Pain on Hold

Putting pain on hold is what we do daily to get through, to that time when we exit the doors of our offices.  We do our jobs, we do them well, we help those we can, and we make suggestions and offer our career and life experiences to those who can’t figure out what they want.  It’s a big job, this thing of holding off pain, while continuing to do the things that are expected of us at work.  Dave and I have become quite adept at this exercise, this commitment. 

Once the workday is done, and I lock my office door, I look down and watch each of my footsteps…left, right, left, right.  Then I open the front doors to the building, breathe in the night air, and SLAM, there it is.  The pain has been waiting there for me all day, waiting for me to face the night – face the drive home, face my driveway, my front door, my living room…and the evening. 

My survival routine is much like my youth, when I counted the hours to the final bell after 6th period at school.  That’s when I drove myself to the ballet studio.  That’s when I allowed myself to feel those things I put off all day.  That’s when I let the music and the dance steps take over my body, and return my mind to things that mattered to me – way back then.

The parking lot to my office is not huge, compared with the days when I worked in Los Angeles.  It’s quite small, actually.  But, the steps I take from that front door, to my car – take an eternity.  My car has become a capsule of safety –  the inside: a living, breathing forum for my feelings, my loss.  This is where I listen to music that reminds me of the old days when the boys rode along with me; my current days when I am most often alone;  and the days out there in front of me, when I may listen to music that doesn’t have a distinct connection to Owen and Nat as children, as teenagers, as young men.  I won’t know, until that day arrives, though, what I’ll feel on leaving my office. 

It feels unnatural to put pain on hold.  It feels like something we shouldn’t have to do, given our loss of Owen.  Yet, our (Dave’s and mine) immense sense of responsibility to the here-and-now, requires this split-life existence.  We compartmentalize our feelings, our thoughts, our memories – and on occasion, find them spilling over into our working hours.  When that happens, we find retreat in short walks outside, short drives into local neighborhoods, or quick looks at pictures of Owen and Nat on computer screens.  We recover faster now, than in past months, but it doesn’t reduce the depths of our pain on reaching our cars, or our home.  In fact, I think it creates a larger problem – that of facing something unbearable head-on at day’s end, that has been tucked neatly away for hours on end.   

Our family is not unique in this experience.  Most people living with grief, know the agony of going to work, and putting aside their personal pain. 

When I research “grief” as a part of other cultures, I find something quite different.  I find communities who honor grief as a time to both celebrate the life of the departed, and a time to honor the families in their solace.  They do not place a time limit on grief. 

Dave has a co-worker, Susan, that is his support at work.  She is his Lea (she checks on me at work on the tougher days).   I rarely find similar stories in western culture.  I wonder how much this ignorance of the grieving process is affecting us as Westerners.  Are we becoming human beings incapable of processing that which is innate, natural, and expected?  My answer, my guess, my experience, is – yes.  We are changing the way we live, the way we love, the way we grieve.  We are changing who we are, and not who we want to become. 

Song for the night:   I Will Find You, Ciaran Brennan (“Last of the Mohicans” was one of Owen’s favorite movies – I can’t tell you how many times we watched it together – and I can’t imagine how many times he watched it alone – and I’ll never be able to fully explain what the cliff scene means to our family)


~ by Linda on March 15, 2008.

2 Responses to “Pain on Hold”

  1. I just wanted you to know I am still out here listening to you.

  2. I can relate to this. I can remember driving home from work and (I’m ashamed to admit) putting the kids to bed as quickly as I could so that I could sit on my own and cry for the rest of the evening.

    It seemed crazy to me then, but in a way I found I almost looked forward to that time. I knew instinctively that I needed to do this. I hadn’t realised clearly until I read this post that this wasn’t ghoulishly morbid of me, but because I had been holding it in all day. Thanks.

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