The Paused Life

photo (15)~~ Ian McEwan in “The Comfort of Strangers”


Yes, I am still here.  I am still here thinking about you, missing you, and grieving for you.  For those of you who faithfully follow my writing and have graciously messaged asking if I am still writing, still out there, still functioning….. technically yes.  Back in May I attempted to promise myself that I was going to make some changes and make time for myself.  I told myself, and any of you reading this, that I would start by taking the time to sit down and write out the ten million thoughts that race through my mind daily.  It would appear I have failed again.

I came across this picture quote the other day and I can’t think of a better description for how I feel right now.  Sleepwalking from moment to moment, months have slipped by without even registering their existence, and nothing has made an impression on me in a really long time.  Grief has completely stolen my concept of time, which I know I have talked about before, but is it seriously August 19, 2013?  Where have the last almost two years gone?

I will convince myself that I am doing alright and paying attention to what is going on around me, but then one of my best friends says he moved into his new house a month ago.  I hadn’t even asked how that went or how it looked.  My best friend’s little girl turned four and I didn’t even remember that her birthday was upcoming.  Another best friend’s baby girl is eight months old now and I haven’t even remembered to ask if she is crawling yet.  Friends will call me out on not texting or calling, but while I feel like I just did yesterday it has actually been weeks.  Semesters of school have come and gone.  I feel like I just wrote something for this blog, but it has been months.  Nothing registers.  All evades me.

I don’t care so much about myself.  I have become so numb to my own life that I just go through the motions of the day.  I work, I go to class, I do homework, I cry myself to sleep.  Repeat.  I am probably failing myself in every sense of the meaning, but as long as I keep putting one foot in front of the other I am okay with failing myself.  I’ve given up on myself.  But failing my friends and my family is something I am not okay with.  How do I fix this?  How can I stop allowing the grief to control me and leave me so detached from life?  It is so selfish and I hate it about myself.  My friends deserve better.  My family deserves better.  But the person I used to be is gone and I don’t know how to do better at being there for other people.

Zach, when you and I moved into the house we switched to Direct TV and loved it.  We got NFL Sunday Ticket free for one year, we got all kinds of channels, and better yet we got a DVR.  Oh the joy of recording TV shows, pausing, fast forwarding commercials… oh the power! I’ve started to think of my life as being on pause.  October 9, 2011 someone hit a giant pause button on my life and the person I used to be came screeching to a halt.  To say I am in a rut would be an understatement because nothing has changed.  I feel just as lost as that day with the only difference being that I have become better at hiding it and getting done what needs to be.  The world has gone on around me and life whirls by faster than I can process.  Life has gone on without me and left me stranded in this misery of a life without you.

The paused life.  It is a life that can be seen from the outside and yet all action, forward momentum, and progress has been paused.  Looking at the screen we can see the TV show waiting to be turned on again, but nothing is happening to our favorite characters or with our beloved sports teams.  They are just there.  Frozen in place.  Doing nothing.  Lacking a complete inability to do anything else until someone presses pause again and releases them from their frozen state.

Zach, who has the power to hit pause again and restart my life?  Will it ever restart?  Or will I continue to live this paused life forever?

11 comments on “The Paused Life

  1. Esther says:

    I understand what you mean by sleepwalking through life….though in my case, I wish I could actually BE asleep, for that is the only time the pain of grief and loss eases….and sometimes I’m lucky enough to see and be with my loved ones in my dreams. Waking is always a horrible shock back into reality. I commend you for being able to keep moving, working, etc., as I fell off of the world and am trying to climb back on but it is difficult and painful and many days I’d rather not. Like you, I feel my loved ones deserve better from me, so I won’t stop trying. There is a statement about my life I found and if there was a way I could email it to you, I would. I have been wondering how you are, thinking about you out there, struggling with your loss, as I struggle with mine. You aren’t alone….believe me, I know that doesn’t “fix” anything, but just saying it so you’ll realize “we” do think about you, pull for you, and send you as much positive and healing vibes as can be mustered.
    Take care, Es

    • brenner1543 says:

      Esther, I couldn’t agree with you more about wishing for sleep. Still even after all this time sleep typically evades me and I stay awake most of the night. Trust me… I wish I could have fallen off of the world, but I have to keep going because I know he would want me to. But it is still so hard. It means so much to me that you have been thinking of me and sending good vibes. I can see your email address via my list of followers; can I contact you through that?

  2. Mermaid says:

    I have been following your blog for quite some time. Moved by your honesty and grateful to you for sharing your journey, I cheer for you even though we have never met.

    I lost my Mom in 2010 and the second year without her was if possible, worse than the first. My aching heart pumped through the pain and months of numb detachment…no joy, no passion, no dreams. Breathing but not really alive.

    Of course, my AFTER feels lonelier, scarier. There is less color; more gray. And so many days can never compare to the sacred BEFORE. But over time, my grief is softening. I feel hopeful again and sometimes, even optimistic.

