Bobby and I went to see Dr Jerry this evening, and it was hugely helpful. Not even because we talked about anything earth-shattering – we just mulled over the same old topics for the most part – but it was Bobby’s second visit, and we’re starting to feel comfortable there.
I did bring up my weight issue – told Dr Jerry that whenever I feel anxious, or stressed, or upset, or angry, or bitter, or pretty much anything in between, I feel an uncontrollable urge for a tub of cream cheese frosting. Like seriously, Betty Crocker’s bottom line has jumped in the last six months. And french fries are also a very theraputic. And I’m going to be the size of my freakin house if I keep eating every time I feel sad.
So when I got home, before I went to sleep last night, I took notes from the entire session, so I wouldn’t forget Dr Jerry’s words of wisdom – now, I have them to refer to the next time I’m in a funk :)
Notes from yesterday’s Dr Jerry appt
Self-degradation is not ok. Eating to stifle pain is understandable; but it needs to be acknowledged as a symptom of grieving and not a reason to judge myself. Belittling myself, punishing and berating myself because my eating is out of control is not ok or justified. Dr Jerry recommended exercise because it’s cleansing on a physical, mental and spiritual level. But he told me not to pressure myself or beat myself up when I don’t exercise, or if I’m “not ready.” I know that he’s coddling me – I guess that’s his job – but it was still nice to have someone tell me to quit stressing about gaining so much weight since Mama died, and assure me that it would take resolve itself in time.
Also, he said that our society doesn’t encourage or respect grieving and death. The funeral homes make up the body and style the hair, and the funeral service is full of platitudes, so that the death is as “pretty” and inoffensive as possible. The titles and euphemisms that Hospice and other organizations give to painful ugly things is just another example of our society’s inability or unwillingness to allow grief in its natural state. He facetiously suggested that “Donna Davis the Bereavement Coordinator” be called “Donna Davis the Coordinator of Things that Rip Your Guts Out”…. He chortled when I replied that I didn’t think that would fit on a business card.
He said that individuality doesn’t exist. Our culture exalts the concept of “individuality” and “the individual”, but it’s a facade. Even the most “individualistic” person is still a result, a reflection, of someone else… someone who encouraged them to be what they are, or who provided an example of what they strive not to be. But ultimately, we’re all a result of the ones we love and the ones who love us.
Dr Jerry said that I’ll be thinking about Mama on my death bed, because the kind of closeness that Mama and I had is rare and enduring. He told Bobby that my grieving will come and go, ebb and flow, for the rest of our lives, and that he can’t fix it, and that he shouldn’t even try. There’s nothing anyone can say or do to make it better, or easier. Time will change the sharp pain to a dull ache, but then some life event – the birth of our first child, Susanna’s wedding, a vacation or even a death of a family member – will bring it back into sharp focus.
I told Dr Jerry that when I feel like I’m not thinking enough about Mama or about the loss of her, I force myself to feel pain. I think about the most painful moments until I feel the urge to vomit – only then do I feel like I’m fully acknowledging, fully grasping the loss that the world has suffered. Bobby replied that he didn’t understand why I would equate pain with Mama, because she was a warm, vibrant person, and she would never want pain to be associated with her memory. Bobby began recounting specific moments – the ones that are his favorites. They include when Bobby and I got engaged – the picture of Mama laughing and hugging me, with her signature, wide-open smile. And the warmth of the house in Townville, where her “Bobby-Wobby” could do no wrong, regardless of his behavior. Her urge to cook and feed and mother everyone around her – Bobby said that rather than an eating disorder, Mama had a “feeding” disorder (made me laugh).
And I explained to Bobby that when I thought about those moments, those happy images that he had conjured, I still felt sadness because when every great memory, there’s a loss of that moment. The knowledge that it’s over, in the past, that the house in Townville will never warm again, and Mama will never smile that huge, signature smile again – the laugh that warmed everyone and everything around her.
So there you have it. Am I distancing myself from the tragedy? Yes – time is doing that for me. But I’m still feeling the loss of Mama, of what we had, and what could have been. And it may sound strange, but it comforts me that I felt that extreme sadness today – it lets me know that the loss of Mama is still with me, and that I’m still feeling her absence. Anything else wouldn’t be acceptable.