I came of age in the early 2000s, so it’s probably not a shock to you that Carson Daly is one of my ultimate crushes. I remember many things about his life, but one story that’s always stuck with me is that he found out his mom had cancer, then almost immediately had to go on the air to host “TRL.” Somehow, and I have no idea how, he was able to do it.
My dad is like this too. He calls it compartmentalizing.
At my grandma’s funeral, I was beside myself. I was crying so hard I was nearly hyperventilating, but I had written a eulogy that I wanted to deliver. I distinctly remember my dad leaning over and cracking jokes into my ear before I had to go up and speak so that I could keep it together. He was equally devastated, but he was able to keep me calm so that I could honor my grandma properly.
Me? I don’t compartmentalize that well. That stiff upper lip thing? Yeah, I’m not great at it.
This past weekend, I got a call that my ex-boyfriend’s dad had died suddenly. We’re not a couple anymore, but we’re still very close, so this news absolutely devastated me. Knowing how much Chris and his family were hurting made me want to puke.
One thing that struck me about the situation was that a horrible tragedy had just happened to this family and yet the rest of the world was just continuing to exist as if nothing abnormal had occurred. It seemed almost offensive in a way.
Here I was trying to wrap my head around Chris’s dad’s death and yet my AC was broken and I had to interact with the maintenance man like a human. What right did he have to be casually out and about fixing air conditioners when someone I cared about had just suffered a major loss? Plus how dare my air conditioner stop working right now?
Later I was lying in bed getting teary as I remembered a trip we all took to Virginia Beach. Suddenly an e-mail from a client came in. He was wondering when I could chat about his new website. A new website? Who even cares about websites? I rolled over and shoved my computer off the bed.
Then I realized I was being a little harsh. Just like I’m allowed to feel this loss deeply, other people are allowed to keep existing and doing business around me while I grieve and lend my support to Chris’s family.
That’s the thing about grief: It seems all-encompassing when you’re in the middle of it, but it’s really so personal and raw and centralized. You have to find a way to cope in the middle of normal life. To deal with it, some people need space to heal. Others need to make jokes, or maybe dive back into work a la Carson Daly. Sometimes a combination of all three works well, or maybe you find your own strategy.
If someone knows you’re hurting, they may throw phrases at you that include: “Remember the good times!” or “At least he’s not suffering anymore.” If those phrases help, then perfect. Otherwise, do what feels right to you. For example, one night I had to make a pizza and just lie on my couch for a while and allow myself to be sad about the whole situation. The next day, I felt decidedly better. I’m not saying pizza was the magic factor in the equation, but it certainly didn’t hurt, you know?
Even if pizza isn’t your thing (um, are you an alien?) find your own way of healing, give yourself time, and if your AC picks that moment to crap out on you, don’t take it personally. Just work on getting it fixed.