Matt, I remember during your active addiction you talked about your disease as if it were a monkey on your back. Since your death I seem to have inherited an elephant. The only difference is my elephant found his spot on my chest and decided to settle in.
The funny thing is, as heavy as my elephant is to carry, he seems to be invisible to everyone but me. I first realized how easy it was to ignore my elephant when most of my so called friends seemed to disappear. It seemed it was easier to just vanish from my life than to acknowledge the tragedy of your loss.
My elephant for many can be a scary beast. Representing a difficult situation or an unpleasant experience that is best left unspoken. The mentality seems to be that if something is not said then it never really happened. Unfortunately for me, my elephant has become a constant companion. A constant reminder that life has taken a tragic turn and will never be reset.
The elephant is my dirty little secret. My elephant has a name. I call him grief. I’ve lived with him for 35 months and 26 days. Some days he seems to weigh a little less. On those days I seem to be able to carry him easily. The difficult thing is I never know how heavy or how light he will become from day to day. After living with grief I’ve learned that until people inherit my elephant they really don’t want to know how heavy he can be. Some give me the impression that they really don’t care.
It seems that my elephant chases people away. While shopping alone I run into old friends from my past. They know my story yet rather than approach me and start a conversation they go out of their way to avoid me. My elephant isn’t ugly. He doesn’t bite. He isn’t threatening. He is happy when people acknowledge him. Confused and hurt when they avoid him.
I have learned to live with my elephant. It seems I had no choice. Never in a million years did I ever think my constant companion would control so much of how I think and feel. Even in my wildest dreams I couldn’t even come close to understanding the power of one of the gentlest creatures on earth.
Somedays my elephant makes me feel like I’m crazy. Like we are too attached. Like I should be giving him walking papers and sending him on his way. My mind thinks I’ve had him far too long. But My heart just can’t let him go. The elephant has become emotionally protective of me. Shielding me from those who don’t know anything about elephants. From those who feel that elephants have no place in the human heart.
It seems this time of the year my elephant has gained some weight. As I see families huddling together near Christmas lights or hear the songs of peace and joy I can feel his weight shift. I feel like the loner in the room. Like my elephant has become unruly and people must run for their safety. People see me but don’t see me. My elephant and I are invisible. As if someone had the nerve to ask how I was doing the elephant would shatter to the floor.
I wait for the day my elephant is accepted. I wait for the day people reach out and touch him. My elephant has become a part of who I’ve become since your death. He needs to be acknowledged. He needs to be understood. The elephant has no plans to move on. I’m still grieving and probably will be the rest of my days. My elephant and I will leave this life as one. Until then I carry him wherever I go.