Grief brain is weird brain. Sometimes I feel like I knew he was going to die. Other times it just feels like that knowing is just me knowing it now. Mostly though, it’s the finality, the foreverness of his death, that makes my brain a complicated place. Griefbrain sometimes makes it possible for him to be alive again.
Griefbrain makes it possible to look back and see signs. Lots of magical thinking, as Joan Didion calls it. The night before I left for Europe and never saw him in person again, we were gearing up to ride his motorcycle to dinner on Lake Merritt. I had a weird feeling, and sat down next to him to talk. “I’m worried about riding your motorcycle tonight. I’m leaving town Monday morning, and if something happens and I get hurt, the trip is canceled.”
His eyes welled up with tears. “I was actually thinking something similar. I guess it isn’t just about me anymore. I have other people to think of now.” My daughter had recently called him family, and, as a childless, parentless, twice divorced man, it had touched him deeply.
There are other griefbrain moments, like the count off ONE! That we did at Burning Man with friends last year, and how he and I had ONE year and ONE week together as a couple. The ONE ticket and vehicle pass we had for Burning Man. The ring he gave me a few nights before my departure, his deceased mother’s ring, to carry a piece of him with me until we meet again. The comment he made last year on playa that made it seem like he wouldn’t be there next year. The way I felt the night we hooked up, like it was the moment it had to happen or it never would. Like we would run out of time otherwise. We’d known each other for more than two decades and had never had a romantic connection. I’m honored to have brought happiness into the last year of his life. I didn’t make him happy, nor did he make me happy. We aren’t responsible for each other in that way. We were happy together.
Griefbrain wants to bring meaning to all these memories. It doesn’t mean anything. It means only that I am human, that synapses in my brain want to connect to make sense of things. And while I’ve accepted his death, I will never make sense of it. I avoid the word, why. A solo accident with a motorcycle simply going off the road and into a tree with no brake marks. Without any proof, without an autopsy, without being able to ask him what the fuck happened, man? Most of us close to him believe this to not be a motorcycle accident, but a catastrophic health incident on a motorcycle.
Griefbrain needs answers.
There aren’t any. My brain can synapse in bizarre ways and confuse me and put thoughts in my head that I can’t verbalize. Reality is something else.
Reality is me going back to work and feeling happy in my productivity. Reality is me going back to the gym and feeling strong in my body. Reality is men showing interest. Reality is somehow finding the strength to console my daughter who misses her sister, away at school, and Rupert, gone forever. Reality is recognizing what is grief brain, what is fear, and how to move away from them.
Reality is not allowing the weird synapses to form, recognizing the fear in grief, and staying open and vulnerable as one foot goes after the next.