When Death Sits on My Face

I went to a therapist for the first time with the intention of getting over my brother’s sudden death after trying to save him. When my father died, it hit me harder the second six months. I needed some coping skills. I wanted to expedite the process of grieving. Get over it faster.

“I know you want to move on quickly. Are you avoiding the death of your brother?” my therapist asked.

“Are you kidding me?” I said and threw my hands in the air while looking skyward. “Death is sitting on my face.”

It has taken up residency in a part of my brain and won’t move out. I would love to give it an eviction notice. Better yet, break down the door and beat the crap out of it.

While sprawled out in a recliner, death takes control of the remote and oozes a lens over my eyes throwing everything askew. My clouded perception warps sunny days and blows a draft through my heart. I shiver.

I’m done with death.

It’s a lying, cheating, deceitful son-of-a-bitch. I don’t want anyone to die ever again.

When I told my friend, Bill Hurtley the funeral director, he laughed.

“That would be a disaster.”

I imagined airlines for the elderly and low profile nursing homes replaced by skyscrapers. Soon there would be more golden agers than any other age group.

“So what?”

It’s been a struggle. Death comes in waves. My waves are timed different than everyone else in my family. While one of us is chillin’ in the water doing the backstroke, another is drowning. It’s unpredictable.

The water metaphor comes up all the time. It’s ironic how we arrived home to water pouring through the ceiling. “You should immerse yourself in death,” said my therapist. “Write about it.”

“Do I have to?” I felt like a kid who was told they couldn’t go out for recess, but had to stay inside to do homework.

Here goes:

Back in Wisconsin, I had a beautiful dream about water. I soaked in a vast infinity pool in a room where everything was covered in cream-colored marble. Gorgeous. Alone, the sound of water soothed me, although the temperature was cooler than I’d like. I stepped out and walked down endless smooth steps as a gentle waterfall trickled past my bare feet. I smiled and woke up.

I’ve had a strong desire to swim ever since. I’m desperate to wash away this broken feeling in my gut. Thoughts of baptism and rebirth keep seeping from my subconscious. Weird.

We grow strong attachments to the ones we love. When they die, it tears a part of us emotionally and physically. That feeling is real. The gouge, torn in my flesh, seems irreparable, infected, and sore. Unpredictable triggers throw salt on the open wound.

Then I imagine water pouring through me to repair the damage. I remember that feeling of walking out of the pool whole again. What was that?

Hope, a little peace, maybe even happiness.

Skiing after my brother's death carrying weight in every turn.

I went skiing last weekend. I’ve skied after breast cancer, a partial knee replacement, and after my dad’s death. But with this shock, I carried the weight of death in every turn. Yet at the end of the run, I smiled. That’s hope.

Life moves on and I go skiing.

My brother died on March 11th, two days after my mom’s birthday. My birthday is April 11th. In a week, I’ll lock death’s guest bedroom door and will sneak off to take a holiday from grieving, if only one hour at time. I’ll take baby steps toward that marble pool.

Things will get better. Death will stop sitting on my face. It will pack its bags and the wound will heal. I wish I could expedite the process. If only I could snatch the remote from its rotted fingers and hide the batteries.

How do you handle hardship? Have you ever wanted to kick someone out of your head?

Related posts:

I Celebrated a Birthday, but Failed to Save a Life

A Cosmic Joke after Trauma


117 thoughts on “When Death Sits on My Face

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  1. I agree with your therapist that you have to deal in the moment with all the lousy feelings associated with death. The only way through it [grief] is to do it. Writing out your thoughts and realizations is a great way to process what happened to them, to you. My condolences on your loss. And a spirited “hang in there” about your ridiculous home disaster.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. When I woke up my computer this morning Facebook was front and centre with one of those “Memories”. It was a blog post I don’t remember writing called, “Celebrations” from six years ago. I had to click on it. It was about my father’s death six years ago. When I finished reading it I still didn’t remember writing it but it documented a what was happening to me. Then up pops a notification that Susie has a new post. You had hinted at it in our last communication so I wanted to read it right away. You know already that I thought seeing the therapist was a good thing, mostly based on my own experience. I’m glad you have that. However, you made me realize how very fortunate we are that we have this other outlet. “Write about it”. How wonderful that we can write about our pain and heartache…and joy as well. We can put down words on paper and express ourselves. What a gift. There are many who wouldn’t be able to use that tool to heal. I can’t imagine how hard it would be without writing. Yes, and my therapist. I hope you can use both to get through this heart break.


