...an impossible task.
June 13, 2015 8:58 PM   Subscribe

The New Normal: Pieces of Grief, by Stephanie Wittels Wachs, sister of Parks and Recreation's co-executive producer Harris Wittels, who passed away in February.
posted by zarq (18 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
So sad. I hope writing this helped with rage and frustration, and feeling helpless. I remember Wittels talking about his drug use on a WTF w/Marc Maron episode, but I got the sense or think he said he'd already gone to rehab, but I don't think he said he was sober.

We're sure it was suicide? I thought it was an accidental OD.
posted by discopolo at 9:12 PM on June 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

"Hitting the ground is a repeated theme of the grieving process."

This line rings so true for me and my own experiences with grief, I felt compelled to repeat it here. In an odd way, discovering that she processes grief in a manner I identify with, brings me comfort, knowing that my grief is not my grief alone, but rather a sign of the larger human condition. I wish for her and all others like her (like us), as much peace and joy as I can muster.
posted by msali at 9:16 PM on June 13, 2015 [15 favorites]

(because you've tagged it with "suicide" but it was likely just an accidental heroin overdose if it hasn't been ruled a suicide)
posted by discopolo at 9:16 PM on June 13, 2015

(because you've tagged it with "suicide" but it was likely just an accidental heroin overdose if it hasn't been ruled a suicide)

I thought I had read online that it was a suicide, but you're right: the cause of death hasn't been released yet. I've removed the tag. Thanks for noticing and mentioning it.
posted by zarq at 9:30 PM on June 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Saw this linked from Bill Simmons' twitter. Great piece.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:51 PM on June 13, 2015

Very good piece. I was a distant acquaintance of Mr. Wittels, but we had a lot of friends in common. No one that was close to him believes it was anything but an accidental overdose.

I have a good friend who rescued 3 tiny kittens from under his apartment building. This is coming up on 4 years ago now. I convinced him to keep them and he named them Shiro, Kuro and Kuma - Japanese for White, Black and Bear, respectively - as one was white, the other all black, and the third a huge, fluffy Maine Coon looking thing.

His neighbor is an aspiring comedian and ended up falling in love with and adopting Kuma. He was quickly renamed Harris Vittles in honor of his comedy hero. Whenever I feel the sadness and disappointment of Harris' loss, I think of the monster fluffball that's keeping his legacy alive.
posted by Anoplura at 11:20 PM on June 13, 2015 [14 favorites]

This was a well-written and insightful piece.

The waking up crying thing really dragged me back to some tough times. The worst is awaking from a deep sleep, and for a tiny second thinking everything is okay... Then feeling reality and tears flood back when you once again understand that it isn't.
posted by kinnakeet at 4:44 AM on June 14, 2015 [13 favorites]

Yeah, this hit a ton of notes for me that were very familiar.

The worst, unfortunately, was thinking that I remembered feeling like it would last forever, and everyone telling me time would help. 17 years later...not really.
posted by nevercalm at 5:09 AM on June 14, 2015 [7 favorites]

"....there is no end to grief."

kinnakeet expressed it well... and for me it happened nearly every day for what seemed like forever...that second of peace when you wake up before you remember...and the gasp of reality when it floods back in..

I was the one that made all the phone calls when my son died... the first call was to his brother, it was heartbreaking, knowing that with a few words I would change his life forever...there were only the two of them and it had only been in the previous couple of years that they had become exceedingly close and connected.

Thanks for posting this, I guess, perhaps it was time to spend a rainy Sunday morning in some memories..
posted by HuronBob at 5:40 AM on June 14, 2015 [16 favorites]

I am so sorry, HuronBob.

It is awe-inspiring what we can endure, and still be capable of laughter.
posted by kinnakeet at 5:55 AM on June 14, 2015 [4 favorites]

half way through this I got kinda mad at him and the comedy community for supporting his drug use instead of forcing him to get help. But then again, whattayagonnado? That's not really their area of expertise, and it's where he wanted to be. Getting mad doesn't help either.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:22 AM on June 14, 2015

Nobody can be forced to get help. Getting mad at people over addiction is a waste of emotion. The addict doesn't want to be an addict. His friends and family don't want him to be an addict, either.

I think it's lovely that she doesn't blame him or anyone else for one second. She knows he was a wonderful, talented person with a terrible illness that killed him in the end. That's addiction for you. It doesn't discriminate.
posted by something something at 6:34 AM on June 14, 2015 [10 favorites]

My life has never been the same since my sister was killed by a drunk driver in 2007.

