Going through the archives of GBB, I frequently find comments where people ask why their brains insist on not just remembering that someone is gone, but reminding them they’re gone. We forget for a few precious seconds and have our minds to ourselves, then bam, we’re hit again. We see a show and laugh, reaching for the phone, then we realize the person we wanted to share with isn’t going to pick up.
What in the world is going on?
I’ve had this experience myself. Less often lately, but it happens still.
I’ll hear someone say “Bill,” in exactly the tone my mother used to scold my father when he was being obstinate, and my head will whip that way to see her again, only to see someone else and be reminded she’s gone. I’ll smell her favorite perfume, and wonder if I should get her a bottle. I’ll see something written just the way she’d have liked it, and resolve to share it with her.
She’s dead, for goodness’ sake, she’s been dead for nine years. How do I keep doing this, what is wrong with my brain?
It’s not as if it only happened after a long time, either. The first time was only eleven days after she died. I wept when it happened, because the grief came crashing in. I’d found a measure of balance, and just like that, pft, gone.
Then there are the conscious moments, the ones that aren’t sudden. I mentioned before that when I finally admitted to myself I am not just an atheist, but a rational empiricist and a skeptic with no belief in anything “beyond” what is in the natural world around us, I had to grieve again. I lost the slim, irrational hope in the back of my mind that she might be “somewhere better.” I had to finally let go and admit it was entirely beyond recovery, that it was permanent and final, and the horror of it was just as overwhelming as when I lost her the first time.
Why do our minds do this to us?
Partly, it’s obvious it’s a defensive mechanism. If we had to deal with the onslaught of emotion nonstop, our minds might not cope at all. It’s far too much to wrap one’s head around. Our minds let us forget the grief, forget the weight of it for a moment or two, so they can recover. Of course, this doesn’t feel like much protection, does it, when we realize the truth once again and it all hurts. We hurt not just because we remember the grief, we feel the guilt of having “forgotten.” I remember the first full day I went without even once thinking about Momma being gone or how much it hurt with her gone, and how guilty I felt for not thinking about her.
It was nonsense of course – I hadn’t done anything wrong by that. I’d in fact needed that day, desperately, without the pressure and pain of the loss. That doesn’t stop the reaction.
I’m not a psychologist. I can’t give you a neurochemical reason our brains do this to us. I can’t give you a technique that would make it all understandable and better feeling, and oh how I wish I could.
What I can say is that you aren’t alone in experiencing this, my friends. It happens to many of us. If it happens to you, you’re not weird, you’re not wrong, you’re not broken. It’s your brain trying to protect you, and it’s natural as breathing. Grief is a titanic upset of our mind’s usual thought processes, and there are going to be misfires and healing mechanisms and odd occurrences that make you go, “well, what was THAT?”
You can share any of these moments you like with us. You can hear our stories in turn, and know others have been where you are, and take hope in knowing that we’ve been there, and we’ve come through it. Maybe not all of us have, but those of us who have done, we want to lend you our ears, and our hearts.
Please share if your grief has had these “forgotten” moments. Let people see that they aren’t alone in experiencing it. The shared experience can be an immense encouragement.
Regards and best wishes,