Part of a story I wrote in high school. As there was a maximum length I never did get to flesh it out as I wanted.
“It’s too soon to return to work.” Vivienne flinched noticeably at the whine in Cora’s voice. She had expected her friend to resist the initial transition. She wondered bitterly if the less ambitious woman preferred her as an invalid. Cora visited almost daily with food, flowers, and invitations to low-tempo social engagements. As boring as those five hour avant-garde films were they were preferable to conversation. They were preferable to her friend’s thinly-veiled attempts at comfort.
“Would you rather that I sat at home crying all day.” Vivienne asked the edge in her voice softening to exasperation. She’d rehearsed this exact dialogue before coming to work. She was prepared. She was poised, nothing could deter her once her mind had been made.
“That would be the sane thing to do.” Cora said looking at her evenly.
“Sanity is relative…it’s been four months…it’s time that I started to move forward…” Vivienne cringed, no good her response had been too nonchalant Cora would see strait through her.
“Have you even seen a counselor…what about that group I recommended?” Group therapy was the last thing Vivienne wanted. Sitting in a circle filled with grieving parents, telling impossibly sad stories. Stories exactly like her own. These were people she couldn’t fix. These were people she didn’t have the right to fix. They had every reason to be miserable and to go on being miserable and there was nothing she or anyone else could do to solve that. As for individual therapy, she’d considered it but as a therapist herself it had seemed somehow redundant, unnecessary.
“I know how grieving works Cora…I know the stages…I know what’s best for me and right now I just want to get back to work…I need to get back to work…I’ll go crazy stewing in my apartment all day.” After a brief pause she added helpfully. “I’ll take it slow…no new patients…fewer hours…”
“Kristian killed himself Vivienne…it’s different…” If she didn’t stop Cora soon she’d say the one thing that Vivienne could not bring herself to hear out loud. Kristian killed himself and you failed to recognize the warning signs. You failed as his mother. You failed as a therapist. Cora would never say the last part but that is what everyone was thinking. She threw up a hand to silence her colleague.
“I appreciate your concern…you might even be right…but I have patients…patients who depend on me.” She hoped that Cora would take the hint and allow the conversation to return to a more benign channel, they were at work after all.
“Carol has it handled.” Cora assured. Their boss had entered the room to pour himself a cup of coffee, she needed to end this soon to avoid drawing attention.
“Handled? Their not pets…they have a developed a repertoire with me….it takes a long time to establish that level of trust…I am through with this conversation….it’s not your call besides it has already been approved…” Vivienne dropped her voice to prevent any further escalation.
Cora sighed audibly but relented. “I’ll drop it…if you schedule an appointment with a grief counselor…” There was no avoiding it, Vivienne had to agree otherwise Cora was likely to take up her concerns with Dr. Green. “I’ll schedule the appointment…” How hard could it be to fake her way out of therapy?
If only she’d retained a professional distance with Cora then she wouldn’t have to suffer such indignities now. Really how patronizing could the bitch be? They both had PH. D’s from prestigious universities, they both had seventeen years of experience. She’d lost her mother four years ago to breast cancer, she wasn’t a stranger to loss. Granted her son had only been fifteen. Granted his death had not been due to an accident or a physical illness and had come as a complete shock to everyone who knew him. He’d jumped to his death from a bridge only five miles from their apartment. He was medicated. He went to therapy three days a week with a renowned psychotherapist that she had chosen especially for him. He had friends, a girlfriend that she actually liked. They talked everyday. He was talented, attractive, well off financially (she’d seen to that). He had good grades. She’d been a good mother. She’d done well to raise him on her own. His father was a prick, an alcoholic but she’d even managed to get him into a program. She’d managed to repair a fraction of the damage he’d done and it was getting better. What more could she have done? No, she didn’t blame herself. She blamed Depression. She blamed the failings of psychotropic medications. Everyday she repeated to herself “No one is to blame.”. Everyday she read her journals where she had carefully recorded her son’s progress and there was progress, there had been significant progress. Had that been the warning sign? Had her son been faking wellness just as she was doing?
She filled her mug with coffee, nearly burning herself in the process. Holding the mug cautiously to her lips she began to blow and then inelegantly to sip away the excess. Work was the best thing for her really, work gave her life consistency and purpose. Cora was right about one thing she wasn’t over Kristian’s death but then again she never would be. That was the reality of all parents who lost children. That was the reality of loved ones who’d lost friends and family to suicide. There was no recovery, only the excruciating process of normalizing a life that never would be normal again.