The wrong shirt

Yesterday, Charlie says, It was like a Holocaust for me when she died. Aunties, uncles, cousins, mother, father, everyone gone.

I don’t mean to trivialize actual genocide. Her death was not like genocide.

It is just I lost everyone.


I also lost my whole sense of meaning and purpose, which was wrapped up in her. The purpose of life was to survive to adulthood so that we could find a way to be free.


It is like getting through the Olympic trials only to find out they have permanently cancelled the Olympics.

I got out—Olympic trials passed.

She isn’t there to go back for or to save. No Olympics.

Now what?

I have to live a whole different life than I wanted to live. I have to live a life that seems a pale shadow of what I thought I could have. There aren’t any Olympics now. This is as good as it gets.

It’s hard to explain this.

It’s not that anything is wrong. PTSD is a bitch. That’s true. I can see though that this is going to get better. Grief is a bitch. I can see that it’s possible for this to get better too.

But nothing—nothing—is ever going to be what it might have been. It is like having to live in a cave, or with no sun, or in only black and white all of a sudden. Life without Natashka is like life lived in the dark.

I don’t know what to do about this. I don’t know how to help myself. My impulse is to just get on with things. I know I have to stop doing that. I have to stop getting on with things. I have to let things hurt. Otherwise they keep hurting. Or I am anaesthetized. One of the two. Either way, it is not going to help me.

Getting on with things doesn’t let you heal anything. It buys you time until you get through the crisis. That’s all. The crisis is over now. It’s time to start looking at the wounds.

But I don’t know how.

Sam slept with his earing in his hand last night. The earing reminds him that Nata is free now and she is safe and he can sleep without worrying about her. He did not wake up. He slept all the way through until morning.

I know what to do for him.

I don’t know what to do for myself, except I suppose I need to acknowledge how I feel.

I held on. I fought to live. I survived. I got out of danger. I found myself in this.

I don’t want it.

This is wonderful. I don’t want it.

It’s like I ordered something from a catalogue. Let’s say I ordered a shirt. And the shirt comes, and it’s a lovely shirt, but it’s the wrong colour, it’s the wrong size, the pattern on the front is not to my taste. I don’t like it. For some reason, no other shirt is possible. I cannot return it. This is the only shirt I am going to get, and it’s hard to see that this shirt is also lovely. Because I didn’t order this shirt. It’s the wrong shirt.

This is the wrong life. I don’t want it. I want the life I fought for.

I am never, ever, ever in a hundred years going to get it. I cannot, no matter how hard I try, make this life into the one I wanted. I can fill it with people I love and meaning and purpose and beauty and it’s still a life with the lights out.

It’s still a life without the person who was everyone to me. It is still a life without her.

And this seems really trivial in a way, really unimportant. She was just one person. There are other people who can love me too, who can make me happy, who are also wonderful.

But people aren’t replaceable. They aren’t interchangeable parts. No matter who or what I allow into my life, they are never going to be her.

She is what I wanted. What I wanted was a life with her.

Reality is sometimes so helpful. I wanted life with her. I didn’t get it. I am therefore disappointed. Simple. But it was so hard for me to get there.

We are so inundated with shortcuts to happiness it’s hard to resist them. Be content with what you have.

Lovely. It’s a lovely sentiment. I wish it were that easy.

I wish I did not feel disappointed. I wish I felt something other than what I feel. I wish I could order contentment like I might order a shirt. I wish I could decide what to feel and have the feeling come when I called it.

But contentment is like my wild dog. She comes when she feels like it. She is happy to see me when she does see me, but it might be weeks before she shows up.

It’s worse though to keep fighting with how I feel. It is worse to say Be happy with this life. It’s a perfectly nice life. You should like it. It is worse to say than to just confront what is.

It is not the life I want. It is a lovely life. I don’t want it. That’s what is.



4 thoughts on “The wrong shirt

  1. Cat's Meow January 18, 2015 / 11:05 am

    “I wish that I could order contentment.” Wow, that would sure be nice, wouldn’t it?

    This sounds trite, but I guess that it is a matter of faith that if you feel what you need to feel and move on to fully experience your life, while it may not be life as your ideal shirt, it may end up being a life that you can be glad that you are living, most of the time. I think that there are some times when there is no “solution” just a slow evolution. I have a feeling that grieving what you lost and will never be able to have will be such a process for you.

    You have been through so much change in the last year, really a relatively short amount of time. As odd as it sounds, you may need to take the time to embrace your grief, to fully honor both Natalya and yourself. Yes, it is horribly painful, but the grief is a reflection of the depth of your love for each other.

    • Ashana M January 18, 2015 / 11:29 am

      I know what you mean, but it seems now that this thinking was the problem. This life is never going to be acceptable. I am not going to be glad for it. This sounds ungrateful, but that’s how it is. It is always going to be life with the lights out. On a scale of one to ten, this is a 1. it is okay I can live with the lights out. What I can’t live with is lying and saying the lights are on when they are not. It means also that I can stop trying to get the lights on again when there is just no electricity anymore.

      • Cat's Meow January 18, 2015 / 11:58 am

        I would be astonished if there were any lights on now, or if there ever had been since she died.

        What I was trying to suggest was the opposite of trying to move yourself along. It was to allow yourself to thoroughly grieve for as long as you need to, with no attempt to push through it.

        I can see that I was wrong to suggest having faith that there will be anything beyond the grief- you have spent so long needing to be someone who excised Natalya from your experience that I can imagine that you would have a profound need to simply be where you are and have it be with no goal of being any where else.

        I am glad that it is safe enough now for you to fully remember and grieve Natalya.

      • Ashana M January 18, 2015 / 2:54 pm

        I think we often help ourselves get through things by trying to imagine the other side of it as being something better and worth going toward. Where we are is tough. It’s terrible. We can’t stand it. So we imagine something better eventually happening. I was doing that and it didn’t help. It’s very hard to explain this. At the end of grieving, she is going to go on being dead. It will not hurt in the acute way it does now, but she will still be dead. It will still be life with the lights out. The lights are gone forever. They will not turn back on. I cannot get them back on. No one else can either. They are out. Full stop. It is immensely freeing to accept this. There is something beyond the grief–it is life with the lights out. I am not going to like this. It is always going to be vastly inferior to life with the lights on. And that is okay.

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