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Yeah, um, death, and stuff

I posted an entry at my other joint today about how we chose Mia's name, and then got an email from my mom saying that the name Amelia had been "quite a shockeroo" because she and my dad had assumed we would name her Anne Elizabeth. I wrote back asking where on earth she got that idea. I mean Elizabeth I get, but Anne? It seemed an odd name to just pull out of the ether and then be positive about. Her response was simply the full name of my childhood friend Anne who was brutally murdered while we were in college. (I hate to put it that way, but it is the only accurate description of what happened to her.)

Oh yes, I thought, clearly. That would have been a really obvious choice. It was never on the radar. In fact, I had sort of forgotten about it. I mean, not forgotten, but it is just a sort of sad and mild memory at this point, something I think about rarely, almost never, in fact, actually never unless something else leads me to it. And god, it was so bad, for years it was bad, and I am a little shocked that it is so... nothing... now.

Mia's middle name did come, at least in part, from a friend who died a couple of years ago (of natural causes, if heart failure at 25 can be called "natural"). Apart from my family, he was the one person in my life I could not bear to lose. He was a close friend, the closest I had had in a long time. There were times in the days and weeks after he died when I would be sitting at my desk or lying in bed and believe that I would never find the strength to stand up again. I felt that something critical had gone from the world, something integral to the continued rotation on the planet, and that sure, I would probably go on to have a perfectly lovely life, but that I would never be truly, fully happy ever again.

And I still miss him, sometimes terribly, but mostly just once in a while and then only casually. A couple of days ago, I made a joke about him to Chris. Not even a joke about him, a joke about him being dead. (It was more appropriate than it sounds, but would take more than I am willing to tell to explain.) It shocked me for a minute, to realize I had made that joke, to realize that this crushing thing, this death, really had lost it's sting.

It made me worry, so I wanted to ask you. Anne died (holy shit) ten years ago, Mia's namesake almost five - is this normal? Normal that it doesn't hurt me anymore, normal that I'm not sad about it anymore? It seems like this sort of thing, these tragic, senseless, far too young deaths should feel like nails in my spine forever. But... they don't, not anymore. Is that just how it goes?

Comments (50)

There is nothing about bereavement that is "normal". Everyone deals with, and moves on from death so differently.

My younger brother died when I was 18 years old... 6 years ago. And the pain is still very intense for me. I can't move on from the anger I have about the situation. My parents, on the otherhand, haven't felt the kind of anger I do for a few years now.

Grief is a process. And no two processes are the same. It isn't important that what you are feeling is "normal" or not. The important this is that you feel.

I think it has to lessen with time, or we'd never be able to go on. If every death continued to feel like a nail in the spine, eventually you really would be paralyzed by it.

The pain fades but you don't forget them.

~Jef

It's normal. You adjust. You get used to the idea that they are gone and while it is sad, the hurt isn't so raw. Sometimes a wave of sadness will come out of nowhere, but less and less frequently.

Or at least that's the way it is for me.

Mel stated it perfectly. It's a process.

The nails in your spine will fade, but the sadness in your heart may stay forever.

There's cliches for a reason... Time really does heal all wounds. Sometimes it takes longer than other times. You're normal.

I think that the rawness of the pain goes away over time and if it didn't we would go insane. There are still moments when I intensely miss my friend who died way too young, but there are also times when we say things like, "I hate Bruce for being dead, he was so good at putting this damn Christmas tree together." In my opinion, it is completely normal to have both spectrums of the emotions.

Normal is a relative term, guilt is a near-useless emotion - don't waste precious time wondering if it's okay to not be gripped by grief every time you remember a deceased friend. To my knowledge, no one has their headstone inscribed "hooray, now I leave you to be miserable!"

My grandfather passed away over a decade ago, at this point my family makes "We thought he'd never die!" jokes about the conga line of deadly events and illness he overcame during his lifetime. I think the passage of time is the only thing that really causes death to lose it's sting. After my grandmother's passed away, it took FIVE YEARS for my family to be able to listen to "Grandma got run over by a Reindeer" (of all songs) without getting misty-eyed.

Sweetie, life goes on. I don't mean to sound heartless, but it does. Last weekend I was lambasted by a woman who "claimed" I was a terrible mother because I wasn't suffering enough with the loss of my child.
It's been 21 years.
Not a day goes by that I do not miss my daughter. Not a day goes by that I do not grieve her loss.
BUT
I choose to live in the present. I have a wonderful husband and my eldest daughter, Amanda is fantastic and alive and well. What kind of person would I be if I wasn't here in the land of the living for them?
Maybe I am terrible, I don't know. What I think I do know is that my Katie wouldn't want me climbing into the grave with her.
Life is for the living!

