Grief Time Warp

My sister died a month ago. It seems like a very long time, but it also feels as if it happened yesterday.

Grief makes time do strange things. So does depression. So does mania, for that matter. All of these things make our already subjective sense of time much more subjective. But there’s another way grief changes time–you get caught in memories.

I’ve always been resistant to talking about my childhood. Even when I tell my story to a group of fellow addicts or some other group, I act as if I sprang into being as a teenager. “My childhood was better than some, and worse than others,” is the most I will say before moving on.

But I did have a childhood, and my sister was part of it, as were her conflicts with other family members. When she left home to join the military, it affected us all. When her addiction developed and she began to go in and out of destructive behavior, that affected everyone too. When I developed an eating disorder, I looked to her as an example when she was doing the recovery thing. When I myself became a drug addict decades later, I felt even closer to her no matter how little we were talking.

This month has been hard. Not just because I’m sad, but because her death has ripped off the band-aids on all sorts of toxic family stuff. But I am called to strength now. I need to bring passion to my recovery work, because the addiction that slowly destroyed her body still wants mine. After nine years clean, it still waits, and watches, ready to catch me if I fall into self-pity or run too far away from my feelings.

Denial, Anger, Poetry

The poets have been getting to work about the latest catastrophe, each on their own timeline and in their own way. Working through shock, outrage, despair and fear as well as they can…and, when they are ready, they’re starting to pour it out into poetry.

I am a coward in many ways when it comes to horrible things happening in the world around me. Sometimes I shut down, terrified that these feelings will catapult me over the thin edge I walk into an irreversible act of self-destruction.

When I went to one of my regular poetry readings on the Sunday after the election, I knew what I was going to hear during the open mic. A part of me wanted to stay home, afraid that it would be too much for me. But I went, and I’m very glad. I’m glad I found enough courage to show up and be present with everyone’s pain and anger and fear.

A few years ago I might have been impatient with it somehow, wanting the poetry to give me a break instead of drawing me deeper into the emotions of the time. Now it seems perfectly natural that we all (yes, me too) tended to have poems reflecting what was going on. A baby cries with the voice that’s available.