Death Visits my Workplace

Someone at work died last night of a heart attack. I barely knew him, even though I’ve worked here for a decade and he’s been here longer (it’s a large institution). But the whole place is walking around in shock. People are talking about him, about his death, and about their past interactions with him.

But I can’t be the listener. I just can’t. I know I have trouble understanding and dealing with attachment. I know I have bad reactions to loss. I know that I have spent so much of my life both ruthlessly suppressing my feelings while simultaneously trying to learn how to understand and express them. All of this is part of it. Also, I’ve been carefully and cruelly trained to always make other people’s feelings more important than my own, as well as to meet other people’s needs at the expense of my own, and I have worked so very hard to try to unlearn this. So to suddenly find myself in the middle of this sea of shock and grief, with people wanting to talk, or even when they don’t, when every instance of eye contact is accompanied by sad faces and head tilts and resigned shrugs and meaningful sighs… I just can’t.

At first, this guy just seemed gruff and distant. We never really interacted much except for nods of acknowledgement when we passed in the halls. Once, I left a note on someone’s shiny new truck when it was parked so close to my driver’s side door that I couldn’t get in: Great parking job. I had to use my passenger door. Better luck next time, buddy. I signed it with my name and department, because I believe in accountability, and I’m mostly spoiling for a fight. A few days later, this guy hailed me in the hall: “Hey, that parking job? That was me. I’m really sorry. I was in a hurry and I wasn’t paying attention.”

From that moment on, even though that was the most we ever interacted, I liked him. I respect people who own their own shit, you know? And I can see clearly that he was well-liked and respected, that he had extensive social ties among his colleagues, and that he will be sorely missed. I don’t feel it, because I didn’t really know him.  And I don’t WANT to feel it, because I don’t dare open up my own well of grief and loss, not if I want to continue functioning.

So I keep my head down. I keep my headphones on. I stand up and reach for my bathroom keys when a conversation starts. I avoid it. I run away from it. I am of no help or support or consolation to anyone around me. I feel selfish. And I feel like people think I’m a cold-hearted bitch.

What people think doesn’t matter. I’m dry-eyed at my desk getting my work done. Sure, I bought four chocolate bars on the way back to work after lunch. But they’re purely medicinal.

 

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9 thoughts on “Death Visits my Workplace

  1. kitchensinkpost

    This is awesome!!!!!!

    Could you guys come check out my blog. I’ve just started and M enthusiastic about created a community of people who can connect about depression and self harm. Thanks!! ❤

    Like

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  2. AssistanceDogEmma

    Thing is, sounds like your way of managing it is a good one for you though.

    One of the things I hate most about us as a species is how, when death happens, any deviation from the collective’s manner of coping is often met with the most appalling behaviour.

    I’m sorry you’re going through this.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. nissetje Post author

      Thank you. And you make a very good point. If people don’t react “properly” in a socially acceptable manner to big news like death or pregnancy or accidents or whatever, there’s a lot of shaming and pressure to conform. I remember with both of my grandmothers that even though I was devastated when they died, I was SO GLAD that their suffering was over! But expressing some happiness and relief at the death of a very loved one made people side-eye me. It was weird.

      Liked by 3 people

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  3. sonofabeach96

    I’ve never had a co-worker go unexpectedly, but my boss, well, former boss now, of 10 years lost her son to leukemia back in July. It was awful. I didn’t know what to say. Hope tomorrow is a bit better.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. nissetje Post author

      Wah, yeah, that would be awfully hard. One of my bosses lost his very young (34) wife to breast cancer a few years back. I was completely emotionally burnt out from hearing all the daily details and being (only sometimes voluntarily) an emotional support over the course of more than a year. I honestly felt like it would be wrong / harsh / unconscionable to set boundaries with him, because he was in so much pain. Makes me realise that I have indeed changed since then and am better able to protect myself a bit.

      Liked by 1 person

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  4. Blair (The Shameful Sheep)

    Sorry to hear about the stress at work. I know how you feel. Okay, I’ve never lost a colleague, but I know how you feel in the sense of not wanting to be near it. I’m a pretty awkward person sometimes, and the best way I can deal with things is to separate myself. Eat a lot of food. And pretend things are normal. It’s just a different way to cope. I can’t get emotional and convene in the lunch room and cry over stale donuts. Just doesn’t work that way. Hang in there.

    PS- I love the random previous post that says ‘THAT’S AWESOME!!!!’ when you just wrote a post about death. People.. *shakes head*

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. nissetje Post author

      Thanks. I didn’t really know him so it isn’t a personal loss, but I guess I’m trying to prevent it from BECOMING personal by staying away from everyone’s feelings. And chocolate. Don’t forget the chocolate. Unwanted feelings are best suffocated under a layer of sugar, I always say.

      And PS to your PS – I know, right? I debated whether to leave it in the spam filer or not but opted for the comedic value. Wasn’t sure anyone would get it, so I’m glad you mentioned it. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  5. honestme363

    We all deal with things in different ways. My youngest stepdaughter laughs at funerals. It’s a stress? reaction, she doesn’t know how not to. I just know that when she disappears for awhile it’s because she doesn’t want to be condemned by those around. I too felt relieved (and devastated) when my mom died. It felt like a weight was lifted off of my shoulders – powerless to stop her suffering. And do you eat eggs? Lynn has a great recipe for cream cheese brownies – I have been pigging out on them all week. Thanks for letting me ramble here ☺

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. nissetje Post author

      Yes, I eat dairy; I will check out her blog for the recipe! Thanks for the tip.

      My mom had a friend who reacted that way to things. Once at one of my mom’s dinner parties, another guest fell down our basement stairs… and this friend was in the living room, literally biting one of the ornamental sofa pillows to keep from laughing while the others were trying to figure out if they should call 911…

      Relief and devastation… A weird combo but apparently really common, eh? We miss them and we are so glad there’s no more suffering. It is no contradiction.

      Liked by 1 person

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