At first I thought I made myself sick to punish myself for not being able to save her.
She died alone.
I didn’t say goodbye, except by waving at her from the elevator.
Also I made a big mistake during our last visit. When I said, “See you next week” she looked at me and said, “You think?” She knew. I knew, too, but instead of stepping into the moment with her, I left her alone in it. I didn’t want to deal.
She had cancer and so I thought about getting cancer. Maybe if I had cancer I could right my wrongs. First, maybe if I could embody her illness, I could sort of become her and not have to let her go.
Also, maybe by suffering like she suffered I could make up for not being able to save her. Maybe I could punish myself just enough to make her suffering okay in my mind. I couldn’t get over that she had to experience this suffering, when I didn’t.
I didn’t get cancer, but I did get strep throat and here’s why.
Throats (according to Louise Hay and some people who know stuff about chakras) represent our ability to speak up, which I wasn’t doing. I hesitated to talk to people about it because not only am I usually the listener—so I’m just not comfortable using my voice/talking about myself in the first place—but also it seemed like people were sick of hearing about it. So I kept it to myself. (Some ears grow tired listening to the sufferings of others.)
Losing her was devastating; so was participating in day-to-day activities as if I were moving on, which is another reason I made myself sick. Moving on physically when I couldn’t emotionally was unsustainable. So I subconsciously stopped my body from moving in order to give my heart a chance to catch-up.
My still body made the perfect garden bed for memories and wish-it-would-have-been’s to shoot up like magic bean stalks.
I processed emotions faster and more intensely than I’d ever processed emotions before. To say it hurt doesn’t come close. My whole body contracted with cries for forgiveness and apologies. My chest so muddy with grief it felt like breathing through a straw. My mortality rattled with the mystery of death and questions about what it means to be dead—is she gone or can she still hear me and why does this have to happen…why couldn’t she stay?
Then a veil of relief would settle over my eyes: the image of her when I walked into her apartment on our last visit. She wore all black with her teeth out, discolored skin, diminished light, hollowing eyes and complaints of chest pain—that’s why she couldn’t stay. It was too hard and she had enough.
I wouldn’t wish the depleting emotional pain I experienced on my worst enemy. I didn’t know I could hurt like that. (I’m still tired.) And my five days in bed made her no less dead. In a way, everything’s the same. I still wish I’d stepped into that moment instead of leaving her alone in it; I still wish I called her like my restless intuition told me to and I wish I could go to her apartment and talk to her about what it’s been like to lose her.
Being sick, didn’t make right any of my wrongs. She didn’t do what I asked and come to me in a dream to give me a sign that she still hears me, loves me, forgives me, thanks me—anything. I have none of that, but that isn’t why I made myself sick.
I made myself sick so I wasn’t skidding over my pain anymore. I made myself sick so I could explode unapologetically without trying to hide it from anyone. I made myself sick so I could acknowledge, if only to myself, losing her is the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced.
I’m not saying I’m done with grief or grief is done with me. But I am saying, thank you sickness, thank you for the gifts you brought. Over the last five days sickness granted me the gifts of time off work, isolation, stillness and heightened emotions making what needed to be dealt with more accessible.
Come to think of it, a couple months ago I started repeating a Rumi quote to myself.
“If you desire healing, let yourself fall ill, let yourself fall ill.”
I guess I knew what I needed before I knew I needed it.
May we all heal as we need to and in our own time.
Author: Alyssa DiVirgilio
Editor: Travis May