Friday, November 14, 2014

Baselines. An open letter to Kevin.

A public letter to Kevin.

Dear Kevin,

Here it is, 33 weeks after you died. 42 weeks from your diagnosis. It's still unreal but there are moments of knife-sharp clarity. You aren't coming back. Nothing will change what has happened and, as you know, I really hate unchangeable situations. Talk about powerlessness.

I am powerless. No one wants to feel as if they have no agency in their life and every day is reminder of how little control I truly have. I couldn't save you. I can't save anyone. A tree might fall on me any moment, I can't change the weather and I certainly can't do much about our government. But life goes on.

I don't like this new life. It doesn't feel like any kind of life. But it's the only life I have, just as your life was the only life you had. Damn it.

My experience of grief is changing, as it should. I am generally more functional than I was. I get of bed pretty much every day. I don't sob everyday, though I can see the changes in my face. Just as I have moments of clarity that you are gone, I also have moments of... I wouldn't call it joy or happiness, but maybe ease. These moments are just as painful in some ways, because each is a reminder that I am learning to live without you. I never wanted to live without you.

I was talking with a friend recently and he asked how I was doing, then immediately backpedaled. He apologized, saying that he knew there was no real way I could answer that. I told him it was okay, that I know he cares and was asking out of love. I told him it was okay to ask but I didn't know how to answer.

That thought led to this and I think it's an important step in learning to live in this world without you.

Everyone has an emotional baseline, the place we settle to without external influence. It's the place to which we compare all of our other emotions. If it's a good day, we're above baseline. If it's a rough one, we're below.

I was really lucky for 15 years. With you my baseline was pretty high. Even a crappy day wasn't so bad because I knew we would talk, hug, sleep holding each other. Now you're gone. I don't have that daily reassurance of love, worth, connection, intimacy. Damn it.

If I keep measuring my moods against the old baseline I will never come anywhere close to joy let alone ease with this life. I will never be able to have a good day because you will not be there at the end of it. I need a new baseline.

If my old baseline was a 7 on a scale of 1-10 my new baseline is maybe a 3 or 4. That isn't great, but understanding that I'm at a 3.5 most of the time means if I hit a 6 it's been a pretty good day. Before a 6 would have been an off day. Does this make sense?

I think it does. It feels right to me. In truth, I don't know what my new baseline is, I'm still the grief roller coaster. But I can pay attention and notice where I might be on an okay day. What a good moment feels like in this new setting. Frankly I suspect this is something we do throughout our lives without noticing. Now I need to notice. Maybe the noticing will be useful for others, too.

I hate that this is necessary. But it is. It will take time. I still compare my current life to my life with you and one is a thin shadow of the other. But it is the only life I have.

I know you are with me as much as you can be. I carry you with me every day. You are still a part of my baseline. You always will be.

Kevin, I still I love you. I always will.


(33 weeks. Damn it.)

(c)2014 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License


  1. I'm so sorry for your loss. I just lost the love of my life 2 weeks ago. Not sure I even have a baseline, if so, I'm way under at this point. I can't even wrap my head around the reality of what has happened. I wanted to thank you for sharing your letter, I know in my head I'm not alone in this circumstance, others, unfortunately, are dealing with loss and grief too, but your letter helps me to know in my heart that I am not alone in how I feel...

  2. Laura, I am just up a head on a hill around the corner. I am reaching my hand down to pull you up so you can see the sun on the leaves. I will hold you here for a long moment, hug you then whisper in your ear secrets Kevin might have told me, and then watch you go your way on the path that only you can walk. I will send you postcards from yesterday that say love and friendship and chocolate stout. I will be sending you a postcard from tomorrow that says the silver lining is tiny. I will send you a post card from today saying "Honest words ring true."

  3. . . . from a stranger half-way around the world who's also a storyteller . . . you are not alone. You love and are loved and at the end of this journey that's really what matters . . . then we get to take that with us onto the next journey. Your stories touch the heart, Laura. Don't stop telling them. Kevin hears them all and so do we.


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