What nobody tells you about grief… #2 of infinity

memory loss

Here is the second installment in a series I like to call, “What Nobody Tells You About Grief.” As I’ve said before, those “grief experts” give you stupid advice. Basically they say, “Though you’ll never be the same, one day life will return to “normal”. It will probably take a year, maybe two if it’s really bad.”

In the first installment of the series, I warned you that when someone you love experiences a loss, you will be thrown back into the depths of your grief. In this installment, I am going to warn you about memory loss.

In the spirit of keeping it real and irreverent, the funniest memories I have are of my great-grandmother spoon-feeding her Shoney’s stuffed bear named Johnny. I would cackle as she told my mom that her babies (Johnny + a stuffed bunny named Nancy Lee) were much better behaved than Mom’s infant daughter, Molly. I would roll on the floor laughing at some of the things the old people said in her nursing home. I seriously hoped that I would just as funny when I got old. I never expected to be missing huge chunks of my memory in my thirties. While I haven’t been pushing mashed potatoes in the face of a stuffed animal, there are some days when I worry that I am not far off.

johnnys bear

This is not the real Johnny. In fact, there were several Johnnys. My grandmother had to switch them out every few days, the Ensure and macaroni and cheese didn’t digest well. **Johnny was named for a dear friend’s son who also died way too early. Perhaps a little prophesy that Molly was compared to this bear.

Word on the street is that part of the way your brain protects you in bereavement is to block out parts of your memory. I guess it goes into fight or flight mode. I have written a letter to my brain about this, and I would like to share it with you.

Dear Brain,

Thank you for supporting my life functions. I am sorry that you got so much radiation from oncologists and the microwaves. Mom always told me to stay away from the microwave when it was on, but I couldn’t tear myself away from watching the popcorn bag inflate like a clown blowing up a balloon to make me a balloon poodle. I know between all of the radiation and the Diet Coke I have limited your potential. Don’t worry, I know you really could have been something!

I don’t want to be a complete brat, but I have some concerns I’d like to share. I am told that you are protecting me by blocking parts of my memory because I have suffered a traumatic loss and suffer from “complicated grief.” So, that is cool. I really appreciate you protecting me. I would send you an Edible Arrangement if our body didn’t think melons and berries were poison. But I have some questions:

  •  Why did you block out most of my middle school years? That was way before Molly died. I want to remember some things.
  • Why can I remember what I wore on my first day of first grade, but I can not remember what I ate for breakfast?
  • Why, oh why, oh why oh why can I remember EVERY DETAIL of the morning of December 29, 2009, but I can’t remember what I gave my sister for Christmas 4 days before? Why can’t I remember who moved me to Nashville in 2007? Why in the world do I relive every moment of the worst day of my life, but I can’t recall who gave me a beautiful angel that has been hanging in my apartment? 

I guess I have some advice for you and your brain friends out there. If you are going to “protect” us by blocking out chunks of our memories. Could you block out the traumatic part, and let us remember the fun stuff? Let me remember what my room looked like in high school, I’m tired of only remembering it as Molly’s. I want to remember driving my sister to school and the conversations we had, not the last conversation we had. 

Love, 

Emily

P.S. If you aren’t too mad at me, could you help me remember where I put that purse I bought from my last casino winnings? 

P.P.S. Will you be my best friend? Check yes or no

So, if you have a friend experiencing grief, don’t be offended if they don’t remember your most favorite memory with them. I promise you that they would much rather remember that than what their brain has been filled with. Instead, help them remember. Show them pictures, tell them stories, make it up, they won’t know!

If you are in the beginning of your own grief journey, don’t be alarmed if you have forgotten half of your childhood and can’t remember why you walked into the bathroom. It’s just another fun perk. Short-term memory, long-term memory, it’s all as reliable as the time frame that the Comcast guy tells you he’s coming. It might come back. It might not. If you are younger than 75 and find yourself treating a Shoney’s bear like your deceased child or sibling, then I’d say you probably should talk to your mental health care professional. Or call me, so I can laugh (on the inside) and I’ll take you to your shrink. Maybe we can get a 2-for-1!

Keep MollyROCK in everything you do. Even if you don’t remember it!

More than meat loves salt,

EGG

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