    1. Life is ironic. I’m glad you thought of me after reading your post. It’s still shocking and it’s compounded by worry about my mom, but I am feeling better.
      I’ve had a lot of unorthodox ideas about death like this that are somewhat funny, so I’ve been writing them down. Like my Boob Reports, I tend to process life with humor otherwise it’s too depressing. 🙂 You’re right. Writing is a gift.
      Thanks so much!


  3. Two points. It hasn’t been a month. Give yourself a break. And, from a long time ago. “The river flows in its own time. You can’t slow it down, nor can you speed it up.”


  4. I am glad you are talking to someone about this tragic loss & hoping that writing about it gets some of those feelings & thoughts out of your head & your heavy heart. As always, sending you hugs & the hope that you can find a little sunshine & joy each day, even if it’s just long enough to shut out the dark for just a few moments.


    1. Thanks, Lynn. My therapist thinks I’ll only need to come in a few times. It has helped with my point of view, like the fact that I was there when it happened. Like birth, death changes everything. I’m still looking for that zapper. (remote)

      Liked by 2 people

  5. It’ll go when it’s good and ready. Seeing as you’re talking about water – many years ago I remember questioning how we can love so many people and whether we can we run out of love to share around, and someone said to me that it isn’t like portions of love that get shared out, it’s like a big pool of love that everyone we care about swims in. Someone is now missing from your pool, but their place in your pool is still there, and will always be there. Damn, I wish I had something really wise to say now to finish that off and make all the difference, but that’s all I’ve got! I started to type a few things about them being physically gone from your pool but leaving their ripples behind, but it all just sounded rather trite so I deleted it…Anyway, you’re strong, you’ll get there!


    1. I love it! I’m all about metaphors to explain how I feel. It was so strange to dream something like that. Stranger yet that I was somewhat chilly in the dream, but woke up warm. My pool has really thinned out, but it will fill again with new friends and family members. Ironically, my nephews wife is due in July. My brother was born on July 7th. I’m not ready for grandkids, but that will happen too! It’s all a part of that great circle and dipping in and out of the pool.
      Thanks, Vanessa!


  6. What a blessing it is to love somebody. And I can not imagine what it is to lose a love, to wonder where they’ve gone, when it doesn’t seem possible that they could ever walk away without a last hug and a message of love, but there can always be a memory of a playful time because laughter has always been love when siblings love to remember a last giggle. So much joy to remember. I can imagine what a beautiful voice would sound like as he spoke in an ordinary place in the kitchen and somehow in a recipe he said, “I love you.”
        I have always hated every member of my family except my baby brother who I loved instantly. It is so good that most of the curmudgeons in my family are dead because their funerals are unnecessary for the commemoration of the empty worthless lives that they screamed about. My family dies one by one without a tear drop. And I hope to be done soon too.


  7. I’m a man who was a child when his family came home and, without my understanding why, told him his father was dead. That was forty-three and a half years ago, and it still hurts. Life indeed is necessarily bounded and features departures all the way through. One must, I’ve concluded, simply be stronger than whatever comes for us, and it begins with the contented acceptance of simply being. Life will never stop doing what it does. Neither should we.


    1. It must have been horrible to face death as a child. I had the naive notion that going through the death of loved ones would prepare me for more of it, but it doesn’t. We have to go through the painful healing process with each loss. Life changes and adjusting is painful.
      I totally agree that we are out of control of life and death. Luckily, I’m not wallowing away my days. What I didn’t include in the post was the therapist wants me to share what I write to help others, hence this post, but I won’t share everything here. For one thing, I have to get back to my wild life, starting with a trip to Aspen!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. It takes as long as it takes and each of us is different and processes it in our own way. There’s no secret recipe to make it go faster – at least not that I’ve found.
    Remember to be kind to yourself and most of all, don’t be afraid to lean on those who love you when you need it.
    Happy Birthday in advance 🙂


  9. Sounds like you quite literally need to go swimming–pick a warm hotel pool somewhere and jump in! (I almost said a mikvah, but I’m not sure if they let gentiles in that aren’t converting.)