Everyone is different.

Do you feel bad that you don't hurt more? I feel that way sometimes. Like "if they were this important to me, my heart should be still broken." It's almost like I feel guilty moving on. But I can't dwell on things too too long. I just can't.

And on baby names? Our family doesn't like that we kept the kids names when we adopted them. No, check that, SOME of our family doesn't like it, the others are fine with it. Family can be funny (and not in a "ha ha" way).

I'm with those who say that however you are feeling is perfectly normal for you.

As others have said, we all handle death and the aftermath in our own ways. We have some good friends who named their son after a friend who was killed in a car crash in highschool. The mother was actually dating him at the time of his death and the father was one of his best friends. A nice tribute, but something I've always thought was a little strange for some reason.

that's how it has to go i think. the human spirit, while unbelievably strong, can only stand so much. to keep that kind of pain fresh forever would be debilitating. in a similar vein, i always marveled at the fact that people could get used to war (this from my experience in El Salvador). In the beginning we all worried a bomb would fall on us, after a while, you stopped thinking about it and went about your day taking little to no precaution. that's amazing to me.

I think the time in which it takes before we don't... hurt with each passing moment or cry daily or are comsummed with thoughts of this person and the "what if's"... are different for everyone. (As everyone above also said, lol)

There is no right or wrong way to death and mourning.

Lucky for us, it's how we heal. If every death just kept hurting, and over the years they piled on, I think that would be against our survival instinct.

Both my gramdparents and my dad died last year, so I'm still in that sucky, sad part of all this.

Normal. I lost my mother 6 years ago (see? I could easily make a joke now about how I didnt actually Lose her.) and I dont think about her that often anymore. It seems sad to me that i dont think about her more, but Im also glad Im not constantly thinking about her and depressed all the time.

I think it is normal. It has to be, otherwise how could any of us ever go on through the pain of loss?

I had a good friend who passed away while we were in college (in an awful accident) and it took me years to fully get over the loss. She was SO full of life, it just seemed completely impossible that someone so alive could be gone in a second. I was almost haunted by it all, I just couldn't process any of it. Anyway, for years I kept a picture of us and her mass card on my desk at my parents house. It was always visible. Every time I looked at her picture, it just seemed still as though she had moved away and we lost touch.

A couple of weeks ago, actually, I was at my parents house and Sweetie and I were staying in my old room (as we always do when we go a visiting). I finally realized I should just put her picture away. I thought it wuld be a little sad, but it was fine. It's been just about 10 years as well since she was killed, and I guess it's just been long enough, and I've had so many incredible life experiences (not the least of which is the presence of Lady in my life) that I really no longer feel like I can't process the loss. It's just a part of life. She was here for a time, and now she's gone. I still don't fully understand it all, but I realize that over time (and without even realizing it) I've been able to accept it and just move on.

I think pain subsides or fades to a point where we can handle the thing that hurts us so much. I had a good friend pass away almost four years ago (four years October 2, actually) and I used to have moments of not being able to function with the knowledge that he was gone and how he died (hit by a bus - I know, right?). This time of year, I tend to get really sad for no reason and cry a lot for no reason until I realize that October is generally a shitty month for me even though it's my favorite and mostly it's because I miss Elliott. However, I can talk about him without bursting into tears and I can laugh about things he did and said without bursting into tears and I can say things like, "Wow, it's been four years since Elliott died" without bursting into tears.

That said, I still flinch during scenes in movies and tv shows when people get hit by busses. And I am still deathly afraid of crossing the street when there's a bus nearby and I have to fight the urge to grab the collars of the students here who stand blithely at the curb while the busses speed by at 80 bagillion miles an hour.

I think I will always be wary of crossing the street and I think I will always get sad this time of year. Probably the hardest thing for me to reconcile is that I don't feel that crushing sadness anymore. It's more of a weepy, nostalgic sadness. If that makes sense. And it goes away pretty easily. It makes me feel guilty. But it shouldn't. It's normal.

