How do you cope with going back to normal life when you're not "normal" anymore? I don't remember who originally asked me that question, but it's the perfect way to describe things.
My answer? Everyone copes, whether they want to or not. Some do it better than others. And some circumstances are more conducive to coping than others.
It's been two weeks since Ilan passed away, and that was only the beginning of the pain of the last two weeks in my life. Some of you know some of the things going on in the different areas of my life, but only two know the whole picture. There are also horrific, sad, and terrifying events happening in the world in the last two weeks. A perfect storm in my life, you might say.
As for grief, I feel like I'm relatively far along in the process. Perhaps I've just been distracted by school, work, and the other problems, but I don't think that's it. I also don't think I'm numbed. I was effectively on my own for the first days after Ilan's death. There was no support system to soften the blow or create distractions. I'm sure there are benefits from a support system, particularly that you can spread the grief over time in more manageable chunks. Me? It all came out in one fell swoop with nothing to hold it back. I cried and grieved until I physically couldn't anymore. The levaya (funeral) released a lot of the same emotions again, but today, there is just that dull ache of loss and an occasional sharp pain.
How have the grieving and other problems affected me? I began having low-level panic attacks after a long time without medication. I'm back on meds, and while they can't have kicked in yet, the placebo effect is a blessing. Along those lines, so many areas of my life have had significant and awful things happen that my anxiety has tried to focus my attention on the areas that can still go wrong. On the physical level, I've lost almost 10lbs. I'm aware that's not healthy (though I was already purposely losing weight), so I'm trying to get that back in check. However, I'm sure the shadchans would approve :P The stress nausea has finally eased a great deal. On the bright side, fasting has been remarkably easy today (I'm writing on Thursday).
But how am I trying to affect the anxiety and grief? As the old cliches go, it's one day at a time. More than that, it's one task at a time. Somehow, in a way totally unknown to me, I've still managed to get my homework done in time for my classes. Well, as done as it is at any other time! I recognized that I have no capacity to multitask. Therefore, I've tried to avoid asking myself to do things I'm not physically or mentally capable of. Sure, I could be further along in my moving preparations, school work, or actually have a clean house. That'll come in time. And if I run out of time, I run out of time. Worse things have happened, but I know how to forgive myself when I miss the mark. Also, by paying attention to what I'm focusing on, I can try to focus it away from anxious thoughts. It doesn't always work, but every little bit helps. And as you can see from some parts of this post, I'm still trying to see the humor in life, although most of the humor I've found lately is quite dark. Perhaps humor in the face of pain is a natural talent, but maybe it can be learned. I'm afraid I don't know.
In the immortal words of Dory, "Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming. What do we do? We swim, swim."
That's all awfully internal...what about other people? I don't know, really. Two weeks ago, there were four important people in my life. Now there are two. On the other hand, I've spoken, emailed, and Facebooked with so many new people, all genuinely concerned about me and wanting to share their support. It's been incredible. But it's entirely new to me, and I'm not sure what to do with it. It's overwhelming to have so much support and that has strengthened my connection to the Jewish people. I'm forming a true mishpacha. Just be patient with my social awkwardness :)
Six weeks until moving day, and only three more weeks of law school. I'm beyond ready to get a fresh start.