    Or perhaps it’s time to take up floating…


    1. I forgot to mention…it’s funny this pops up when I’m supposed to be headed to therapy today! I usually go on Wednesdays but–and this is surely not a coincidence–we had to postpone last week, because my therapist put down one of her kitties. (I say “supposed to” because it’s awful nasty out there right now…)


      1. I heard about the weather in the east. We got a dump of snow, but it melted right away. I hope it doesn’t effect our fruit trees.
        Therapy is cool. I’ll go a few more times and will try to learn as much as I can.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. It was just a sloppy mess…what I call “row”. None of it seems to have stuck on the pavement, though, so it was just wet and travel was all right–for me, anyway.


  10. “It has taken up residency in a part of my brain and won’t move out. I would love to give it an eviction notice.”
    I have been the last living family member for years, Everyone died before their time in their 30s 40s and the one I wrote about today was 19. My nephew asked me if I was scared to be the last one. I never think about it. I write, therefore I am.. Like my last sentence said today: Remember, you define what is important to you by what you dedicate your time to. That is what your family would want. HUGGGG


    1. That is so true! It must be hard for you to be the oldest living relative and yet look at who you are! The coolest person ever who is making such great use of her time. I’m right there with you typing out my thoughts.


  11. I’m proud of you for facing death. That definitely takes a lot of strength and courage and I applaud you. 🙂 When I was younger, I wanted to kick my self-critic out of my head, and I did.


    1. Good for you! I thought I had until I left my ski gloves at home and discovered my goof when I arrived at the mountain. Good thing I had car gloves. Sheesh! I can still be so hard on myself.
      Facing death is a stranger place. It’s uncharted waters (there’s that metaphor again!) and I’m waded in to see where I end up. I’ve already discovered a lot about myself in the process. I just wish it do such a number on my gut. It could use a break!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. We moved to Tucson last May, lost our sweet Boomer dog in July, my grandpa in September and my grandma in December. All on top of multiple hospital stays for me trying to get a handle on a newly diagnosed chronic illness. It’s been such a tough year with so many changes and loss. Here’s how I’m dealing: meditation everyday, exercise in some form everyday, eating as healthy as I can but indulging when I feel like it and talking things over when they come up.

    Water. If I recall water is seen as healing. It certainly is for me and it doesn’t matter the form it’s in whether a pool, stream, rain, straight from the tap. It’s soothing and cleansing, if that makes any sense to you.


    1. It makes a lot of sense to me. Thanks, so much.
      I’m sorry you went through so much. I often think there’s a connection to events too. One stresses another. Of course bad timing comes into play. I hope you can get a handle on your health. It sounds like you are doing all the right things!


  13. Sorry for your pain and loss. My experience with hardship is that you transform. We can’t “get over it”. It’s too profound of an experience to not become someone else. While your brother and dad have left their bodies, their spirits are still alive. Here are some ways in which my mother has been “around”. https://unbreakablejoy.wordpress.com/2017/03/22/stairway-to-heaven-reprise/
    Be well!


    1. That is so cool, Julia!
      The transformation is real. It is hitting me at a time of growth anyway. Pretty tough stuff to deal with and yet it has fine tuned everything I’m doing. I agree about their energy. It is comforting.


  14. Writing this post must be therapeutic. Your writing is exquisite. Death sitting on your face is a great metaphor. I’ve had asimilar thing with some other type of disaster sitting on your face. Now whenever I pit my mind to it I’ll think of water cacading down and washing it off. If it helps just keep on writing about it and don”t feel too much pressure to get over it before your birthday/hols.


    1. Thanks, Catherine!
      Yep. Death is pretty comfortable and clingy. I plan to get away this weekend and try to escape from its clutches. I need to get back to meditating too. That really gets rid of the anxiety. I’m sorry to hear you’re going through your own setbacks. Keep feeling that cleansing healing water. Life will get better for both of us.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Write, cry, ski. Walk in the woods. Do nice things for yourself. It is hard to accept losing someone who has always been there, and you expect to be there until you’re both racing wheelchairs down the hall.

