It seems unbelievable that exactly three years ago, I wrote a post for this blog titled “A New Stage”. It was a stage of grief that isn’t really discussed in the “grief literature”, one that I named the WTF stage. Back then, just four months into our surrealistic journey, I wondered what happened. How my life, our lives had come to this. I simply couldn’t believe it was all happening. That Jake was gone. How could this be? In other words: What. The. Fuck.
The other thing I couldn’t understand was how could the rest of the world continue without acknowledging my personal tragedy. My world had imploded, but during our daily walks, I’d see people going about their lives as normal. Didn’t they know the world had suddenly changed? Couldn’t they see it would never be the same?
Now, three years later, I am still wondering what happened. Not so much what, I know the what, the who, the when, the where, but I’ll never figure out the why. I lie awake some nights, (like tonight, for example) and roll those same baffling questions around and around in my head, questions for which there are no answers.
I have come to a different place than I was then. That indescribable agony of those first months has softened a little; the scab is thicker, rips off less frequently. But the pain and confusion still simmer along. Maybe not quite so close to the surface but it can come bubbling up at any time without warning. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. There wasn’t any indication that we would end up like this when Jake was growing up. All the promise, the joy, the excitement, the pleasures of his life, our happy family, the fulfillment of purpose I felt; that’s what I expected. Not the hollowness of days that followed his death and continues today.
Even when we were going through his battles with addiction, even when we didn’t know if he would make it, I always believed, with a father’s certainty, that he would. That he would survive. That we could carry him. The all the love of all the people who loved him would pull him through. I couldn’t imagine anything else. And we thought, during those last few months, he had finally turned the corner at last. He, we, had been through it all before and we thought, this time it would stick. He had his own apartment, he had a wonderful job prospect, had friends who stood by him, who loved him. He seemed genuinely excited about his job. Had his chef’s whites pressed and ready to go for the Saturday night shift he would never get to. That’s why his death was such a shock, was so mystifying, left so many unanswered questions. We thought we were out of the woods.
The code words we used describing his passing, “suddenly and unexpectedly”; people who knew what we were going through knew what they meant. Other parents who were fighting the same battles knew. Anyone who lost a loved one to the same disease knew. We called it an accident, and in fact, it was. Not an auto accident, or a boating accident, or a climbing accident, but a horrible accident of prescription pharmacology. An accident of muscle relaxants, and mood stabilizers, and pain killers. Such a waste. Such a tragic waste. My rant on the failure of the medical and “rehab” establishment will have to wait for another time, but it is coming. Perhaps a little late, but it is coming. Right now, I just don’t have the energy.
This is not something I have talked about here, thus far. I have avoided it because of the societal stigma of addiction and didn’t want to tar Jake with that brush. Most people view it as a moral failing or a weakness of will or some personality flaw. Jake had the strongest will of anyone I know, the most dynamic personality, a clear sense of morality, and yet, inexplicably, he succumbed to this dreaded disease. How that came to be is just another part of my confusion.
I will never fully grasp the why. Part of my frustration stems from the impossible exercise of “what if” or as some prefer, “if only”. What if we had gone to Palm Springs that weekend to celebrate New Years? If only I had done this or that the month, the week, the year before? How could I have “let” it happen like this? All the things we “should have done”. And of course, I couldn’t have changed the outcome no matter what we did or didn’t do. I say that, but I don’t really believe it. Goddammit, what if …?
So I have to live with my decisions, his decisions, our decisions, as agonizing as that is. Perhaps as the years slide by, I will be less concerned with trying to figure out the why and the how, but I will never have the answers. So I live in this perpetual state of bewilderment. As I posted three years ago, I will be in the WTF stage for the rest of my life.