You get a phone call too early in the morning. You let the answering machine pick up because it is probably a telemarketer. It isn't. It is your loved one's sister, asking you to please call her back as soon as you can. You know this is not good.
You both get out of bed, and you dial the phone for him, hand it over. While it rings, you wonder who is dead. One of her children? Her ex-husband? (You hope it is this one. This is the best option of all the terrible options.) When she answers in another city, you watch your loved one's face crumple because the dead person is his dad.
And the world is different. As you look out the window at the yellow leaves and bare branches, you know there is a hole, a gap, an emptiness in it now.
You think about the last time you saw him, spoke to him, and wish it was more recently. You know your loved one is feeling this guilt.
You are glad you went to the cottage this year. You think about drinking cocktails on the deck in the sun, you and your loved one and his siblings and their dad, reminiscing about the times spent at the cottage in the past. You think it's weird that you will never go there again. You will probably never again pass the exact centre of Canada marker and wish you could stop and take a picture. There will be no more roads to Mexico and no more games of donimoes [sic].
You sit with your loved one while he cries. You cry yourself.
You are sad for you, but you are more sad for your loved one, because he believes that when you die, you die. There is no afterlife. There is no comfort in this belief.
You blow your nose and catch your face in the mirror and realize that the physical manifestation of grief is exactly right. Grief is ugly.
You think about practical things. Who needs to know? Who should you call? You'll have to cancel work, make plane and hotel reservations. You realize you probably won't be here to give candy to the trick or treaters, so you think about giving your candy to the neighbour to hand out for you.
You go back to bed and curl up under the blanket, but you don't fall asleep. You think about the party you went to last night. You think about cancelling your plans for this evening. Totally unrelated song lyrics run through your head and you wonder where they came from and why. You wonder if you should send a card to the dad's new wife. She was such a bitch the last time you saw her. You realize you are being uncharitable and think about how she loved him and now he is gone, and you feel guilty. You probably won't send a card, though, because it is your loss, too.
You realize that, as much as we reach out to each other in these moments, the grief we feel is solitary.
Words and phrases fill your head and you understand that this is how you deal, so you turn on the computer and type them.
This is what you do in the hour after learning that someone you love has died suddenly.