail about what an amazing person she was, Nips told me later that my phone call made her cry. Are you serious, Nips? This is why everyone loves you. If I were any more butch (and weren't into penis), I would totally force Andy into a leprechaun narwhal fight. Winner take all- I'm chivalrous, yo.
The most valuable piece of advice that I've gotten from all of this came from a bunch of my friends on 20sb, and they all told me the the same thing. I was warned that grief is a real bitch. It's going to surface when I least expect it, and it might take weeks, months, or I don't even want to think about how long. This is really fucking with my head because I have yet to experience a complete mental breakdown. I haven't cried yet, at least not fully, and I can't figure out why. I hate that I have no idea when this is going to strike, or what the trigger is going to be. Vulnerability has never been an option for me, and this is not a change I'm willing to adapt to.
I guess in order to prepare for all of this I'll have to realize that I can't prepare. I've finally decided to stop trying to "be strong" for everybody else and let myself go through the mourning process. I've spent a lot of time with my mom, looking through pictures and letting her tell stories. I spent a few nights at my brothers' house. I've been bequeathed with my grandmother's Chai, which I now wear as a charm around my neck.
I'm cognizant of the fact that grief will sneak up on me and slam my back against a wall, and when it happens, I won't argue. I'll see it as another connection to somebody everybody loved- even the maintenance men in her building, her pharmacist and her hairdresser wanted to be guests at the funeral.
I wrote this post not only as a form of therapy, but to express my gratitude to everybody who's helped me get through this past month. Thank you to those who I didn't mention by name, who took the time to leave me Facebook and Twitter messages, texts, emails, and however else you chose to convey your compassion (especially those of you who kept checking up on me for weeks after the fact). There were far too many of you to single out, and I feel terrible that I couldn't get to you all. But just know that whoever says that 20sb is not a community and that we all don't genuinely have each other's backs is getting a throat punch from me.
Thank you to those who still follow me, even though this blog fell by the wayside while I had the shit kicked out of me emotionally.
Thank you to my family, for obvious reasons. I'm a lot more solid because of your support.
And most importantly, thank you to my grandmother. She's the reason for this entire post, and she's also partly responsible for the entire foundation of my personality (Brooklynese, FTW!). Thanks Grandma, for everything I know about life, love, and most significantly, loss.