    And remember the love, because that makes the loss more bearable.


  16. It’s hard. We all have to deal with losing people we love. Part of the package. Our turn will come too. I used to be more afraid of death and after my mom died, I thought, well, if it can happen to her (the person I thought would live forever) and if she could deal with it, I can do it too, and then the whole idea of death bothered me less. I don’t visit her grave. She’s not there. I pack her around in my heart and she’s with me all the time. I hope you can find some way of feeling close to the people you’ve lost and accept that things have changed but that you still feel the same about them. The impact they’ve made in your life goes on forever.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So true. I’m sorry about your mom and agree about carrying them with us.
      I just want the grieving process to be over, but it has its own length of time regardless of what I do. Dang!
      I plan to get back to my wild life and write about my adventures again. I think focusing on the positive will be even better therapy. I’ll never forget what happened.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Brianna. It’s been a strange process. Stranger than any other death, but I do think it’s making me stronger.
      By the way, you don’t need to leave a link. Everyone can click on your name to get to your blog. Cool, eh?

      Liked by 1 person

  17. I recently lost four people in my life and unexpected too. There is something about the unexpectedness that tears and rips you mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It leaves you raw, untethered, looking for answers, hurt, angry, etc. The one way I cope is to pull it out of my mind and place a part of that person in my heart. I have a hard time explaining that to people, but it has worked for me.

    Thinking of you and sending prayers ((((lovesandhugs)))) – Take Care

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Very cool, Renee! I’ll try that. I’m so sorry you’re going through it too. It sucks so much energy from me. But the sun in shining and I’m going on a little trip. Life moves forward.
      Thanks so much! I’ll send you the very same. (((loveandhugsback)))


  18. You’ve certainly had your share of upsets lately. My 2008 was the same way; 5 deaths, a bankruptcy, car repossession, house foreclosure, husband hospitalized, ALL in ONE year! It was horrible. I didn’t really have time to dwell on any one particular thing because some new catastrophe was waiting in line. To this day, 9 years later, I still don’t feel like I’ve completely processed and worked through my mother’s death that year. I honestly don’t know how I coped or carried on. I do believe what scripture says (and I’m paraphrasing), “God will not let you endure more than what you can handle.” I guess God has a lot of faith in my strength, because I was ready to throw in the towel. That’s when things got better.

    All I can say is hang in there and just let the feelings come when and how they come. Don’t try to squelch them. Listen, feel, process and work through them. It’s going to take a very LONG time to feel comfortable with what happened. Don’t try to rush it. Your body knows what it’s doing.

    I feel for you. I’ve been there. I completely understand. Hugs and more hugs from Mississippi.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt


    1. THAT IS HORRIFIC!! Wow. I would still be processing it too. As responsible adults we are deluded into thinking we have a little bit of control. Ha. Not so much. 2013 was my worst year. I’m expecting a big bounce upwards! Mental toughness is my forte. Now if I could just get into the gym… 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  19. Do you remember in the movie ‘The Jerk!’ where Steve Martin’s movie character is holding the Oil cans at the Gas station where he worked, and bullet holes started appearing in them’?

    ‘So now would probably not be a good time to walk up your snow covered walkway to leave you a gaggle of Jesus balloons and box of Ho Ho’s? 🙂

    ‘On the serious note I missed it, I misread that your ‘Brother – in – law passed away, I sure hope that he forgives me for that. I do post you here many warm hugs, Susie.

    Loves and hugs Susie.


    1. Thanks, Brock! I didn’t even notice and I’m sure he didn’t either. 🙂 Love the Jerk and quoted it after the ceiling caved in days after his death. Picks up his thermos, “This is all I need.”


      1. “And this paddle ball game, and this lamp, and this . . . ” LOVED that movie! In fact, to this day, whenever I see a phone book, I pick it up and say, “The new phonebook’s here, the new phonebook’s here. I’m somebody!”

        Patricia Rickrode
        w/a Jansen Schmidt


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