Nope, it just means you've learned to cope with it, accept it, and live. The best validation to those in your life that have passed on is living. You went on, continued with your life, have the best and most wonderful husband and daughter in the world, and I think they'd be proud of you. I had a childhood friend named Adam. He had blue eyes and kinda curly blond hair and we were two peas in a pod, co-conspirators if you will. His mom and my mom were both single mothers who had met in college, and were roommates. His mom met a wonderful man named Kip Keto who married her and adopted him as his son. My mom re-married and my step-dad adopted me as his daughter. Over the years we grew apart. Then one day when he and I were both twelve, my mom had told me that Adam's mom had called and said he had died. He committed suicide by shooting himself. At twelve! I was utterly crushed and sick to my heart. For here was this young boy when we were about three years old we'd would have adventures, make mud pies thinking they were "chocolate" pies, and scared the crap out of our moms one afternoon we up and decided we were going to school. Almost ten blocks later a police man patrolling the street saw us, and picked us up, because two three year olds strolling down the sidewalk of a street hand in hand by themselves is not a normal occurence. We were soooo excited that we got to ride in a real police car and when we recognized where we live he pulled over, with our very teary, very worried moms waiting in the yard. It hurt for a long time while I was a teen-ager. Doing all the good and bad things teens do, being sad thinking, Adam will never get to do this. He'll never have his first dance with a girl, his first kiss, or first girlfriend. I eventually thought like that less and less until now, years later, I think fondly of the wonderful blue eyed, blond haired boy who was kind, smart, giving and the best true real friend anyone could have at three years of age. So keep living life and celebrate and validate them by doing so. While they are alive or even if they have passed on. Be goofy, be sad, be angry, be loving, be brilliant, be not so brilliant. But just live. Sorry for such a long comment...Lisa

I hope that life goes on to some degree, for how else would we survive? In my line of work, one of the precious gifts I'm given is to meet with a lot of elderly folks who have lost their spouses, friends and sometimes their children. The remarkable way in which so many of them manage to go on with their lives while carrying the memory of those who have passed on before them, is a privilege for me to witness.

I'm not sure I'd have the grace to do it, but I think somehow, when you're handed these things, you just do, and it's perfectly okay.

You did a really great job putting those feelings into words. I know exactly what you mean. A friend of mine died 10 months ago (as I just read on his parents blog) and the sadness comes in waves. But at the same time, I know his spirit lives on--especially in humor. I have made the type of joke you are describing before and understand why sometimes it can be the best way to honor someones memory.

I fervently believe that life is for the living. The best thing you could do to honour your friends is to live the life they'd wish for you to have.

I'm currently with a man whose wife passed away suddenly. The gap between her death and when he decided to start dating again was shockingly short to some people. Mental health professionals say he's perfectly fine and well-adjusted. Some family and friends don't agree with his decision to stop actively mourning and move on, and so give us nothing but grief. Others are absolutely thrilled we've found eachother and are so happy.

I think a lot of people's guilt over "moving on" after the death of a loved one is their own insecurities about being "forgotten" after they pass away themselves. Nobody's really comfortable with the idea that those important to them can and will get along in life just fine without them.

Think about how you'd want your friends and family to live and remember you after you die. Would you want them to pine away and mourn and feel hurt and dysfunctional at random intervals for the rest of their lives, or would you rather they think back fondly on the good times you shared every now and again, and otherwise honour their own lives by living them to the fullest.

One of my best high school friends died the December after we graduated. Of cancer. At age 18. My entire life shifted with her death. I believed I would never recover.

But, here's the thing: you just DO recover, and you move forward. Not only are there periods of time when I forget her death, there are large periods when I forget she ever lived. That is a little scary for me to admit, like it makes me a bad person, or, at the least, a terrible friend, but it is true. And I have to believe that it is natural because I certainly didn't try to forget her, I never wanted to forget about her, but, as others have said above---how could we possibly EVER get out of our own beds each day if we couldn't heal from our inevitable losses and pain?

OK...that was long. Sorry. Obviously it struck a chord I didn't even know was there.

When my mom died just over four years ago, I thought I would never be happy again. I thought my life was over, that I'd walk around numb forever, in a haze. And for a long time, I did.

I can't say it doesn't hurt anymore, because it does, but it's a different hurt. Less sharp. Some days it hurts more than others but the days when it does hurt are fewer and fewer as time passes.

I don't think there's a "normal" way to grieve. You do what you do in order to move on, to survive, to come to grips with the loss. And, in turn, you do what you can to honour the memory of the one you loved...and lost. By naming Mia after your dear friend, as I did with Julia (her middle name is my mother's first name), you're honouring a person that you loved, a life that was worthwhile.

yes. because, eventually, we have to pull ourselves together and have a life that doesn't consist exclusively of pain.

The friend who introduced me to my husband killed himself this summer, following 5 years of battling a crack addiction. Before his addiction, he was a vital, intelligent man with a huge circle of friends. Those of us who lived near him watched him slowly lose himself until he couldn't take it anymore. For weeks after his death, I would look at Bennett and think of our friend because Bennett wouldn't exist without him. It's been three months now and I realize that I'm not pondering his life and death anymore. Of course, his death wasn't as sudden to us because we knew it was a matter of time before the drugs took him, so the shock and pain are easing. I'm sad for not having him in our lives anymore, but I'm not reeling from the loss either.

