Things I have learned about grief in the last three years
It is coming up on three years since I lost my husband. September 1st. It almost taunts me at times. Every day I get a bit more together.
Here are the things I have learned about grief;
It never goes away. Never.
There is a truth that time will ease the pain. I am not convinced that it will ever completely heal the wound. There will always be a scar on your heart. The pain of loss is something I am learning to co-exist with.
I would like to say I have learned to live with it but that isn’t true. When I think I have gotten past certain hurdles, it sneaks up on me and grabs me by the heart. I break down and cry. I am not ashamed of this at all. It is a part of my life.
Anyone who has experienced a deep, harsh loss knows that you just won’t fully get past it. You learn to live with the pain; in so doing it becomes more bearable.
You are on one side of the line or the other.
You have either experienced a deep, heart-rendering loss or you haven’t. There is no in-between. I appreciate my friends who have tried to comfort me especially when it was fresh and new. The ones who have never experienced it don’t get it.
They don’t understand. They try to. They try to say the right things at the right times. They imagine how it would feel if it happened to them. Yet, until it happens to you, you really can’t understand. When I first lost my husband the words about “how it will get better” and “time heals all wounds” and the “I’m sorry for your loss” became stifling. I am sorry for my loss too. These people had the best of intentions. They wanted to support me. They just didn’t understand how to.
On the other hand, the people who had experienced it firsthand handled it differently. A word of suggestion to those of you who haven’t been impacted by this type of loss directly (and I hope you never have to) don’t offer words of consolation instead offer up a good memory. You don’t know how much it means to have someone share a wonderful memory especially in a time of loss. Or if you don’t’ have a memory to share then the best thing you can do is just be there.
Be there in the silence. Be there with a much-needed hug. Be there to listen.
Keeping the memory alive IS important.
Unless you really didn’t like the person, in which case I am guessing you wouldn’t feel the deep sense of loss, it is important, in my opinion, to keep their memory alive.
He was alive. He was intelligent. He was funny. He was a lot of things. I miss his wisdom. I miss his touch and his hugs. There are a lot of things to miss. What makes it both easier and harder is talking about him. Sharing memories.
At first, I kept them to myself. I was silent and held them inside me. Then I started to talk about him to his friends, to my friends, to people who never knew him. It is a joy to share who he was and have someone say, I wish I would have known him. I wish you would have known him too.
There are memories that only the two of us shared. Memories that no one else knows. These I keep to myself. I guard them as they are sacred and precious to me. They belonged to the two of us and no one else.
It doesn’t matter what others think, celebrate life in your own time and your own way.
Three years have come and gone; both quickly and slowly. The first two weeks I ceased to exist. I locked myself away. It took me time to even want to step outside my door. I remember the first time I did. I just wanted to feel the sunshine, then I turned around and locked myself in my room again.
It took time. It is still taking time. It is my time to take. No one can take that from me. No one can tell me if I am doing this right or wrong. I am doing what is best for me. My energy levels are starting to replenish. I am starting to feel like I should be doing more and living again. I am learning that my decisions and the way I handle things are just that; mine.
We handle grief differently. Even if the circumstances of loss “seem” the same, the way we handle it is not. It is okay to determine how you are going to deal with this. It is okay to take your time and allow yourself to go through the process you need to go through. When the pain gets too much, it is very important to reach out to others rather than allowing yourself to tumble into a hole and get stuck with seemingly no way out. As much as the process belongs to us, the healing process should be a shared venture with those who love you and are there to help you.
Grieving is a continual process.
I remember reading about the stages of grief. Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance. “They,” say you will go through some, if not all these stages, and not necessarily in the order they list them.
Let me tell you about my stages of grief. Sorrow. Sadness. Heartache. Pain. Struggle. Anger. Regret. Sadness. Tears. Laughter. Happiness. Guilt. Sadness. Loneliness.
My point being; every person grieves differently. Yes, my sadness and sorrow are deep in my heart and soul. With his death, a part of me died as well. A part of me was buried. The first year I lived in a fog as if a blanket had been thrown over my entire being. You know what? I didn’t care. Not one iota. Every emotion had been dulled. My senses were dulled.
The person I was before, is not the person I am. I will never be that person again. I am a different person. Death and grief have recreated who I am. They have changed me at a very basic level. I am neither better nor worse than I was. I am just different. I am still struggling to find myself.
I am sure eventually it will happen. Time changes us on its own; add a touch of grief and we are transformed in ways we never foresaw. We learn to deal with things differently. We learn to hide our moments of sadness. We learn to cry in the bathroom when no one is around. I still carry on conversations as if he was here.
All these things are normal. Natural. Acceptable. There is no right or wrong in the way we rebuild ourselves. I trip and fumble with changes in my life. How to move forward. If I can allow myself to try something different. I can hear his words encouraging me to be happy, to live. The problem is me. Accepting a new life and way of being.
I am sure that in the next year I will discover more about grief and how it works in my life. I will discover more of who this new me is. I am not sure where it will take me. Where I will land. I just know that over time, I believe the waves will come less often. I know that right now when they come, they come with the same intensity as when they first entered my life. I tell myself it is okay to live and be happy.
I encourage anyone who has expectedly or unexpectedly found themselves in this position to understand it is okay to grieve in your own way. It is okay to look at this as a new journey and path. That it will be very difficult at times, especially in the beginning, when you don’t want to move. When it is physically painful to breathe. When you feel the empty place where your heart used to be. This is a transitional time for you. Grieve the way you need to. Seek counseling if you feel it is too much to bear. There are a ton of support groups. Or you may have friends and family you can lean on who won’t judge the path you have found yourself on. People who will be there to lean on when you stumble and don’t feel like you can take another breath, let alone another step.
I am just coming up on year three. Three years and at times it feels as if just happened. You will have good days. You will have bad days. You will have days filled with pain and anger. Perhaps all those stages hitting you at once. You will also have days filled with laughter and sunshine. The days where you realize that for one moment you aren’t drowning. As the days pass, you will feel more and the severity of the pain less often. Take it from someone who not only has been there but still is there.
There are others like me. I know I have talked to them. Just remember; you need to become a part of the world again. Even if you must force yourself to interact with others. Let your friends drag you places, go to your neighbors, or wherever and socialize. Even if it is only for a few moments at a time. Build it up. Remember you are still here, and life is about finding the balance between your pain and sorrow and your joy in living.