I took the last month off work; Monday is my first day back in five weeks.
It was a good time, from a work perspective, as it fell over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, when many offices are shut down for a few days, people take vacation, etc. Of course, it’s never an ideal time in a client-based business—someone always needs something—but I like to tell people, the phrase “marketing emergency” doesn’t really exist. I’m really grateful to my colleagues and clients for encouraging me to take this time and to be unplugged as much as possible.
And I needed it. I spent the entire first week crying, it seemed. Not that I hadn’t been crying before, but now it was all the time. Sometimes in wailing, sobbing jags that left me breathless and headachy; sometimes in quietly leaking tears for hours at a time. I gave myself permission to not hold it together during the hours when my kids were at school, and I definitely fell apart.
After that, we were off on our Christmas trip, and while I still cried every day, it was back to more manageable levels.
My therapist had suggested this time off because I was having such trouble functioning in daily life, especially work. I was unorganized, forgetful, impatient and of course, crying. Basically, I was drowning, not waving.
Most of my personal metaphors for grief are water-based. Right now, I think of my grief as the lake in “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.” In the book, the lake is underground, dark and foreboding. Harry and Dumbledore must cross the lake on a small boat to reach their goal, but the lake is full of undead, evil creatures.
That’s where I am. My grief surrounds me, dark and disturbing, and it’s all I can see. I’m bailing the lake by crying, but it disturbs the evil creatures living under the surface—guilt and anger and so much more.
I’m not sure five weeks is enough. I dread the thought of going back to work—especially as my very first day, I have to travel out of town. I’m trying to ease in by getting organized and caught up, but my brain is rebelling, refusing to focus or process information.
Yet, I must go back. I need to earn a living, and provide health insurance for my family, if only to pay for therapy. I need to at least start treading water.
I’ve always been the one to be strong, to do what needs to be done, to be the one everyone else can lean on. After my sister and mother died, that’s what I channeled my grief into. But I’m so tired. My lake of grief is so wide and so deep, and my little boat is worn and patched and starting to take on water.