My view of the world through words & photos
These have been two of the longest years of my life. And yet, I remember every detail of the day Bill died – the horrid witness of his last breath, having to tell our kids and our family members, feeling the sharp, shattering pain of realizing this whole in my heart will never leave me because he has left me, and the slow understanding that my life was never going to be the same.
I attended a grief seminar a few weeks after Bill died at the suggestion of a friend who was grieving the loss of her dad. In a room full of more than 250 strangers, I finally felt like I was in a place where others truly understood what I felt and what I couldn’t put into words. My family and friends had been (and continue to be) so supportive, but I felt so alone.
The grief counselor, Alan Wolfelt the founder of the Center for Loss (http://www.centerforloss.com), shared insights on what many of us had already experienced and what we might expect in the months and years to come. I realized that many of the emotions, or lack of emotions, I was experiencing were normal. As weeks have turned into months, and the months now into years, I refer back to his insights and years of research often to determine if I’m “OK.”
I spent a great deal of time reading, researching and writing about grief and bereavement, which I learned were two different things. I came to an understanding that while bereavement will end, grief will never end. It will change and evolve, but it will always be a part of me.
I am also realizing that I can’t do it all myself. I’m blessed to have two very capable and strong children who are quite independent. Having older children, I know I have it easier in some ways compared to widows who have toddlers or kids in elementary school. But all of us realize we will be going through so many of life’s milestones without our spouse, their other parent.
We all handle our loss in our own way. I may not understand how others handle their grief, but I try to remember it is their way of dealing with this change in their life. I find talking about Bill very important. His family and friends, especially those who knew him before I met him nearly 24 years ago, have so many stories about him that I need to know, and that our kids need to know. I’ve cherished the comments our friends and faith family members have shared with me. Their experiences with Bill were different from ours, and give us an insight into him that we may never have seen. While some people never bring up Bill, or reach out to the kids and me, so many others do both of these things, which have helped our healing.
Several months ago, a friend asked what she could say to another friend who had recently experienced a death in the family. I told her that hearing people say they were sorry got to be difficult after a while. Often I found myself consoling them and finding myself depleted emotionally. I told her the comments that helped the most were those who took a little initiative. They said they would be bringing food or groceries over in the coming weeks (and they did). They said they would call and we’d go out for lunch, or dinner, or to a movie (and they did). They said they’d pray for us and check in on us (and they did). They gave us hugs and told us they loved us and that they would be there for us (and they have been).
Since I’ve connected with several support groups through the Internet, I’ve read numerous comments and sayings. Some don’t apply to me, but several have and I’ve shared them with others. One of the most meaningful ones said that sometimes the grieving person doesn’t need someone to solve problems or have answers; sometimes they just need someone to be there. I see in my own personality that this is a difficult thing to do since we live in a time when we are all looking for answers and ways to make the bad stuff go away and to feel good about ourselves quickly and easily. I’m learning that grief doesn’t work that way. It is a slow process and it is a never-ending process. I can see that insight as something very depressing but I’ve chosen to see it simply as a fact. Now that I know it is a part of my life, I have to determine how I’m going to deal with it – every day.
Some days are very hard. Getting out of bed is a major accomplishment, as is getting presentable to go out in public. Very often I just want to stay in bed, or just stay inside and not interact with the rest of the world. Other days are easier, often because I have something to look forward to that day. Good or bad, there isn’t a day that I don’t think about Bill several times a day. How he’d like that something happened, or that I need to tell him about the funny thing that happened. These thoughts used to bring me to a sudden halt with gut-wrenching tears. This doesn’t happen as much these days. But the tears still come, and I understand that they will always come at some point. While I accept the tears presence, I’m still not fully comfortable with them in public. Even when I’m in church at Mass, surrounded by so many people who love us, it’s hard not to feel bad about crying. I don’t want to upset others, especially my daughter or son. On Sunday, after apologizing for breaking down, my daughter said, “You don’t every have to apologize, EVER. I love you.” This made me cry again, but this time with tears spurred on by love and thankfulness.
So, today I’m going to remember my love, share thoughts of love and support with my kids, and spend time with some very loving friends. This may not be the life I envisioned 21 years ago when we were married, but it is the life I must live. And with God’s help, I will continue to do so.