Saturday, November 17, 2012

Grief: Am I In Love With Grief?

That was a question someone asked me because of the way I continue to talk about my husband, and because of what I post on Facebook and write in my blog.  It was an interesting way to phrase the question and it made me stop to think.  Most people understand how I feel and what my choices are.  Usually the comments that make me feel misunderstood are, "You don't accept your husband's death." and "You should be more positive and enjoy yourself."  The idea that moving on means letting go and anything else is somehow unhealthy.  This was a different question.

Do I accept my husband's death?  I know he's dead.  When sometimes I say, "Come back."  I always say, "I know you can't, but I want you to anyway."  It's my little protest against a very big reality.  I was with Artie when he died, at home, in a hospital bed in our living room.  The last thing he said to me was, "I love you."  I paused for a minute because I wanted to take the tears out of my voice and then I said, "I love you, too."  After that he fell into a twilight sleep which had been helped by a hospice nurse.  His death rattle went on for quite a long time.  Eventually he rolled over on his back and exhaled - a big sigh - what some people say is the soul leaving the body.  A friend of his who had been sitting with me - he on one side, me on the other - called Artie's name out loudly and felt for a pulse.  He even tried to listen for a breath.  I didn't need to do that.  I knew that he was no longer in his body.  I cleaned him up with the help of an aide, like they did in the old days.  Because I have a strange sense of humor I dressed him in a t-shirt that said, "I do all my own stunts."  While I waited for the Neptune Society, the cremation folks, to pick him up - I held him and talked to him.  I nestled my head in all the places that we called my nooks and crannies.  He was dead.  His body was starting to decay and I wanted to say "I love you" to his body too.  Soon I wouldn't be able to hold his hand or put my head on his shoulder.  He's definitely dead.  I have the ashes to prove it.

However, what is the definition of death?  Artie's life is over as Artie.  Is our relationship over?  Is our journey together over?  It doesn't feel like it.  Is believing that there is some kind of consciousness after death, one you can communicate with a delusion?  I don't know and it doesn't matter to me.  No living person knows the secret of what happens after death.  Whether you belief in a continuation in some form or that there is nothing - both are only opinions.  I am a skeptic but I have more evidence on the side of something lingering.  When I was moving from our house not long after Artie died I went to the UPS store to pick up some boxes.  A man who worked in the store, who knew us only as customers, insisted on walking with me to my car.  He said, "Artie appeared to me and told me that I must give you the message that he loves you very much."  I laughed and said, "That must have been a heck of a dream."  The man said, "It wasn't a dream, it was an apparition.  You must understand how much he loves you."  Why would a  stranger have that experience?  Other people have reported seeing or hearing Artie.  I have had  people who I have just met in a class or other situation say they see him or feel him around me.  I don't ask - they just tell me.  A friend who communicates with people who have died (I'm skeptical about that too) for me and for anyone else who has called her ( gives very specific information that she has no way of knowing. I accept that Artie is dead but I don't accept that our journey together is over.

Am I in love with grief?  No, thank you very much.  I'm in love with my husband.  That love doesn't end with his death.  I would rather have him back - even on our worst fighting day - than have him be dead.  I don't feel that I choose grief, merely that I acknowledge that it is there and I refuse to be quiet about it.  If I wrote all the things I miss about him, this blog would go on forever.  Right now I am having difficulties moving into a new apartment.  He would have handled things better that I am.  When I am stressed he would be holding me.  I think I would be rather foolish not to miss all the comfort, love, support, secret jokes, laughter, understanding, and so much more he gave to me.  Since his death I understand the depth of the bond we had even better than I did when he was alive.  It's too easy when someone's alive to get caught up in your own stuff and not notice or take time with them the way you would if you could go back and recapture the wasted moments.

I'm not in love with grief but my grief, to me, is an ever moving river of my love.  That's okay with me.  I had very difficult parents.  I didn't grieve for them.  In my heart Artie's spirit is very alive and always be.  That's why I don't stop writing the blog.  Each year brings new challenges.  My goal, my work is to let grief inspire me instead of paralyze me.  Sometimes that doesn't work very well.  Sometimes I just collapse with the weight of it all.  More and more, though, the grief expresses itself in happy memories, in being inspired to achieve more, in being inspired to love life the way my husband did.  I don't think I need to let go to heal, to move on.  When Artie was alive he was my biggest champion.  Why shouldn't his spirit and my grief continue to teach me, guide me, support me?

And if some days I am sad, why not?  And if some days I am angry, why not?  It's all part of being human.  I watch my granddaughter who is already going to be a year old on December 20th learn and try new things.  Sometimes she falls down and hurts herself.  She cries.  She gets up and tries again.  That's what life is after Artie's death.  Me learning how to do it all again.  Without the falling down there isn't any getting up.  Without the crying the laughing isn't real.

If you have a different way to do it - I think that's wonderful.  Not everyone grieves in the same way.  However, I find because I am open about it people share that as much as 25 years after someone has died they still grieve for them, still miss them.  These are successful, happy, accompished, well adjusted people.  Some are people who are happily remarried and still feel sad about their husband who has died.  Some are people that have many children or siblings or new pets and nothing fills the space of the one that is dead.  Are we all in love with grief?  I don't think so.  Just being real.  Having the courage to feel our loss instead of pretending it isn't there..

Find those ways to have grief be your friend instead of your enemy.  It takes courage but it can be done.  I know that because I am writing this.  xo

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