I found that the sickness I experienced over the weekend kept me pretty distracted and I wasn't able to really think about things.
Monday I went throughout my workday and felt sad and low and exhausted and sore from being sick - but I stayed on track and kept all of my appointments. I decided toward the end of the day to attend the viewing although most of my co-workers chose not to. I arrived with two co-workers (Danielle and Carol) and soon found that my close friend Liz was already there, so I abandoned them momentarily. There was a big crowd just inside the funeral home and as I made my way forward to try to see what was going on, I noticed that all "viewing" had stopped and that someone was standing at the pulpit above the coffin preaching. It was unreasonable and unexpected, but I found myself to be very angry. I felt like this man was preaching to hear himself speak and that although he was speaking about Tiffanie, it didn't have anything to do with her. I wanted to shout at him. I know that anger is one of the stages of grief, but I didn't expect it, at least not in the way it was manifesting. He finally stopped talking and everyone started moving very quickly into the room where she was and I found myself being swept very quickly towards the front of the room. Liz was holding on to me and our friend Debbie was right there with us. As we neared the coffin, Liz whispered that she couldn't look and let go of me and went towards Tiffanie's mother. Debbie walked with me to her coffin and we stood together and looked at Tiffanie. I only glanced at her for a moment, as she looked so completely different from when I had stood in the hospital and held her hand and I didn't like looking at her. I was glad Debbie was there, she has a strong maternal presence. I went to check on Liz and hugged Tiffanie's mom. As I turned back towards Liz, we broke down at the same moment and just stood there holding onto each other for dear life while we wept. Liz said she was ready to look at Tiff and although I didn't want to go back, Liz wasn't about to let me go. We stood together in front of her casket and wept. Liz reached out to touch her and I did the same. As I touched her hand I recalled the exact same feeling when I attended my Dad's viewing 15 years ago. I held his hands and touched his face, I was looking for signs of my strong happy Daddy and didn't find him there, his warm and safe smell was gone too. She had that same solid, cold, dead feeling. Liz turned to me and said, "That isn't her. She isn't there." I smiled at her and told her that her amazing happy laughing spirit wasn't gone or dead, that we know she lives on. We held each other tight and made our way back out of the chapel and went outside where we chatted more about it and spoke to various friends that we met on their way in and out. I parted with Liz and Debbie and went home with the two I'd arrived with. As we were driving along they started talking about how beautiful she looked and how she looked like she was asleep and the irrational anger came flooding back. I wanted to scream at them. She didn't look asleep, she looked dead. I sat quietly in the back seat while all this anger coursed through me and I realized why I was so angry and let myself feel it and wept. I'm using the word "was" but in some cases "am" works too. I was angry that Tiffanie didn't get to marry Steven, she loved him so much and talked about him all the time. I was angry that she never got to have the babies she wanted so badly. I was angry that every dream and goal was left unmet and unfulfilled. I was angry that I never got to tell her how much I admired her. I was angry that I wouldn't have anyone to make faces with and pass notes to during long boring meetings. I will never hear her laugh or sigh in exasperation and roll her eyes when I tell her the latest antics of our clients. I was angry at the insensitivity of one of the clients who asked very callously whether or not anyone had "pulled the plug yet." I wanted to tell her to shove it. Angry that I will never again peek my head around the corner into her office and make a face until she looks up from her computer and notices me - and never again hear her yell in surprise and laugh. Never again seek her advice or her friendship. I am angry that there won't be any more inside jokes or long rides in the jumbo-van to trainings, no more nick-names and funny stories. No more Tiffanie.
She started working at the shelter 6 months after I did. She was coming up on her 2 year mark. I am sad and sorry that I took it for granted that I would see her everyday. She was just an automatic part of my life and I still can't believe she's gone sometimes. But things definitely feel different without her. I miss her. I realize that I spend my days with a truly incredible group of women and that I take them for granted. This has brought us all much closer and I've definitely tried to show and express my appreciation for them more.
On Tuesday morning we all drove over to the funeral together. Liz joined us and I rode with her. I wasn't outwardly emotional and went in the Sanctuary and sat with my dear friends/co-workers. As the service progressed, I found myself feeling very irritable and antsy and nearly got up and walked out several times. The service was very nice, but I was freaking out inside. My eyes teared up here and there, but mostly I was overwhelmed with the urge to escape from there. I felt like I was about to jump out of my skin. As the service ended, the family began to walk up the aisle and the pall-bearers picked up her coffin and I could feel my grief rising to the surface. As soon as they came near to our pew I began to weep. Liz held me tight and began to weep with me. My heart broke for Tiffanie and her family and her poor fiance who looked like he couldn't take another step but who was very bravely carrying her coffin. My heart broke for all the reasons that I was angry about before and more.
After the funeral, everyone from work met at a restaurant where we had lunch together and told stories and just took things easy. Afterwards, I went to work for about 30 minutes, but couldn't stand it for one moment longer and went home. I was going to run errands to keep myself busy, but ended up going to bed instead.
Wednesday I didn't schedule any appointments and for our weekly staff meeting, we just ate and played games. It was relaxing and healing to just spend quality time together.
Thursday felt like business as usual and I let it feel that way. No tears, no recollections, just focus on my work (read: DENIAL).
Today I found things to keep myself busy, but Tiff's mom came to clean out her office and my heart broke all over again. Except this time I pushed things down and tried to ignore them. I went and sat in her office for 20 minutes, but didn't let myself process. Directly after work I went with Brandon and some friends to a big food and music event at the Zoo of all places, because I was sure I needed social interaction, only to find that I wasn't quite ready. I tagged along with everyone, but felt bad for them that I'd gone. I was quiet and just kind of stood around. We were standing right near the stage while The English Beat was playing and everyone was dancing and I was just standing there like a log. I almost started crying. I must have looked like it because one of our group kept looking at me with concern. Luckily we left pretty early, I don't think I could've made it much longer without falling apart. I held it together until I started typing this. But it's been really good to process this and get some tears out. If I find that there's more, I'll come back to this, but for now I'm going to bed!
(Here's a pic of Tiff and Steven at Halloween.)