I couldn't say it any better than everyone else already has.
Don't feel guilty for living with the living.
hugs

if we held on to pain forever, we'd suffocate under the accumulated weight of a lifetime of hurt, loss, and regret.

i echo those who say life is for the living. the fact that you joked about your friend's death, means he's still with you.

All heartbreaks lose some of their sting over time, even the most tragic, unfair ones. If they didn't, we would never be able to get out of bed again. You've experienced much joy in your life since those deaths, and maybe that joy just needed some extra room in your heart, so it pushed out some of the heartache and took over that spot.

My first love was killed in a car accident 13 years ago, the summer after I graduated from high school. The first years after were disasterous. I didn't even realize how disasterous while I was going through them.

I was back home last month, and I saw two of his brothers at a barbeque. I was so excited to see them, and they were excited to see me. They have kids now, young kids, and one of them looks just like him. And it didn't make me sad. It made me smile.

I firmly believe that each person deals with things in there own way. Some may find others way of dealing a bit orthdox, but to each his own. I think that over time, you only remember the good times about that person so the actual death itself fades. Leaving you with only the good to remember. So that when you make a joke about him being gone, its not that your making a joke about the man you knew and his death, its about the person you knew. Does that make sense? It does in my brain! LOL

Normal is a relative term, but I think what you feel is absolutely normal. The pain usually subsides, which is good because it leaves room for the good memories.

That *is* just how it goes. I have lost so many friends over the years...they started leaving me in high school, and the latest was my college roommate in a car crash three years ago. So many friends.

I don't even cry at funerals anymore. I have come to a place of acceptance that death is part of the cycle, and while mourning is natural, so is moving on.

It's not like when your mom brought up Anne, you were all, "Anne? Anne who, again?" You're not forgetting, Beth, you're just being human.

To hang on too tightly to tragedies like that, that's unhealthy and creates an huge imbalance in one's emotional well-being.

You sound perfectly normal to me. Of course, you have to consider the source.

Everyone has already said all that needs to be said except:

My name is Ann Elizabeth (named after a characted in a romance novel my mother was reading at the time).

That's how it goes if you're lucky. Some people never get past the nails in the spine feeling and it ruins the rest of their lives...consider yourself fortunate, and resilient.
My first child, Kyle Christopher, would be 23 years old tomorrow. Today is a nails in the spine kind of day, and tomorrow will be worse. Next week will be fine and the week after that, I won't be thinking about him at all. It doesn't mean I don't care, it just means I am lucky...and resilient.

grief is a process and after time, things feel less painful because we have healed - cliche, but true.

and as an aside, this is the second post in a matter of minutes that I've read that mentions the brutal murder of a friend. Which really means nothing except that I'm sad for a world where people can be taken suddenly and violently from us. And in such numbers that two unrelated people would be writing about two different murders of loved ones on the same day...

i think it HAS to. that's the only way our hearts (brains) can handle it and continue living. we have to be able to put that sorrow in a little box somewhere in the back and let it stay there at some point or how could we go on?

I had a friend named Andrew who I met in pre-school kill himself 7 years ago. And I was (am) devastated. But it is different now, years later. I choose to remember the good stuff. At some point the good memories mean more than the fact that someone isn't there now.

So were your parents suprised, because Morgan was a guy name? Or just because you didn't use Anne as a name? I don't think I could use Andrews name. First it just isn't my style, but also, that is for his brothers to do in my mind.

Was this the same guy you posted about awhile back? I remember the end of your post said, "I miss you, Peanut. Like crazy, baby."

I think that that's a neat way to remember someone as well as it being a neat name.

My grandmother died when I was 13 and it was crushing. She adopted me from my wild teenager mother and was the only mother I knew.

I can vividly remember counting the days after she past. Like "2 days ago BigMama was alive" and so on. I did that for months on end. And yes, BigMama. I'm a Southern girl.

I'm 33 now and she crosses my mind sometimes, but not as much as when I was younger, and it no longer stings when I think of her. I know she's in a better place and honor her for being my BigMama.

It's different for everyone, for sure. I've lost friends relatively recently, and most of the time, it's okay. Sometimes it just kinda hits ya, though.

