I haven’t written here in a while. I’ve been busy. Work ramped up, I have two kids, and, because I’m a masochist, we also just adopted a third shelter dog. But the truth is: I’m always busy. For a while I still felt compelled to write, but lately that just hasn’t been true. I don’t know if that’s me turning inward (Danger, Will Robinson!), or peeling back from the vast oceans of oversharing to survey the existing wreckage?
I felt a real shift, from more or less not being able to sleep or sit still unless I wrote things down to feeling as though writing and posting would be forcing myself, a chore. This blog wasn’t created to reach a wide audience or achieve any level of artistic merit, obviously. I want people to read, of course, it’s not literally a diary. And the writing I’ve done has already enabled several connections and conversations, people asking about things or feeling more apt to strike up conversations with me about loss, grief, etc.
But the blog primarily enabled me to process semi-publicly, and the pressure of producing something for an audience, no matter how circumscribed and self-selecting, pushed me to articulate things in ways I would never have done in my head or even privately with friends and family. So, if you’re one of the lucky few who’s paid attention: thank you!
Now I find myself petering out of writing impulses right at the two year mark of Nina dying, which is today. Maybe that’s not a coincidence either. Perhaps my inward turning is also self-preservation as the anniversary approaches. Two years is a quintessential benchmark: I can’t believe it’s ONLY BEEN TWO YEAR, I can’t believe it’s ALREADY BEEN TWO FREAKIN’ YEARS since Nina died. Both; simultaneously; all the time. Either way, I don’t like it. Too many big decisions, too much of the kids growing up, friends and family dying or being born, new friends entering our lives who Nina never knew.
Grief is the stupidest, most necessary thing in the whole world. You can’t get through life without it/that stuff’ll kill you. It’s less of a break with a lost relationship than the continuation of that relationship by other, less satisfying, far more painful means. The second anniversary of Nina’s death isn’t the same as the first. I am not spending it the same way, I don’t feel exactly the same. It all sucks, but I keep having to learn how to manage it and make shit up as I go along. I know, I know, it builds character. I think I have enough “character” in my life, though. Or at least characters.
On Sunday, we adopted a new dog, Nada, from the same shelter where Nina and I adopted MacDuff, Nina’s Ain True Love and comfort dog extraordinaire. She has the same profile as our first dog, Zilch, who was a Bassett-Corgi mix of some kind, maybe? He was Nina’s first true canine love — Zilchy appeared to Nina in a dream, then she spotted his avatar at a grocery store in Paris, and finally she spotted him at the Guilford County Animal Shelter and we adopted him. He leaked (don’t joke, canine incontinence is a serious matter!), ran crookedly because his hind legs were way higher than his front, and he developed serious aggression issues toward strangers that extended to our newborn/toddler aged children, and we ultimately had to put him down when he bit someone. But he was a good dog to Nina and me.
I continued his naming tradition for our new pup, but also found one that means both zip, zero, Zilch and sorta kinda sounds like Nina. Too precious? Maybe. Deal with it.
The boys aren’t interested in the least in commemorating Nina’s death. I’ve tried to inveigle them into some type of discussion or activity, but they’re resistant this year and I don’t want to force it. They’ll come to those things when they’re meaningful to them, I think. And they’ve got a whole damn book of her writing about us to deal with already. Teen years are gonna be fun.
I wanted to post today mostly to say that I miss Nina all the time, seemingly in increasing rather than diminishing ways. Sometimes I feel like I’m progressively less well equipped for grief and bereavement the longer I do it. I know that’s not actually true, that it’s just the zags where I thought there’d be zigs, and even though she’s gone I’m still growing into the life that she and I shared for a good long stretch and trying to make the best decisions I can for me and the boys (and our growing menagerie). But, in a lot of ways, two years doesn’t feel any closer to staunching the flow of bereavement.
If you’re moved to commemorate Nina in some way, and like me you’re feeling bereft of practical means as well as spirit, there are a bunch that I can think of:
- Read The Bright Hour! Super obvious, but I go back to it again and again.
- Contribute to one of the several funds that have been set up in Nina’s name
- Then there’s always contributions to Planned Parenthood, the International Rescue Committee, or the Interactive Resource Center in Greensboro, three of Nina’s favorite non-profits when she was alive.
- Or, you could write something. Nina was a creative writing teacher, and she loved a good generative prompt as much as anyone. She might cringe at what I actually write, but I’m pretty sure she’d be chuffed I’m using my grief as an excuse to write.
Whatever you do today, remember to take a minute to reflect on some bright corner of your life — your partner, your kid, your grubby, undersized, multi-shelter surviving new mutt — and be grateful for the things that mean so much to you that you can’t bear the thought of losing them or leaving them behind. Then even if you aren’t thinking about Nina, you will be.