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 am sorry about the death of your brother. I hope you find peace and solace. My brother died unexpectedly a few years ago. I know it is hard. You set a fine example of soldiering on. Thanks for sharing your feelings. It is helpful.

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    1. Thanks, Lori! I’m really glad to hear that since it’s ultimately my plan to share this experience. I’ve found great support here in the comments too.
      I’m so sorry you went through the same thing. Soon happy memories will fill that torn up feeling. I can’t wait. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It is impossible to forget about the person who was everything to you. And the emotional attachment with the immediate family is unmatched because they spent their life with you and for you. That loss is unbearable but we can’t control death and life events. Whatever is written in our destiny will happen no matter what. Now its upto you what you want to do. Spend rest of your life as a dull person or spend it as a person your family always wanted you to be. Tragedies happen and loss will be there but that person always wanted you to be happy and successful. We can’t control the sorrow but we can control the amount of it. A break is must in his situation. And when you come out of it being a better person, then only you are making your loved once happy even after their death. Its really great that you are talking about it. Most of the people will not and keep thinking and will remain away from this world. But you are giving hope to this world. Really sorry for your loss. Keep smiling!!

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    1. Wow. Your words really touched me, TD. I think you’re right about the break. It’s been nearly a month and I haven’t really gotten back to my serious writing projects. Maybe today. I have new ideas and will remember my loved ones in my books. Death has made life sweeter and I see everything more intensely. I don’t think that will change. As a writer, I can only see a benefit to this profound loss since I can share my experience in so many ways that might help others.
      Sending you a big smile from Colorado.
      Thank you so much for your kind words.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. So sorry tovm hear what you are going through, and what you had to go through in the past. Death is always unexpected and it is such a confusing time. You wonder about but the past and how things might have been better. Hope the therapist helps. I saw one last year for mental illness and it was a gradual process to feeling better. It’s confronting, but it helps us to realise what makes us tick. Wishing you well 💙💜

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    1. Thanks Mabel. Therapy does help to put things in perspective and hear another opinion. Death is a shock, but I’ll get over it, just not as quickly as I’d like. Luckily, I don’t feel guilty or blame myself for anything. It just is.
      Thanks for the kind comment.

      Liked by 1 person


  4. I'm happy you let loose in the company of a professional. I can envision your passionate hands flying as you put your feeling in the room. *BAM* Keep your sassiness, humor, and your memories close, they'll take care of that unwanted house guest in your head to bring joy to your heart.

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  5. Very interesting post, Susie. Good to get that all out.

    To answer your question, I had a different kind of “living in the head” experience. My dad died when I was home from college on Christmas break in 1962. My parents were divorced and I was living with him. After the shock of it, I had to return to school and then prepare to basically start my life. I never really spent any time in grief. Fast forward 46 years to 2008 and the death of my mother. I had been her primary caregiver for the last 13 years at that point. I decided to go to a hospice grief group over it. Guess who I talked about and grieved for? That’s right, my father. That grief had been hiding in the recesses of my mind for all those years. Odd but true.

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  6. Susie, I was very sorry to read the news about your brother and his passing. Time… the pain of such a loss (sudden or otherwise) is always essential. With death, we’ve been shown something unfathomable, knowing that we ourselves will someday inevitably face it, so live every minute as you always do. ‘O)

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  7. Yeah … f**k that grief process!

    … it’s gonna take as long as it needs to and neither you nor your desires have a great deal to do with it.

    Western culture has such a shi**y relationship with death and grief so that we have little understanding, and even less desire to experience it.

    Give it the time and space it deserves. It’s earned it. You’ve earned it.

    I don’t know how you feel about swearing here, hence the asterisk-ing. 😀

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  8. I don’t deal well with death. Not even with the thought of losing a loved one. Both parents are alive and I can’t imagine how sad the day will be when that happens. Hubby is fighting for his life. I can’t let my mind go to dark places. Hope is the thing that gets me through everything. As long as there’s a tiny ounce of hope, I can keep on keeping on and know each day is a gift and each breath is a blessing. I think you’re mighty brave, Susie, and amazing. I admire how you’re writing through the pain. I feel so bad for all the grief you’ve had to go through. Keep taking those baby aspirins. That’s another thing that gets me through the rough times besides hope. Good old little baby aspirins.

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  9. Everyone’s life is run by their beliefs. It’s hard to find a one-answer-fits-all resolution. Therapists help us to understand and cope with ourselves…as I understand them (never been to one) they don’t so much as give us answers…but have use examine ourselves, our feelings. Help us better focus our energies to resolve our own problems? At least that’s what I hope they do. Sometimes we get too inundated and overwhelmed and need the help. Death is inescapable. Just like life. Yours is the second post I’d read today where someone said they didn’t want people to ever die. Very interesting. Why do you and the other I’d read feel that way? Why do people feel Death is such a bad thing? Is it fear of an unknown? A bad experience with death? Fear that one’s lives weren’t well-lived? “Virtuous” [“enough”]? Death isn’t going away…neither is Life. So at times of intimate death many re-examine their own lives. Why does it take death to do that? Rhetorically—you don’t have to answer them here—what are your beliefs about death and why do you have them? Is it based on religion? Philosophy? Other people’s reactions TO death? Why is dying a “bad thing”?

