Musing on Death and Mood Disorders

November has typically been a triggering month for me in the past. My birthday, my son’s birthday, and a couple of other important birthdays. This year was different though. At 6 AM November 17th, on my birthday, my grandmother Shirley passed away- likely to do with the treatment related to her kidney failure- but we’re not entirely sure. I would say I was as close to my grandmother as I could possibly be to a relative. I spent half my life living directly across the street from her. So she was not someone I just saw off and on.

Now, I’ve known for a real long time that my emotional processes are WAY different than most. When I’ve tried to explain this to others, I would often hear “well, wait until you lose someone close to you”. Well, now that I have…I can safely say that I was right and it didn’t make much difference. Yes, I felt bad for the loss of my Grandma Shirley. I felt worse because I didn’t feel as bad as I thought I should have. I fucking hate that.

As in many situations, I often use humor to get through dark, difficult, or tragic things. I know there were a few times during calling hours and around the funeral services I made people who were crying laugh. I know there was one point I could not stop snickering because I had been watching the Walking Dead and “you have to destroy the brain to keep them from coming back!” kept popping in my head. Or that older episode of South Park when the boys put a stick up the butt of Kyle’s grandmother’s corpse to use her as a puppet to scare some kids that were picking on them at Halloween. Or even going the intellectual route- burying her with a brick in her mouth which was a medieval practice to prevent vampires from rising. It would confuse the hell out of archaeologists in a couple hundred years. “They still believed in vampires in the 21st century?!” Also hilarious- to me anyway.

But I did what I learned to do a long time ago and KEPT MY MOUTH SHUT…mostly.

And that’s where the mental illness and differences really start to come into play. On the one hand, I’m Bipolar with a severe depression component. I’d say 80% of my cycles are of depression including my baseline mood. I’m sure it’s the reason that I haven’t cried due to emotional pain in several years. I really have no idea how long it’s been but I know it’s been a fucking long time. And then there is the autistic side of my brain. I often tell people I’m logical to a fault but they usually think I’m being coy.

So while we were at calling hours and the services; I heard on more than a few occasions how unexpected her passing was. I get that she was doing and getting better up until the day she died; but she was an 88 year old woman battling kidney failure. I don’t think it should have been that surprising to anyone. But my brain is a defective piece of shit so I knew that thought process was mostly my own and probably the result of the “logical to a fault” processes that rattle around in there.

And then calling hours and funerals are strange in general. “Do you want to say goodbye to your grandma?” “Do you want to see your grandma?” Yeah, I stepped forward; mostly for the benefit of my mother.

But really- that just wasn’t my grandmother. My grandmother was a lively, energetic woman who loved mowing her grass with her tractor, laughing, and periodically calling me shithead if I was picking on her too much. This was the same woman I had a 20 year argument with about her not giving me money to come over to her house and help her with things. As I finally revealed to my mother, I eventually figured out it was just easier to take the money and put it back in her purse when she wasn’t looking! Saved quite a bit of arguing. And wouldn’t you know my grandmother had given my mother birthday money for me just before she passed? I took it as excellent timing on her part- a final, stubborn “HA! I WIN!” from my grandmother.

That figure in that casket was not my grandmother. It was just a corpse; a shell, a vessel for the spirited, wonderful woman who often managed to frustrate and love me equally at times. And that is exactly why I will be cremated and dumped out somewhere. Or- I think it would also be funny to piece my body out into like five sections and have them buried in completely different states just to screw with future generations trying to do genealogical research. That is also acceptable.

Anyway, this vessel is nothing without my active intellect, my heart, and my soul. If those things are gone then it ceases to be me. That goes if I’m in a vegetative state too. If I can’t think, then I might as well be dead. To borrow a joke from Chris Titus, “And don’t pull the plug and let me die slow and horrible. You duct tape my ass to a motorcycle and jump me over Snake River Canyon to break Evel Knievel’s record. Film it and release DVDs to help support my family. I want to be brain-dead over Snake River Canyon!”

And of course, funerals are mostly for the living rather than the dead. “I’m sure Shirley will be with you.” “I’m sure she’s watching over you.”

Man I hope not. I really don’t want my grandmother to know what kind of porn I watch or how often I just hang out pantsless. That’s not cool. How fucking boring would that be? You die, there turns out to be an afterlife, and you get stuck here? Look; I love my family and have plenty of people in my life I care about…but if there is an afterlife my fat ass isn’t hanging around here. I want to see shit, learn shit, delve into whatever I can possibly explore. And possibly vacation here to haunt my brother because fuck that guy!

I’m not religious for numerous reasons that I’m not going to tirade about here; but I hope my grandmother was able to move on to the Heaven she desired. I know she missed my grandfather who passed awhile back and had many friends she would probably want to see again. I’m sure she would want to watch over her daughter- my mother.

It’s strange how many things wind up being a double-edged sword. The fact that I am so muted to emotional circumstances most of the time makes it really easy for me to deal with emotional people whether they are enraged or deeply sad. But on the other hand, you have situations like my grandmother’s death where I wasn’t able to shed tears for someone I was close to.

