Grief is tough. Every time I think I’ve got it licked, it comes back, a little different, but still there. Last week feeling good, strong, and active; thinking ahead and making plans. The house has been re-mortgaged and I’m planning to redo the kitchen. I’ve made appointments with financial planners and have even started seeing a grief counselor. Best of all, I’ve been able to start work on the piles of things in the back room; over the weekend I made inroads and was able to separate a few boxes of things for Goodwill. I felt strong, confident, and proud of what was happening. What’s more, there wasn’t any guilt. I even had a few good dreams where Rick and I talked about what had happened.
Then the roller coaster turned; the monster awoke; the tide shifted; and I was back. Tuesday morning I had a medical procedure scheduled. Without going into too much detail, it requires drinking a gallon of bad-tasting stuff and then several hours spent at home. You get it, right? The last time I had this done was when we had been dating a few months. I remember he stayed with me the night before and took me to the hospital the following day. That’s when I knew this was a serious relationship. Monday night, going through this all by myself, I realized how alone I was. Suddenly my big plans and moves forward seemed like pathetic steps being taken just to fill a void. I was right back to feeling bad.
Grief is tough. It is much harder than I ever realized. Yesterday, sitting in a room waiting for my procedure to start, in the same hospital where he had spent his last month, looking at a wall painted the same color, with many of the same pieces of equipment, I had a flashback to August. Suddenly I was back there, watching him get sicker and sicker, seeing the number of machines and tubes and equipment increase. I started crying and couldn’t stop. The intervening months dropped away, and it was as near and present as though it was still happening, but with the extra pang of knowing the outcome.
Those flashbacks happen without warning. Some days I am strong and proud and oh-so-wise, thinking how I can keep all the good memories, and focus on what’s positive and end up with an enlightened attitude of quiet grace and acceptance. Then – boom! – something happens that sucker-punches me right back to feeling lonely, scared, angry or just plain hopeless. It could be a TV show, or something I read, or finding a picture from a vacation, or just not feeling well and wishing there was someone there to care about me.
Grief is tough. It’s a lonely, solitary trek. When I first returned to work, 3 weeks after his death, everyone was so solicitous and looking after me. Take time, I was told. Don’t overstress yourself. I’m still feeling upside down, but it’s as though it never happened. I still feel overwhelmed so much of the time, but I can’t let on that I’m just not able to deal with things. As far as everyone is concerned, Rick’s death is ancient history. It’s done, all over, it’s time for me to move on. I don’t feel like that. It’s still palpably real to me, something that just happened. I’m still trying to get used to being alone, to his being gone. There are so few people I can talk to about it, either because they don’t get it or the conversation is too frightening.
I know I’m not the only one facing this; but all of us, despite being able to share some experiences, ultimately have to come to terms with our new lives, alone. No one else but me can decide what the closure is that I need, how I will move forward, what the right way to get through this will be.
Grief is tough. Harder than anything I’ve ever done. I’m strong, I’m capable, but some days it feels like grief will win and I will lose. It did yesterday. It may tomorrow, but not today.