Interestingly, like HuronBob with "it had only been in the previous couple of years that they had become exceedingly close and connected" my sister was really seeming to connect with us for some reason, and I remember not that it was odd, per se, but nice. And not that she was distant before, but I could sense a concerted effort to reconnect/bond emotionally.

After she had died a few months later, I found out why that was, I think. Her husband had been cheating on her. So there was this sort of double-loss, not only of my sister, but mild estrangement from my nephews and niece (and the loss of the unborn niece) - but it wasn't just because of the cheating - it also had to do with the new wife taking over a bit. Just now my mom and the kids are reconnecting and I should start to do so more myself, while I have mom as a helpful bridge.

So I was medicated for anxiety and I have a dark sense of humor, so I was making Zombie Sister jokes at the viewing. I thought I'd recovered, but I don't feel like I ever recover. My sense of time has been destroyed. I moved to a new apartment a year later with my then partner, so it was a time of transition in general. I had also attempted finding a new job in early 2007, then stayed with the old one, but it would have been even greater transition had I gotten a different job. So there's this pivotal moment and sometimes it's hard to know what happened when -- did I read something before or after that date? It becomes a dividing line, and sometimes the knowledge/memories get blurry - was a game announced before 2008? I think it was, but nope - it was after we'd moved into the new apartment.

I feel like something broke in me, and it's not painful or anything. I went off meds at some point later, and the grief fully washed over me. The pain I wasn't allowed to feel and process during the death because all the serotonin had been in my brain, was now flooding in. It was cathartic, but it still doesn't change the fact that my holidays are much much smaller after her death/losing her family for holidays and then I lost my other sister (who had dealt with health issues, but emotional and physical) a few years ago, and it's even smaller now. Her kids still are able to come around, they're older and live closer, but still don't see them as often as I'd like.

But I'm grateful that, despite some of the difficulties with my older sister, we still tried to do our best for her, and we all were able to come together at holidays and have those cherished moments. Many people aren't fortunate enough to have that, so even though it's all the more empty now (I already felt a lot like an only child growing up due to age differences - but the reality of how I wasn't only seeped in when the rest of the extended family isn't showing up as much anymore/at all).

Anyways, I guess, I'm just sort of empathizing with how it's still there, after all these years, even though I'm not crying or panicking or whatever, the emptiness is there, and the fact that I'm just not the same.
posted by symbioid at 7:47 AM on June 14, 2015 [7 favorites]

I definitely spent a fair amount of time furious at my brother in law for kicking a serious meth addiction only to overdose, two years later, on the stash of heroin none of us knew he was selling. I think anger is okay. It passes, it did for me at least, and then there's room for the sadness and loss.

And, honestly, in a completely terrible way, there's even room for some relief. After Mike died, my husband and I started thinking seriously about kids because our immediate world was a little safer. For me, that was the hardest part of this grief.
posted by Pardon Our Dust at 8:48 AM on June 14, 2015 [7 favorites]

This is a beautiful explanation of the grieving process.
posted by ColdChef at 9:25 AM on June 14, 2015 [5 favorites]

I think he did try to get help, because he was in love with a girl who was part of Scientology and she broke up with him bc of his drug use. Then he went to their scary program, filled out paperwork, went so far as getting audited but then walked out and spent $60k on a month at Promises. But I guess he left and started shooting up and almost OD'd and called his sponsor.

He blamed his ex girlfriend leaving him for his drug use getting out of hand. Or that was impression that I got. I thought that was unfair,. She wanted someone else who was into Scientology, which she grew up in, and he wasn't interested (and while it is a cult, it's not fair to blame her).
posted by discopolo at 10:24 AM on June 14, 2015

Ugh, waking up, yes. Especially after a dream where I'd found out it was all a terrible misunderstanding, Mom was fine, that was some other lady, goodness how awful for her family, Mom was so sorry I'd thought that she'd died, but I was so silly to have been so upset. And it's dream logic, so when I woke up, I knew instantly that made no sense at all, there was no hope there.

I don't have that dream about my father - maybe because I watched him die - but there are still plenty of dreams where he's fine and the cancer never happened.

I liked this article. Thanks for posting it.
posted by gingerest at 3:22 PM on June 14, 2015 [4 favorites]

This is very nicely done and whoo boy does it put me right back there. Oof.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:15 AM on June 15, 2015

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