Ah well. I hope my grandmother found what she was looking for out of her afterlife; if any. She was a great woman and I was lucky to have her in my life as I did. Maybe I’ll see her again, maybe I won’t. Time will tell.


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9 Responses to Musing on Death and Mood Disorders

  1. Jenny says:

    Grief in my experience is a weird one! Humans are incredibly uncomfortable with death and they often feel they have to relay comments that make themselves feel comfortable.. And make believe they’ve said the right thing by assuming they know how you feel. Grieving for someone who loved, laughed and felt sorrow on this earth for an entire 88 years is wasted.. Admiring her for being here so long and having the experiences she did, however is a much more aware and less sorrowful emotion. And maybe that’s what your feeling.. We all grief differently. For different reasons, and it’s deeply personal and should never be questioned by others.

    • Dennis says:

      Grief definitely manifests in a number of different ways. I know that a lot of comments and suggestions are the person trying to figure out what to say to make things easier for the person having a hard time. I certainly do admire my grandmother and her lively spirit right up until the end. She had a good life for herself and we all certainly enjoyed her presence.

      Thanks, Jenny.

  2. Liam says:

    My mother passed away a couple of years ago due to health complications very similar to the ones I’ve been dealing with lately; unsurprisingly, I’ve been thinking a lot about death and about her while this has been going on. Thank you for writing this post. It put things back into perspective for me.

    As the commentor before me said, we all grieve differently. I hardly cried at my mother’s funeral, and I was extremely close to her. I deal with a lot of grieving individuals in my line of work, and I find that there’s no greater variation to the expression of human emotion than when someone’s lost someone close. Nobody’s wrong, nobody’s strange–we’re all just wired a little differently than each other. I can very much understand the feelings of guilt over not feeling like you think you should. But ‘should’ is a dangerous word. This post suggests that you’re coming to feel alright about it, though.

    And if not now, then I do hope you’re feeling better soon. All the best.

    • Dennis says:

      Thanks for the input, Liam. I know that for me, the feeling guilty thing is something I’ve dealt with for quite a long time in my life in regards to mourning. Things just don’t bother me like they should. I don’t know if I’ve ever worried about it too deeply in general; I try not to get hung up on things that I can’t change. It’s just another of those weird contrasting points that I wonder if I’d have if I was mentally ill. Who knows!

      I hope your health problems work out for you.

      • Siberia says:

        Hi Dennis!
        I am sorry about your loss. I totally agree with Jenny, grief is very personal experience and everyone reacts in a different ways.

        Reading your comments I can vividly remember my friend (45 years old, BP1, unmedicated for 2 years now. After a full blown manic episode in 2012 that last for months, he keeps on cycling). He reaches a point where he cannot “worry” more about the things he said o did. He accepts that there is no much scope for forgiveness or “reparation”. Is not insensitivity, is simply too much to cope with.

        And yes, in the case of my friend, this is a consequence of his “unique” experience with loss and grief. When he is manic, you know the damage that the symptoms can cause. He reaches psychosis (paranoia and hears things) and he believes that people who love him want to “end his life”. Perfect storm, no restrains…devastation. Again and again. And he builds his life again, leaving behind many important things. So, he somehow “learnt” to put some boundaries to the grief.

        Your posts have helped me a lot. He is in denial (delusion of control: “I suffer from BP, but it’s ok. I’m happy with it”), so is extremely difficult. I keep talking to him but I take care of myself because is very confusing and sometimes damaging. Communication is very poor and has little control when he is angry (at least with me, probably because of familiarity).

        Thanks Dennis and all the best!

        • Dennis says:

          Thanks Siberia. Yes, it is very difficult being around friends that have essentially given in to their situation. I’ve met a few people in a situation similar to yours; and you’re right in ensuring he can’t drag you down with him. Because he most certainly will.

          I suppose we all have very unique perspectives on the Disorder and various circumstances of life we have to deal with.

  3. Jo-Anna says:

    My Grandmother was my best friend, the only one who would not yell at me as a kid when I was bouncing off the wall because of my ADHD. She let me roller-skate in her house when it was rainy. She knew how to keep me busy with little things… ” here is a little pan, go pick blueberries and we can make muffins” or ” here is the wood carrier find some good sticks so we can have a nice fire tonight.” She never cared what others thought of her. She was an alcoholic but when my mother said “If you don’t stop drinking, your never going to see your granddaughter.” She quit that day and was sober till the day she passed. (Pretty big to me since my own mother would not stop drinking or smoking when I was inside of her.)She loved me before I was out in this world. With my Bipolar I often think that no one gives a shit, even when it comes to my family. But not when it came to her. I know she loved me, and I cry every time I think of her. EVERY TIME! (But I do cry a lot sometimes anyway.) But when it is some other people,,, I just have no emotion. None at all…

    • Dennis says:

      Your grandmother sounds like a great woman. 🙂 It sure is difficult to find people to forge that kind of connection with in life. You’ll always have those memories and the warmth of that unconditional love though.

  4. Corina says:


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