Grief can be fatal

The boy’s first picture

If there was a single moment that captured everything about my cleaning out Alison’s closet, it was when I found her Filofax, opened it, and something fluttered out.

For those of you that didn’t know her personally, this was a rarity. Because she was the single most organized and clean person I knew. Nothing fluttered out of anything when she was here because she always put everything away where it belonged.

But what fluttered out was a sonogram of the boy. Our first picture of him.

I remember walking into the room one day and catching her staring at it with a look of such love. Realize now that she musta taken out that sonogram a million times to just stare at her son.

Several friends and acquaintances have recently had babies. While I’m thrilled for them, it reminds me how much we’ve lost.

And I don’t think anyone except a mother could truly understand what must have gone through her mind when she was told she had cancer and would die.

Do you know the very first fucking thing she said to me was? Not about herself or even the cancer. It was,

I won’t see him grow up?

She cried for 24 hours straight after that. I didn’t think a body could cry so much. It was only five days after he was born. Fuck all.

Goddammit. Just typing that hit the pain button full-on and I’m trying not to be a basketcase.

So I put away the photo and try to not think about my most aching possible past.


Just watch the first four minutes. It’s worth it.

I’m putting stuff away cause, unchecked, grief can definitely be fatal. If not for Mouse and the boy, I wouldn’t be here.

In the past 45 days or so, a number of people that have been experiencing grief have reached out to me, exactly as I did to Leigh’s husband when Alison died. And like him, I’ve been trying to help as much as I can.

It’s hard. Cause I gotta dredge up things I’d rather not. But people like Leigh’s husband did that for me so I gotta do my part.

The thing is, you don’t know true grief until you feel it yourself.

And, while I wish you wouldn’t, you will, cause there’s nuthin you love that you won’t lose someday.

If you’re lucky, your grief will only be a small fraction of mine, which – trust me – is a blessing.

In fact one fella I spoke to whose wife died of cancer and left him with two boys told me, “Wow, I wouldn’t think it possible that someone had it worse; but you two’ve had it worse. I’m sorry.”

It’s a shitty achievement we’ve unlocked and one that I wished we didn’t, but, then again, I wish for a lotta things.

In any case, whenever I speak to someone about their grief, I’m reminded of the kid that said that I shoulda moved on after a year. As the video notes, you never move on; you move forward.

Evilly, I used to wish that she’d feel my grief for herself – like I said, I’m not a good person – but I was different then.

Now I just feel pity for her cause she’s just a dumb kid that’s never dealt with it. For better or worse, she will feel it one day, and I don’t think she’s equipped to deal with it.

I barely was. I barely am.

Now, I did promise Alison that I’d be here to take care of her son.

I didn’t mean it then. But I do now. I do. Really. Although there are moments that take your breath away, and not in the good way.

Me: Goodnight, kiddo.
Boy: Mommy’s sick.
Me: What?
Him: She’s sick. She died. She won’t get better.
Me: (dumbstruck)
Him: I love mommy. But she died.
Me: (fuck me) Get some sleep.


As I was writing this, one of the two people I still mentor called me to tell me that he’s worried about cancer with his aunt that raised him.

Man, it really is the emperor of all maladies.

Location: Earlier today, midtown, wishing I had an electric scooter
Mood: thoughtful
Music: in your shirt, the pain it really hurts

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Hitting the button

©Lauren Herschel

Closure is a myth

Was planning on just going on a bender this past weekend because the kid was supposed to go with ABFF to NJ for a cancer walk. Unfortunately/fortunately, he got sick.

The Gymgirl’s upset with me for reasons I don’t fully understand.

But I will say that, after not speaking for a week or two, I asked her to watch him because there was something I had to do on Saturday morning (which I’ll tell you about some other time).

She came, no questions asked, and left as soon as I was back. She even made coffee and brought me some rum. And wrote a lovely note to me, the kid, and Alison, to boot.

Like I said, a boy could fall for a girl like that.

Some friends came by later on that night, I think they were worried about my being alone.

Him: What do you have to drink?
Me: Rum. And cinnamon whiskey.
Him: (groans) So, what’s going on with you and the Gymgirl?
Me: I’m not sure.
Him: You should try to work it out.
Me: (laughing) You just like her, which makes sense. But she’ll make her decisions and I’ll respect them.

Drinks at The Aviary in NYC

Her: So, how was your Mother’s Day?

People keep asking me how I was this past weekend, so lemme start by telling you that – over the past two years – I’ve met a number of people that make offhanded comments about my needing closure from what happened.

Sociologist Nancy Berns wrote a book on it and said, “It’s not the dominant narrative in research in bereavement, but it is in popular culture. Those who are working with people who are grieving tend to be less likely to use the concept.”

In other words, “closure” is a word used by those that never dealt with true grief.

I met a lot of people the past couple of years that characterized Alison and my father’s death almost like a high school breakup, where one needs closure to be alright.

You’re never alright watching the people you love adore die. There’s no closure, no peace.

Robin Williams said, in Good Will Hunting, You don’t know about real loss, ’cause it only occurs when you’ve loved something more than you love yourself.

I remember wanting to grab this person and telling her:

It’s not like when Jimmy broke up with you in eighth grade, Cathy. Why don’t you watch two people you love more than yourself suffer and die slowly – for years – and then talk to me about what I need?

On the flipside, my brother sent me what may be the best explanation of grief I’ve ever read/heard from a blogger named Lauren Herschel, who was, in turn, quoting her psychiatrist.

She said that grief is like having a box with a pain button on the inside and a large ball in that box. In the beginning, every movement causes the ball to hit the button and course pain throughout your body.

I thought I’d share the Ball in the Box analogy my Dr told me pic.twitter.com/YfFT26ffU8

Over time, the ball gets smaller and still bounces around inside the box; it hits the button less, but when it does, the pain is just as crippling as ever.

