This Grief Business

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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.

10 thoughts on “This Grief Business

  1. This resonates with me, Marg. Don was a good and genuine man.

    I remember my wife every day. Michael and I talk about her, recounting many, many memories. I recently rifled through a box in my storage and found a couple of things she’d left for me to discover.

    We are here for you.

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    1. I appreciate your comment so much. It’s helpful when others understand. Your wife must have been a wonderful person for you to be talking about her with Michael + going through boxes still.

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  2. I am so sorry about your loss. Your blog is amazing–insightful, revealing, touching, quite a tribute to Don and the happy life you shared. I could certainly identify with your grief-still is there for me at times, and for my children. Thank you for sharing. So glad you were selected as my “”roomie” ten years ago.
    Faye

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  3. This resonated with me, too. I’ve not lost a spouse, but both parents, one many years ago and the other “only” 3 years now. Still feels new- sometimes the grief is a tsunami and sometimes it’s a nip at my ankles … depends on the day, a song, a scent, a memory.

    Giving yourself the grace to ride the waves and come out the other side takes a lot out of you and a lot to do it. Keep writing, I think you do so beautifully,

    ~ wishing you peace,
    MJ

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  4. Margaret, thanks you so much for sharing about your grief. I am so sorry for the pain you are going through. I can so relate to what you wrote, you expressed so well the depth of grief and the never ending feeling of grief – it’s omnipresence as you say.

    I like how along with how you express the depth of pain, the horrible never ending feelings of depression, loneliness that you also show a will to live, to participate in the process by attending grief groups, connecting with friends. I suffered alone for a while which really made the suffering so much worse.

    I still find after seeing counsellors that nothing helps give me relief more than talking to someone else like you, or reading a piece by someone like you, who I know has experienced the loss of the love of their life.

    I’m honored to be on my grieving journey and to have you as someone I can talk to, as I know you get it.

    Fourty seven years! That is such a huge loss! But I know as you know that is a beautiful gift to have love and a wonderful husband for that length of time. I didn’t realize until I was talking to my husband’s mother, that many live their whole lives without finding love. She told me she had never had love, with any of her marriages. I was shocked to hear that, as it had never crossed my minds that many don’t ever experience what we have with our husbands.

    I loved the quotes you wrote, our love leads to this kind of grief. Would I have not had Murr to avoid this pain?…no never. I wish desperately that grief wasn’t so hard…but the silver lining is this huge amount of compassion and care I now have for others who are going through grief.

    I’m grateful to have found you and others like you who understand the depth of love and depth of loss. It does get better, but grief I truly believe never really goes, it just becomes a part of us. The deep feeling of loss is a testament to how much we all as individuals can have such a positive impact, I know your husband did to you as mine did to me. Big hugs.

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    1. I loved your response…thanks so much for taking the time to write such a heartfelt one. It’s meant the world to me, meeting someone like you who walks this journey and knows exactly what it’s like. You miss your Murray every day as I miss my Don, but as you say, we were both so lucky to have known deep love for so long, to have found complete safety, complete acceptance, and complete trust in another. Thank you for your friendship. I’m grateful to have found you.

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