Just another week at the office

“Hey, I am working on a t-shirt design for a memorial run. Wanna’ see it, give me some feedback? You heard about that runner in Sun Prairie who was killed by the pastor who was driving drunk…? It was crazy. Horrible. So tragic.”

(Ok, I’ll look at the design. I can be objective. I don’t feel quite as sensitive about death, accidents, hospitals, tragedies, as I did a few months ago. Just breathe.)

“So why did you move to Madison?”

(Oh no! Not that question again!! I hate that question!! I moved here because my husband got a job here. Phew. There! Done! I didn’t even have to mention that he is now…dead. And that I have no idea what I am still doing here. And that I get very confused about what’s next, and start to feel my heart race in anxiety when I think about trying to sell our house. Just breathe, let people move onto another topic, order lunch.)

“Yeah, we were pretty worried about our dog. She had to have surgery to remove two cancerous tumors. But they said she’ll be ok.”

(Oh. Ok. That’s starting to hit a little close to home. They were able to spare a dog. But not my husband. Stay calm, keep it cool. It’s not the same thing. Focus on your salad. Don’t think about cancer.)

“Oh, so you live in Sun Prairie? Isn’t that where that runner got killed…?”

“Yeah! She was our neighbor…!”

(Geez, are we back on this topic again? I am starting to feel a bit sick, here. I wish this Department lunch wasn’t taking place at a restaurant. I am not feeling calm, objective, or hungry anymore. Might need to get up and leave.)

“No way. I coached her son in hockey…”

“Crazy! Horrible.Tragic!”

(Ok, can we please, PLEASE, move on now? Surely people know when to stop talking about death around someone who just experienced a lot of it…)

“Well, people, you think that’s bad, our accountant’s husband died suddenly. Pulmonary embolism. Then the very next day, out of the blue, her mom died. What on earth do you do when when something like that happens?”

B*I*N*G*O!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  You just hit the target!! It was bound to happen, things were building up, but thanks for the cherry on top! After all, my dad and husband just died last year. Did you already forget? Why ask the question hypothetically? I am sitting right here and can tell you first-hand how it feels. How would that be for a little light lunch conversation? I can throw in all kinds of stomach churning details if you’d like.

(Instead, I somehow managed to say, “Ok, can we stop talking about death now?”, and barely excused myself from the table before the tears hit.)

Just another week at the office…navigating emotional landmines and lunch. Not the worst week. But not the best one either. Sometimes work is a safe place. But sometimes, when you are grieving, no place is a safe place. Though, I never really thought death or cancer were great lunch topics, even before my husband and dad died.

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5 thoughts on “Just another week at the office

  1. The hardest part is that life goes on for everyone else.
    In early grief I would look at people laughing and not even connect with what they were doing, what is that, why are their faces like that, what is that sound?
    I would wonder how another day could happen, how people could go to work, or care what they ate….you know.
    Even today I hear about a death and…..ok. Another dead person. It happens, that’s life. I’m sorry, can I help?
    That disconnect that allowed, and still sometimes, allows me to be in the same room, listen to the talk, nod in understanding and know it’s not about me when it feels like it is.

    I’m not sure there are any safe places. Yesterday I watched a video a friend put on her FB. A mom and son dancing at the son’s wedding, when suddenly dad jumps into the frame and joins in. 5 minutes later I was composed. I never know, I can’t. The farther into life “after” we get the fewer landmines, but they are still there, always waiting to get us.

    I am sorry for your day, I know how hard it can be.

  2. This is probably weird, but I used to wonder what would happen if people who are grieving turned a different color. What if the death of a loved one made our skin turn bright green …like Elphaba in Wicked? Everyone would see what was happening to us. We could recognize each other in public and know we are not alone. Those around us would understand by looking at us, without asking or judging. As time went by, maybe the green would fade. Maybe not. It most certainly wouldn’t fade in the short time those who have never been green think it should. As it is now, we hide our grief like shame and people forget and even worse, think we have too.

    • Wow, what an interesting idea. There used to be more “traditions” around grieving, and even though I shunned wearing black, I completely relate to what you are saying, there have been times when I wished I had a big sign or something, or had turned a different color….that would really be kind of cool. I think we’d see that a lot of people would never fully return to their original color. But there would be comfort in being able to see all the varying shades, and connect with people, or at least be more informed of what they were still carrying with them emotionally. I really love this idea, I wish it were true! Then, for example, I would have started turning (literally) green during lunch, and people would have understood! And, people would see how you are still affected by the loss of your beautiful, vibrant mom. Sending hugs to you this weekend.

  3. people can forget very easily what has happened and don’t realize how painful it is to hear things like this…i have often found myself thinking they really can be talking about this in front of me… but they are…

  4. When I lost my father unexpectedly and I was walking around in a fog, I started understanding those cultures who wear a different color or an arm band or something so that other people know that they are in mourning. I would HATE riding on the train or walking down the street around people who were just living their lives – I wanted to yell and scream at them “SOMEONE I LOVED JUST DIED!! NOTICE ME!!!” As you know, it doesn’t work that way, but maybe it should.

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