The pounding of the conundrums is getting closer…

During that long month of August when Rick was hospitalized I didn’t eat anything at home.  My meals consisted of macaroni & cheese or a slice of pizza grabbed in the hospital cafeteria, with a little fruit for variety.  After his death I couldn’t bring myself to cook; it brought back too many memories and just didn’t seem right.  My heart wasn’t in it, and for a long time my appetite was gone.  I’d go to the grocery store and come back with frozen pizza, frozen lasagna, frozen macaroni & cheese.  The most cooking I’ve done at home is to stuff a tortilla with cheese and place in the oven.

There’s a pattern with my new diet, and it was one I realized early on; the only foods I was comfortable eating were those that we never ate together.  He didn’t like cheese, so pizza has no memories attached, no feelings of being disloyal.  Making a meal, just for myself, felt wrong because sitting down  to a nicely cooked dinner would be a sign of a normal life, and I couldn’t do that.  Not in August, after coming home each night from the hospital wondering what would happen next; not in September when the shock of his death was so palpably fresh it hit me every time I opened the front door; not in October when I felt numb and empty, and not even through most of November, when I wasn’t feeling anything at all.

Thanksgiving finally broke through and left me able to cook and eat.  Thanksgiving is the day that separates the cooks from non-cooks.  Those of us who daydream soups and sauces look forward to preparing the meal, hoping more people show up so we can add that new side dish that looked interesting, or bake another pie. This year, for the first time in almost 15 years, I was just a guest.  I did manage to insert myself into the kitchen for the final flurry of activity, and as I was mashing potatoes I realized how much I’ve missed the act of preparing food (no, microwaving doesn’t count).

Friday evening I made dinner.  I roasted brussels sprouts with a little olive oil and seasoning, made a blue cheese compound butter, baked a potato and cooked a small steak that was topped with the compound butter.  The meal was served with an Oktoberfest beer.   It was quite tasty and I enjoyed every bite.  I realized how much I dislike frozen food, and how sick I am of eating it, and how enjoyable and soul-satisfying cooking is for me.  I felt whole and content in a way I haven’t felt in months as I ate that meal…

And that was the problem.  Shame and guilt descended on me; how can I create a new life without betraying the one I had?  Every step forward means moving a step away from where I started. Other major life changes require similar activities: the ability to believe what has happened; letting yourself feel regret and sadness over what is being lost; wishing there was a way to keep what was good; and finally acceptance.  However, all other changes contain some promise, however faint, of being able to go back.  Every other life change, even something as hard and painful as divorce, has a component of eagerness and anticipation for the future that can balance fear or hesitation.

There’s no “do-over” with death, and it’s not a choice made after a review of options.  Death happens to you, and we have little power over it. When I was divorced, every step forward was a victory and a cause for celebration.  Progress and healing were unequivocal markers on the road to the future.  This is different.   Each step forward is a step away from a life that had meaning and that I didn’t want to end.  That life wasn’t perfect, far from it, but I resent the lack of choice I had in its ending.

As I ate dinner on Friday night, I felt good about my progress, and proud of myself for making this small step back to normalcy.  But that same step made me turn around and look back, over my shoulder, at the life Rick & I had together.  Moving closer to healing also takes me further from that other life.  That’s the conundrum of grief.  Becoming healed, becoming whole means that I have to break the person I was and remake myself into someone new.  I’m starting to break; I’m waiting to heal.

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5 thoughts on “The pounding of the conundrums is getting closer…

  1. Hi, this is Mrs Smith (of LetterstoMrSmith). Your post is heartbreaking and reminds me very much of the earlier months of my own grieving when I lost my appetite for months. It came back to me slowly but not the joy of cooking. I used to love cooking for him and cooked often. But in 18 months I haven’t cooked anything more than a few poached eggs. As you say, one step at a time. There is no timeline for grief. And yes, one step forward is also one step away… but each step is progress. Sending you hugs.

  2. “And that was the problem. Shame and guilt descended on me; how can I create a new life without betraying the one I had? Every step forward means moving a step away from where I started. ” ~ Please, please know that you can move. Time is tricky, an illusion of humanity. When you love, truly love, so much that it hurts…you have to trust that he loves you that much too. When our loved ones pass they have a complete understanding…not limited to humanity. Time is different, and there is nothing but peace and love. I wish you could know, feel, what it is like to be on the other side so you would undrstand that your grief is nothing that Rick would want or appreciate. He wants you to feel the peace and love that he is experiencing. He longs for you to have the light that will move you forward with passion and joy.
    I experienced a near death 24 years ago. I have never been the same. Losing your body, the limitations, opened my eyes to a tiny glimpse of what we are really meant to experience. Grief was not there. No sorrow, tears, fear….gone. You are human and you will have those thoughts and feelings, but please don’t feel as if your joy or happiness are betraying your love for Rick.
    One of your posts you wrote about how Rick held onto everything, a hoarder of things to a point, and you were upset that he left that for you…it was unfair for you to have to clean that up. You are doing the same thing with your emotions. Hoarding all the feelings and letting them become a mess for someone else to have to clean. Take the time to inventory and decide what stays and what goes. What do you need, what feeling are trapping you in a dark place?
    Cook, eat, laugh, and live…soon enough..the hour glass won’t loom over you and time will be an illusion. Let your soul be free….Rick would want that for you.

  3. I thought my Mom’s death was hard, and it was. She was too young at 54. But losing a partner is very different and he was only 51. Not fair, we were suppose to have a life together. Anyways, I”m rambling….for me it was popsicles. At first I couldn’t even look at them without crying. OR actually open our bedroom door, or look at a vitamin bottle….the list is long. I actually enjoy cooking for myself now. With Tim’s strict diet cooking was really difficult . Grief is so personal. I walk forward…that’s it. JUst one step in front of the other. I still have more today because I met him..then I would have without him. So for that I am thankful. Take care….and thankyou for sharing.

    1. That’s exactly what I tell people when they ask how I’m doing – I say ‘I just keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep going’. There’s nothing else we can do, is there.

      1. No there isn’t. My goals now are different because of Tim…so at times I feel like I’m walking forward almost blind-folded. But hey….no one ever said life was going to be easy. I now have a completely different understanding though of my Dad’s grief…I respect him even more now that understand that hollow feeling you have inside. 35 years is a lifetime to my 4 years with Tim. I am humbled.

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