That’s the truest description of pain/loss/grief I’ve ever read, versus closure, which is teenage angst horseshit.

I’m fine most of the time and most days. But, when I’m alone in my apartment, I’ll just randomly scream. Legit, scream.

My neighbors must think I’m a madman.

But that’s what happens when the grief button is hit. You fall to your knees and you scream.

I’m on my knees less these days. But it’ll never fully goes away.

Anyway, my Sunday was spent drinking, hitting that goddamn button, and screaming.

So, that’s how my Sunday was.

Me: (shrugging) Oh, you know, the usual…

Location: the gym, trying to sober up
Mood: hell
Music: I can never get over the love
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No place to go

Loss and threat of loss

ABFF: I read about the breakup and your insomnia, are you ok?
Me: Strictly, speaking, I haven’t been ok since November 8, 2015. But I’ll survive. After all, that’s what I do, right?

Wrote once that anxiety is fear of the hypothetical. But if you look at it from the fear side of the equation, there are really only two types of anxiety:

  1. Fear of loss
  2. Fear of the threat of loss

I’ve dealt with the horrible realization of some of the worst fears any human being can imagine. Repeatedly. And whenever I thought no horror could top what I was experiencing, life was like: Not done with you yet, man.

On a smaller scale, some fears regarding the Gymgirl were realized recently. As I said, everyone’s grief is grief to them, even when they’ve dealt with the worst-of-the-worst for so long.

After all, I adored the girl.

This blogger named Jamie Anderson wrote:

Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give, but cannot. All that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.

The start of my insomnia was actually because the father of one of my oldest and dearest friends just passed away, in a similarly horrifying and grotesque way. I actually fell to my knees when I heard. Literally, my knees buckled. Because I knew everything he was feeling and felt it with him.

What happened with the Gymgirl happened the very next day and just added fuel to the fire.

Agony plus grief is, well, just a lotta f__king grief.

I sent my buddy the quote above in the hopes that understanding grief would make it a little more bearable. It did for me. Kindasortamaybe.

The plus side of this type of grief is clarity, i.e., the disappearance of anxiety. My buddy, I hope, has some peace cause the hypothetical becomes concrete.

Although, I’m sure he, like I, wish it were all concrete in the opposite direction. Then again, I wish for a lotta things. Like I wish I sold my bitcoin back at 20K.

For me, I now know all this information that I never knew before about my relationship with the Gymgirl. She knew, I didn’t, rather.

If nothing else, this new info allows me to see things in a different light, and that’s somehow better. Somehow.

Her: I’m sorry, Logan. You don’t have time for this.
Me: (dismissively) Don’t worry about me, I’ve been through this, so many times, before. Sometimes you’re the dumper, sometimes you’re the dumpee. I’ve always said that I prefer being the dumpee if given the choice.
Her: Why?
Me: (shrugging) Cause there’s nothing for me to do but take my ball and go home. Now she and I both know what’s in the other person’s head. It’s too bad we weren’t listening to each other this whole time.

Him: [The Gymgirl] sounded great. Can’t you two work it out?
Me: (rolling eyes) How do I do that? Make a 15-slide powerpoint presentation that starts: Reason 1 that the kid and I should be enough…? That’s not how it works. She’s an adult, I gotta respect the choices she makes. But there is an upshot to alla this.
Him: What’s that?
Me: (thinking) I now know that I can feel something for someone again that’s not Alison. That’s eye-opening. Was always worried that it would just be a parade of randos that I’d have to somehow explain to the boy.
Him: (amused) So, no parade of randos?
Me: Well, I didn’t say that. The boy has his own room, I could always…
Him: (laughing, interrupting) I’ve seen your powerpoint presentations. You should consider that first, Logan.

Gradgirl once told me: I could never love someone that wasn’t in love with me.

That was good advice.

I joke about the parade of randos but some people leave a deeper mark on my life than I care to admit.

Location: on a white couch with the boy
Mood: okay
Music: we are fools. Throw our lives away, for one happy day
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Dealing with the anger

My normal’s not normal

Boat Basin Cafe in Riverside Park

There’s not much to do these days but wait. So I pass the time with conversations and trying to get back into the real world.

It’s hard watching the news lately. Partly because of Trump and his racist idiocy. Partly because both Serria Leone and Burkina Faso are in the news lately.

Alison used to go both nations regularly to try and help people. She put herself into harm’s way all the time for others and I could not have possibly been prouder of her.

That Trump and his ilk are alive and she is not enrages me.

A buddy of mine and I met up for lunch the other day. He told me his mother committed suicide. I never knew.

Me: How did you survive that? I’m asking everyone because I don’t know how to.
Him: (shrugging) You do, somehow. But you never stop being angry. I’m angry right now thinking about it – and that was years ago.

It concerns me that my son is around me so much. I’m told they absorb everything. So I try my best to hide it all. The anger, the sadness, the creeping madness.

Me: I worry about the kid. I mean, a few times a week, I gotta put him in his crib so I can go to the bathroom so he doesn’t see me cry. That’s not normal.
Gradgirl: (gently) That totally normal. (laughing) That’s probably the most normal thing about you.

He and I sing a lot of Jackson 5 and Stevie Wonder to pass the time. I do, rather, and very off-key. He just claps.

Me: Man, you better develop some rhythm when you get older; your mom was the best dancer I knew.
Him: (laughs, claps off tempo)

And I find what little amusement I can here and there.

Me: College? (thinking) I graduated in 1993.
Daisy: I was one then.
Me: Gah! I just threw up a little in my mouth.
Her: Me too!

Location: the waiting room of life
Mood: conflicted
Music: Trying to live without your love, is one long sleepless night

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