    When explorers ventured out into the unknown they were excited to find out what was on the other side of that mountain or beyond the curvature (or edge!) of the Earth. Sure, a little apprehensive—but excited at forging ahead into something new and uncharted! They had a spirit of adventure! THAT is what I feel we need more of. A spirit of adventure about the seeming “end” of conscious life. When we go to sleep at night we go unconscious…we DREAM. If there were nothing beyond the “mountain of consciousness” how could we dream? Remember that we dream? There has to be something more. Where does all this Life Stuff come from and to where does it go? If there was nothing on the other side, then how would Life continue? From where would–COULD—it come?

    Just like one can manipulate the same set of numbers to get different results, so, too, is it with out own personal beliefs. Sometimes it’s not so much that we need to find hard-and-fast answers…it’s just that we have to ATTEMPT to understand ourselves and the world around us. That we make an attempt to better understand our world and our place in it. Our beliefs. That we confront situations that make us uncomfortable to challenge our POVs. It all helps us grow into better souls—though some/many times we may not—or never—understand the whys behind them, but I feel just the attempt to understand still makes us better people.

    We all need to address our grief…our emotions in times like these. Find a way that we can assimilate such situations and move on with our continued lives. Use our personal beliefs to better refocus our own lives. Maybe Death exists to help us better understand Life…maybe Death…is just a door into another “room”….

    Eh…in the end it doesn’t matter what any of us say…it matters what YOU say. We’re just trying to be supportive.

    May you find your peace, Susie!

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  10. There is no defying death, nor is there an anecdote to grief. It will keep filling the whole of your heart till memories alone cover the hole in your heart.

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    1. I agree. It’s been a month and still I wake up with a pit of anxiety over it. I know someday, it will fade. Until then, I will continue with my gratitude journal and will remember all who have passed before me.
      Thanks, Uma!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Hi Susie, I am new to your blog. Thanks for sharing your experience; it’s not an easy thing to do but hopefully it has helped to lift some of the angst. Having gone through 2 recent losses myself, one a close friend and another a family member, I can totally relate to your feelings of gut-wrenching pain and the sheer frustration that death brings!! Stay strong and keep the happy memories of them alive. Sending happy vibes to you from Australia!

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    1. Thanks so much for reaching out, Brognaneliz! I’m sorry to hear you can relate. It’s so tough to go through. It’s hard to adjust to the new reality and it’s jarring. Slowly we’ll heal. Thanks for the pep talk! I’m hanging in there. Soon I’ll be able to reflect on fond memories without crying. Sending happy vibes right back atcha from Colorado. We’re in Aspen this weekend!

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  12. We do not forget what we have lost. I do not believe that time heals the pain too. But I believe that time will make you stronger to bear the pain. And in this process Hope will play its own part of being a medicine….All the best… Take Care.

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    1. Thank you for the insight. I think you are right about the pain. It will always be there under the surface. It’s what we do with this new reality that’s important. Hope will be there with me to help navigate.

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  13. That’s exactly it–death is unpredictable and so is the way we grieve. Such a personal thing for everyone. It do think it’s typical for the enormity of the loss to hit months maybe even years later after the shock wears off. It does come in waves and sometimes the waves are ripples and sometimes tsunamis. We just have to ride it out and hold onto the boat! I’m so sorry you’ve had to endure this heartache, Susie. I can’t imagine what you’re going through, but with your strength I’m sure you’ll find peace again.

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  14. I’ve been there, Susie; never forget, Death doesn’t discriminate.
    Sooner or later, we all know the Reaper’s embrace.

    But so what?
    All that means is that we need to live for today, even though that’s not always possible.
    Be well, my beautiful and cherished friend.

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  15. I cried big fat tears reading about your brother’s death. I’m sure it was quick and painless for him, but it is not quick or painless for you. Grief is a long road, and of course its shadow walks with you always. Be comfortable with it. As you know, eventually you can remember them without the pain. Until then, honour them with your tears. Grief is not so terrible: it’s a testament to the person you loved and lost.

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    1. You are so right, Jay. It is a testament. The more we love, the more the loss hurts. But the sun is shining and life goes on. I think we’ve all turned a corner with grief in the last week. I can breathe again. 🙂 Thanks for reading!

