Medusa-Headed Harpy

Grief is multi-faceted, a snarled snake-headed harpy. Just when you think you’re doing ok and the waters are steady, she snarls at you from behind her doom-twisted rock with its deep, watery caves and lashing waves. I’d like to call her a nasty name.

You may have noticed that I avoided Facebook last week. I was practicing avoidance and it was very effective. The theory was that if I didn’t think about the anniversary of Adam’s death then all the feelings that came with it were less likely to take over and smash me under the harpy waves.

But she’ll find a way. You may think I’m being melodramatic when discovering that what brought me down today was a simple email from my financial advisor. I’d sent her spending reports. “When can we talk about this?,” she replied.

In the midst of the heartache and shock of the last four years, at least I have been stable financially. Our advisor and Adam planned well for an event that was never supposed to happen. I was relieved beyond measure not have to make any changes on that front when so much else was shifting.

Much as society likes to pretend death doesn’t happen, leaving us unprepared when it inevitably does, we don’t talk about our financial lives; doing so is coarse and embarrassing.

Since I’ve spoken unabashedly about death on this page, I might as well dive in to the financial realities of a loved one’s death.

No, I don’t want to and that’s probably a big part of the problem. My advisor has been asking me for spending reports for a good four years, but it’s finally come down to brass tacks. I produced it. I sent it. And she wants to talk. Well of course she does.

I’ve continued to live as I always did. In fact, I’ve had to take on lots of expenses to cover the contributions Adam made to our household. I’ve had to spend a lot on the deferred home maintenance that was a surprise to me and continues to cause issues. And I’ve continued to pay for life’s small luxuries that make things bearable and make me feel like a human being. And (and this is a big one), keep me in touch with my friends.

“What?,” you say. Well think about it. Our lifestyles are largely based on our incomes, our friends group, our interests. At my stage of life, for most of my married friends, and most of them are married, incomes are at their height and children are graduating from school and going out on their own, freeing up even more income. Social lives consist of expensive experiences, requiring lovely wardrobes, maybe travel, restaurants and bars, all sorts of stuff.

I know I sound like a big whiner. It’s not like I’m going to be out on my tush, in the swirling ugly waters of the snaky-headed harpy.

But I have difficult decisions ahead. I don’t want to lose my home. I don’t want to give up certain of my regular experiences that make me feel like a human being.

It’s time for deep soul-searching about what is important to me in this physical life–which is house and home and that includes the Taj. I can’t leave my house, but neither can I watch it fall to ruin. I just don’t know how to prioritize.

Please bear with me, especially if you are early in your grief. This is but a stage, much like teething, and I’ll get through it. But right now I could use an ice pack.