I just had to stop my reading and come to the present long enough to say "Thank you for the laughs you give me"! I have been reading your archieves for days now and am now up to March 29, 2006 I read "(Wow, yesterday it was my flabby belly and today it is my splotchy boob. I am so hot.)" and it set me off on a laugh tangent and continues as I continue reading. You and Chris and baby Mia are just so very precious. I feel like I love you all and yet don't even know you...lol Thank you again for sharing you life with those of us out here who don't have one to speak of :)
Big Hugs from me...Trish

It is absolutely "normal"...atleast God I hope it is because I feel the same way sometimes when I think about my parents. My mother died when I was nine from a rare cancer, and my father died a little over a year later from many complications, including, I believe, a broken heart. I am now 22 years old, and I can talk about it as casually as I talk about the weather almost. Many people find it strange, and I hate the reaction that most people have, which is, of course, pity for me. But the cliche "Life goes on" really is true. You have to move on with life and look at each day as one that will be better than the one before it. That's the only way I have been able to survive. Rest assured, your feelings are normal.

Yep, completely normal, just like everyone else said. A neighbor boy and friend of the family I used to babysit for died tragically four years ago at age 16. It was so completely sad at the time because he died so young and so stupidly. Now, for the most part I rarely think about him. But every once in a while I'll be reminded of him and I'll start bawling! We all grieve in our own ways - don't feel badly for living!

God, these comments are ripping me apart.

We could not possibly exist if we had to carry around the fresh pain of losing someone. Everyone is different, and for some it takes years and years and sometimes you never really get over it. My mother still cries every April for her mother. She only had her for 19 years. It makes me cry, too.

But - your love will always be constant for those you've lost, you know that. The last thing they would want is people squandering perfectly good living in order to continue mourning for eternity. And I love, love, LOVE that you named Mia in part after your friend. What a beautiful thing to do.

Part of Mia's name is from your close friend. A person's name is their identity and they will travel their entire life with that name. What better tribute to someone that you loved and who made your life better while they were here than to share their name with the future. Whenever someone asks about Mia's name, the memories of your friend will come alive again with joy.
That's pretty nice.

My brother was killed 16yrs ago in a school bus accident, he was 7, and I was 11 at the time. People say Time Heals All, and I tend to agree. Making jokes, and telling stories about my brother happens when family gets together, it is a coping tool. I totally miss him, but I know he is with me in other ways. Our son's middle name is in tribute to my brother. Grief is an odd thing, I had to learn about it at an early age.

I think it is normal to not really hurt anymore after so long. If it always hurt as awful as it did when it first happened, it would be impossible for people to move on and be happy again. And I'm glad that the ache fades after a while. 9 years ago this coming December, my boyfriend was murdered. I was 15, he was 21. Yes, it did take me a long time to "get over it", but after about 3 years I could talk about him without getting choked up. Nine years later, I very rarely even think about him. And callous as it may sound, I'm *glad* I don't think about it much.

I know nothing about how to deal with death-since I've never really had to. And I guess that's a blessing. Although I am so scared that I will have to deal with it at some point and that I won't be able to. It's a scary thought.

I love that Mia's middle name is Morgan. How beautiful.

I think it's normal to move on from a death after a while.

When I was thirteen, one of my best friends was diagnosed with cancer and died a slow excruciating death over the next few years. I remember ever detail of spending time with her in the hospital-- to this day it kind of freaks me out to go into one-- but the pain has subsided and all I remember of her are the wondeful memories we shared.

I think it's absolutely normal for the intense pain to fade away as time passes and for life to get back to normal (normal for each individual). If this didn't happen, the world would be a very sad and depressing place because, well, death is a natural part of life. Even when it seems so incredibly unfair and untimely.

I lost my dad just over 2 years ago. My now-husband and I were waiting to get married until he could travel; instead, he passed suddenly, completely unexpected. 2 days
before the memorial service, I confirmed I was pregnant. I was absolutely devastated - he'd been so looking forward to being a grandfather, and now he wouldn't even get to know that I was pregnant, let alone have that chance. On the positive side, and I had to hold on to it, we decided the baby was a sign that life was meant to go on, and he would have been so proud of his little grandson who we named after him.

My baby brother died 4 years ago Oct,10. I've found that time has made the pain of losing someone a little easier to bear. Not that i don't miss him as much as i always have. I still cry just as hard for him. But i'm able to talk about him and what happened to him without completely breaking down like i did some years ago. I think that's what part of the grief you're at.

I'm so glad you wrote about this. Like so many others, one of my best friends died after a terrible car accident. Drinking and driving sadly... when will we learn. It has been 13 years. While I hardly felt like I could go on without her back then, I only think of her on occasion now. When I do, I feel bad because it isn't with the old state of immense loss and despair that I think I should feel. She's just a memory that I smile more often about now. Yet I feel like I should still hurt just as much as the day she left this world. I think everyone is right, time heals and we wouldn't survive if it didn't.

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