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  16. Even though you know intellectually that it won’t always hurt this much, that doesn’t really dull the pain in the here and now. Give yourself time and permission to feel rotten, wonderful, and everything in between. 🙂

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    1. It’s been a roller coaster, but I’m seeing a lot more daylight. As you know, it’s all about learning to live without the people we love that is hard.
      Thanks, Peg!

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  17. I have written a lot about death, Susie, because I’ve had way too much of it in my life. I work at Hospice, (partially) because when I walk in those doors each week, death is my bitch–– no shocks or blindsides; I own it. I can regain some control over all of my own losses. I have also been having a lot of MFR work done over the past year+ and one of the things my favorite therapist told me, was to go relive the experience (of one of the losses–– in this case, your brother), and move your body around, differently. Don’t feel the same panic and helplessness. Then, go somewhere special, build a cairn, or something meaningful, and set that person free… “I love you, but I can’t carry your loss with me all day anymore; I’m sending you to the light.” I can’t believe how helpful and powerful that exercise was!

    Of course, we are all different and I can’t say that what works for me will help you, but I thought it was worth sharing. Wishing you peace as you grieve this immeasurable loss, and heal. xo

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    1. Thanks so much, Dawn. It’s weird, but I already let him go through a meditative experience. I turned a corner on my birthday. It’s all good.
      I can’t imagine what you go through along with life. Hospice is a calling. Take care of yourself!

      Liked by 1 person

  18. I lost my brother 4 years ago. He went into the hospital on a Monday and died Wednesday morning from undiagnosed/untreated lung cancer. He was 57 and had never gone to a Doctor in his adult life. It was December and I insisted on finding a pink, artificial tree for Christmas and couldn’t bear taking it down. I stared at that tree every night, thinking back on our childhood. By the time February came around, I was ready to put the tree away and move past Jon’s death.

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  19. Your post made me laugh and tear up. I’m reminded of how every tragedy has only one thing in common: sucking. Assuming I know how to deal with each new situation is like assuming I know how to swim because I know how to run. It’s brave and strong of you to be confronting your grief with such openness–it’s like you’re throwing your arms wide and saying, “Okay! Come and get me, grief. Let’s do this thing.” You’re not hiding, you’re not wallowing. You’re just putting one foot in front of the other and shushing down grief mountain. You’re doing it. Thank you for sharing–though I hope I won’t have to deal with tragedy soon–I know I’ll have more courage when the time comes, because you’ve shown me a way through it.

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    1. Thanks Angela! It does suck. Death is so unfair. After the trauma of trying to revive my brother I had hoped this would help others. It hits me in waves now that it’s been five weeks. The hardest has been finding traction in my work. I forgot which project I had been working on! I have several WIPs. Blogging has always been easy for me and great therapy too.
      Thanks so much for stopping by and for the kind comment. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  20. It’s been 8 months since Brianne died in august and I will be ok for a few days and then the waves will come crashing down again. I think a lot of it is the pain she was in for so long. So many unexpected aneurysms. Joe was such a shock too but I guess time does heal all wounds.

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    1. I think time does heal loss eventually. The hard part is adjusting to a new life without them.
      Thanks for stopping by to read, Terry. I’ll keep you in my prayers.

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  21. Hi Susie,
    Death only cheats you of those you love if you let it. True, you can’t talk with them as you once did, but they still live in the memories you hold in your heart. You just have to accept that they have moved past the cares and pain of this life.
    As to Death sitting on your face…, just be happy he didn’t pass gas !!!! 🙂

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    1. Hahaha! Right? I’ve come to that same conclusion that those who have died have moved on as well. I’m finally gaining traction and feel like myself again. That’s a warning. Ha!

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  22. Grief will heal in its own time but please be gentle with yourself. I lost an uncle and a lovely young girl who was once my step daughter lately. Two other family members have cancer and I have succumbed to shingles. So I am heeding my own advice.

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  23. I read your birthday post before I read this one and I’m glad that hope surrounded you that day along with a little happiness. Moments like that pop up from time to time when Death is Sitting on Your Face. Dealing with death is definitely a hard thing to do, and everyone does it differently, I’m glad your finding your way to do that. There’s no right way of handling things, with my Dad’s death the first two years were the hardest and I still have moments and triggers that bring things flooding back and it aches, but I’ve found the strength to carry it with me. That’s what I had to learn to do, being able to carry that and hope at the same time. Sending you some good vibes and hoping you continue to have happy moments, big or small, to be grateful for to get you through the tough days. Plus your writing will definitely help. Have a good week buddy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Guat! I definitely was in shock for a few weeks after trying to revive him. He was thriving and in great shape moments before dying. Hard to wrap a mind around. I’ve slowed down on writing about it to catch up, but his death is still a heavy weight. I keep writing the words when they come to me. It’s what we do! Thanks, friend!

      Like

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