Knowing that Ill be late to my own funeral (hopefully not 250 days from now!) I make the very conscious effort to leave Mission Valley and head to Ramona – 32.4 miles – 90 minutes early. I’m pumped up; I’m pretty darn proud of my time management; I’m crusin’ down I-15 giving ‘you know it’ winks through my sunglasses and finger-gun points to other driver’s from my laid-back gangsta/hommie sitting position. Rockin’ out to my iPod via earphones nicely inserted in to my ears, I’m back in action in the CRV and while my loyalty is to her, she needs some upgrades. It’s cool, CRV, I won’t leave you for a newer (better, more technologically capable and hands-free, smoother, automatic ride that would boost my ego) model. EVER. It seems sincere. I want it to be sincere. And, I’m confident the day I decide to have the kind of income to support it, I’ll pick out a shiny new transportation method. She turns 10 here in about 6 weeks.
So, there I am driving up the hill to Ramona, post funeral gift bag purchases, checking out Maps. It’s telling me that Ill arrive at 12:41, which is like NINETEEN minutes early. Say What?! I’m still feeling a little cocky but I decide to wrap the items in their tissue paper en route. All of a sudden I’m doing 30 MPH wondering if Maps took in to account this unfortunate turn of events through the mountains. I’m always hoping one of the following:
Maps averages my own speed at the current time, then takes in to account future possible speed limits, to give me a super accurate ETA. This is usually because I’m doing slightly faster than the speed limit and I want Maps to give me a pat on the back;
Maps provides me an ETA based on current road conditions, to include traffic, and not an idealized version of the route. Because I tend to not pad my schedule with less than ideal circumstances;
Maps bases the ETA on the posted speed limits rather than what I’m doing (sometimes more than posted limit), therefore setting me up to be way early.
Today, I’m asking Maps to do the first two options and not alter previously stated ETA, as a semi truck has decided to also make his way through the two lane mountainous terrain to Ramona.
Sympathy cards are really sweet gestures, and super lame. With Sympathy or With Love During Your Grief or Thinking of You: We get it, you heard there was a death in the family and you don’t know what to do but buy a card and sign your name. I’ve just always felt that there was something missing with that process. I stop in at CVS. I walk down the card aisle I see all these colorful Valentine’s, birthday and anniversary cards… then I get to the sympathy cards and they are all somber and dull. Ugh. I was depressed just looking at them. How am I to make that funny and different and useful for Summer? She’s a social worker, she gets it and we are the worst clients. E.V.E.R. I decided that humor was the foundation to this circumstance that was probably nothing more than a surreal WTF experience. Appropriate humor, mind you. Thus, the gift bag idea.
Also unavailable at CVS: funeral, sympathy, or calm gift bags. They all scream, “HEY I’VE GOT FUN SHIT INSIDE!” I mean, I do the best I can and grab the one with flowers similar to the card. Then I head over to the next aisle. Here are the contents and details I provided in the card:
- One single serving carton, boxed wine- because sometimes you have to engage poor coping mechanisms to make it through the grief of losing your parent.
- One bag of Starbucks coffee grounds- because coffee helps with the hangovers so you can pretend to do work while at work.
- One Starbucks gift card- because you probably wont feel like making shit for the next few days.
- One box Altoids- because the County tends to not like to have their employees smelling of alcohol at work. Around children.
- One box of Red Bull- my sister says it helps on those days you have to get up and be responsible, but have enough depression to keep you on the couch. It also goes well with vodka, I was told.
- One collection of Sponge Bob stickers- because they were misplaced in the card aisle and who the hell doesn’t want some Sponge Bob stickers??
In my message to her I was just real with the emotion- something I find people are scared to do. I hear excuses like, “I don’t know what to say” or “I don’t want to trigger them” and I just think those are cop-outs to being real with a person. To sitting right there next to them in their anger, frustration, sadness, loss, and just sit there and feel with them. In fact, that’s exactly what sympathy is. In fact, merriam-webster.com says its a noun and gives two definitions: an affinity, association, or relationship between persons or things wherein whatever affects one similarly affects the other; the act or capacity of entering into or sharing the feelings or interests of another
Then I was like, “self, ‘pity’ sounds pretty lame… whats the exact definition of that?!” I am glad you asked… pity is Telling someone that it will pass, you’ll feel better soon and don’t worry it gets better, while well intentioned, is negating the real experience of the emotion. I don’t want to be negated and I’m sure as hell confident that you never want to be either. Connection is the real currency of being human. And you know what? This shit sucks. You just lost your mom. You just lost the chance for her to ever know the children you may have, or see you walk across stage in May for your hard-fought for masters degree. You wont be getting those random, “Just thinking of you!” voicemails, or texts, or emails, or anything. That’s lame. That’s what you cry for. And, that’s where someone needs the support… in leaning in to the discomfort, not running away from it. I told her to take all the time she needs to cry, punch pillows (turns out punching people is against the law) and be mad and angry and irrational. I said that I wouldn’t worry about her, clinically, until the six-month mark where the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of psychological disorders allow bereavement to begin to be considered depression. I don’t know, I didn’t confirm the guideline, I just wrote it with confidence… its plus or minus 100% true.
Don’t be afraid to get real with your friends, strangers, someone who is just going through ‘it.’ Don’t be scared to say the wrong thing… you pretty much can’t as long as it’s laced with compassion, love, vulnerability, selflessness- keeping it real life. And you know what? If a trigger does happen, if you really need help locating mental health resources or advice on the situation… Clearly I am ‘reachable’ here (not in an emergency). And, a crisis line is found here: (888) 724-7240. You can visit It’s Up To Us and look around for what you might need. As a veteran you may have found the VA system frustrating, or put on hold or some other ‘thing’ that makes the VA a barrier rather than a resource… which in that case VVSD in San Diego, a Vet Center in your area (I didn’t watch the PSA on that page. It’s probably cheesy. Whatever. Get over it. Call the number.), or if you are in school contact your institutions Veterans Center. Don’t have one? Call one at a school near you. Don’t make an excuse why it’s unfair you don’t have one. Just do what needs to be done.
This information is not exhaustive nor am I promoting one over the other. It’s basically some of the resources that come to mind first when I think about it.
I love Summer because as I was leaving she said with a smile,
“Don’t you know you’re supposed to buy me shit?! I’m GRIEVING!!!”
And, wiping away a few tears, I knew she’d be able to smile with the contents of The Funeral Gift Bag.
Love you, Summer Dawn.