I haven’t posted here for ages. Life got in the way, and also, I was directing my writing elsewhere for a time. Now I’m back, sadder and wiser following a huge life event. To put it baldly, my dear husband of 47 years, and whom I loved desperately, died in April of this year. April 6th, to be exact. At about 9 pm. This has set me reeling, as grief will do. Little did I suspect the extent of what would come.
I thought I’d be okay, given that my darling man had lived in residential care for the past 5 years and I’d been doing lots of grieving as his dementia slowly progressed. I watched him plateau and then drop a notch, plateau again and then drop. It was inexorable, a slow, unkind juggernaut threatening to rip us apart, as it eventually did. There was nothing to be done; the prognosis was always clear, the end guaranteed, given that he also had serious heart disease and a weakened system after colon cancer surgery in 2014. It was horrific to watch his decline, but he never complained, and as long as we could still take car rides five times a week, life was still pretty good. “I’ll be okay when he goes,” I naively thought. “I’ve already done most of my grieving.”
Wrong. Nobody could have prepared me for the tsunami of grief that would overtake me. The worst of it didn’t hit until four months later. Shock protected me for the first three months, not to mention the distraction of funeral arrangements and all the work involved in preparing his Celebration of Life (which was wonderful, by the way). But then! Mood swings, severe crying jags, a loss of purpose, an all-consuming sense of rootlessless never before experienced. Only those who have experienced major loss understand the scariness of grief.
I’m now at month six, and if anything, the grief is worse. Not in its intensity but in its omnipresence. Instead of coming and going in waves, it’s with me always, a deep undercurrent that makes daily life challenging. I’m irritable (my dear brother might say, “So what’s new about that?”), less willing to socialize (brother again…lol), forgetful, angry, lonely, depressed, panicky at times, and even questioning to what extent life is worth living now. These are all perfectly normal reactions according to my readings on the subject. One must traverse all seven stages of grief and there are no shortcuts.
A reasonable timeline for grief following a major loss is 2-3 years, the experts say, and I’ve talked with friends whose grief has indeed lasted that long. I’ve also learned that one must be proactive about the process by talking about the deceased, finding grief groups, leaning on friends, being kind to oneself, and by allowing (even encouraging) the tears. I’m doing all this, but I don’t like it.
There’s nothing fun about grief. It’s a storm surge that overtakes all the banks of one’s defences. It cannot be dealt with rationally. For example, I still find myself mystified by Don’s absence, though my head knows perfectly well where he is. “Why aren’t you here?” I find myself wailing at times.
I’ve heard it said that “Grief is love with no place to go” and that “Grief is the final act of love” we can offer. Both of these are true. Also true is that “Where there is deep grief, there was great love.” I’m grateful to have known this kind of love.
No, grief is not fun. It’s grinding and real. I’ll wait out the three years if I must. Don deserves that much, and more.