    I wish easier days for you ahead…

    • brenner1543 says:

      The sacred before. I love how you worded that. Wow. You are absolutely right. We are trapped in a life of wishing for yesterday and everything that was before. Thank you for sharing that you feel the same way. I think the worst part of grief is that we feel like we are the only ones feeling the way we do and yet we tell ourselves we aren’t. We know we aren’t the only ones suffering and yet we feel like no one understands our pain. I am glad you are beginning to feel hope and optimism; your mom would want that for you!

    • Afterwards says:

      completely relate to you Mermaid… I think that in the beginning it is easier because we only feel one part of grief at a time… We have no concept of the 1000 little daily holes that a person has left in our lives. At first we feel a blanket of grief that is maybe mostly sadness and disbelief, but after the first year I think we begin to feel other types of pain; we begin to feel the individual aches in our heart that result from realizing how fully our life will be affected by this – life reveals more and more situations that I didn’t even think of before, where my mom’s absence is close to intolerable… Year two was definitely harder for me, it seems to be when the true AFTER begins. Hugs to you, from another motherless daughter.

  3. It’s amazing how much energy it takes to get out of bed and put one foot in front of the other after you have lost someone you love. I know that you understand how that feels, and I do as well. My father died 10 months ago, and I feel worse now than I did right after he died. There are good days, good memories, but so much of the time there’s just … grayness. And exhaustion. And fighting that exhaustion and making the effort to live, to be engaged in other people’s lives, seems like too much trouble on some days. But I do it. And you do it. Because we know that life does go on, even if we don’t want it to.

    I guess the phrase I’ve held onto is “act as if.” Pretend that I’m enjoying life and maybe one day, in the distant future, I will again. I hope that you will too. I have to believe that is possible, even on the days when believing seems to take too much energy.

    • brenner1543 says:

      I like your “act as if” mentality. I should try to adopt that more. We become so used to our masks that we do act as if everything is ok. Yes, we have to believe that one day we will enjoy life again, but until then we just hope that the exhaustion and grayness doesn’t fully consume us.

  4. Afterwards says:

    I always appreciate your honest vulnerability Krista, because it’s in these times that we really feel alone – the times we feel like we are maybe failing people, or ourselves. My counselor asked me yesterday, how many people do you know that have gone to a celebratory function with a family member, who has then suddenly died in their arms? No one, of course. I’m guessing you may have a similar answer. Not many people travel the world, meet the love of their life, move countries to make it happen and then face earth – shattering loss. I guess the point is that it’s easy to feel like we are failing ourselves or other people, but it’s hard to remember that we are carving our own path alone through this – that’s exponentially more work than most people have to exert in their entire lives. You carve the path with strength and grace, including these times of numbness. There’s a spark in you I recognize from (literally) hundreds of miles away. Thanks for sharing it with the rest of us who find ourselves on pause too. I think people, and ourselves, sometimes mistakenly wait for our old self to return once the grief is gone. If they understood that all we can do now is survive and work towards building our new self, perhaps they would drop some of their unrealistic expectations. They may be missing the opportunity to help you build this new self by dwelling on the shoulds of your old self… But anyway, my thoughts ran away on me and landed all over this comment box… I really care about you Krista, you are doing a good job, right where you are.

  5. Danny says:

    Hi Krista,

    I wasn’t really sure if I should write, but here goes anyway.

    It will be three years this December since Matthew my youngest brother was murdered. He was 34. Coming up to his anniversary, I have been asked (this evening) by other members of our family to write an anniversary acknowledgement on behaf of the brothers and their families. One of my sisters will do something for all sisters and their families.

    My response – I don’t think I can. I didn’t answer when asked why.

    Why can’t I write something, anything? It’s because I’m empty. I have been blindly carried by an ever progressing world and coped with life but with a numbness that is on permanent pause since the evening I got that call.

    I googled to see if I could find something suitable to write and I came accross your blog. Having scrolled through and read some of your posts brought tears to my eyes. I quickly changed tabs and opened the website we set up for justice for our brother. I haven’t visited the site for quite a while.

    Thank you for guiding me back to the website.

    In the site I found a note which Matthew carried with him for many years.

    “Love life, be grateful for it always, and show your gratitude by not shying away from its challenges. Always try to live a bit beyond your capacities – and you’ll find your capacities are greater than you ever dreamed.”

    Krista, you are a wonderful and beautiful person.


    • brenner1543 says:

      Danny, my heart breaks sitting here today reading your comment for the second time and feeling such immense guilt for not responding sooner. My grief has made me so lost and I got overwhelmed with all writing so it was barely done. My sincere apologies for not responding to such a truthful comment.

      I think it is a HUGE compliment that your family trusted you to write something so important in your brother’s memory and I find myself sitting here praying you were eventually able to find the words. I don’t think it is wrong to feel like you don’t have the words…. grief diminishes us to a person we were never before and can make us become extremely lacking at things we once excelled at.

      It puts me into a state of awe to read your words that after reading something I wrote you felt the strength to visit your brother’s site….. which is quickly followed again by great guilt. I am inspired by your strength and am beyond grateful to you for sharing this with me. I feel honored that you shared this extremely personal experience with me and apologize to you yet again.

      I don’t know if this comment will reach you after so long and after such a lengthy period of radio silence, but I am sending good vibes your way and to your family because I know the pain of losing your brother in such a violent way will live with you. I hope you have found some semblance of peace.

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