Taking a break

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By Caitlin Kelly

I leave this week for a week away from home, alone, and am ready for it.

I drive to Virginia — about six hours (not a fan of flying) — and have two small-town days at an inn, all to myself.

Then to a conference, the Northern Short Course, which is an annual event for photojournalists, some freelance, some working for news organizations. It’s the second year I’ve been invited to speak, and I’ll talk about the many challenges of pitching ideas and projects to would-be clients. I began my career in Toronto as a teenager selling my photos to newspapers and magazines, so I have some street cred as a photographer as well as writer.

A dear friend of Jose’s, and a lifelong mentor, will be flying in from New Mexico, so I am looking forward to dinner with him and his wife; we stayed with them in June.

 

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Then two days’ playtime in D.C., catching up with friends there.

Then home and diving into three successive freelance projects: for The New York Times, my second story for Mechanical Engineering (!) and a story for a Canadian business magazine.

I’ve done very little work over the past two weeks since my mother’s sudden death.

It’s been the usual and expected flurry of phone calls: her nursing home, the funeral home, her executor and the law firm handling her estate and will.

I’m really really tired.

Despite our last decade of estrangement, I’m still struck by/with grief, grateful for Jose’s support and the cards, emails, calls and flowers from loving friends.

I wish — however retro and weird this sounds — we still wore black to signify mourning (instead of what all New Yorkers wear all the time!) or even a black armband on the left sleeve. I Googled it and it appears to be wholly out of fashion and would not be understood.

It would be a powerful and effective way to signal mourning — without having to discuss, explain, react. The conference organizer is losing her mother right before the event, so she will be so exhausted. While others’ love and consolation and condolences are very welcome, they’re also tiring to acknowledge and respond to, especially in person. Some (luckily, only a few) will try to share their story of loss.

You just can’t. You’re too tired.

While I’ve shared quite a bit of my feelings on social media, I also have many, many more and need to process them slowly, quietly and without the energy drain of being social.

Now that coronavirus is making public gatherings suspect, this will be easier.

So I may post later this week — or not.

Thank you for all your comments and kindness!

 

 

23 thoughts on “Taking a break

  1. Don’t forget to post every evening with a detailed description of your day’s activities and the impact they are having on your grieving process. Inquiring minds want to know.

    1. Of course. And no such thing in my world as a “grieving process.” That phrase is one I hate.

      The truth is — after the age of 8 (when I began spending my life at boarding school and summer camp, seeing my mother on weekends) — I only lived at home with her for 2.5 years, Grade 6, 7 and half of Grade 10. So yes, grieving, but also for a very private woman I did not know nearly as well as some know their mothers.

  2. I’m so sorry that you’re going through this. I totally and completely understand, having gone through the same thing – unexpected death (but over 24 days) of my estranged mother. That was in June of 2018. I started being a person again at the beginning of this year. I’m sorry. I know you’re exhausted and just don’t want to. Please, PLEASE, put yourself first and rest and grieve and be quiet. I wish the best for you going forward.

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