Friday, July 12, 2013

Grief: The Day After and The Day After and The Day After

I was going to write this on July 5th.  I actually had fun on July 4th.  My granddaughter is a year and a half and every time a firework exploded she said, "Wow!".  When she was tired she said, "All done." and kept saying it until we put her in her car seat to take her home.  She fell asleep immediately.

Some people have a difficult time on holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, death anniversaries.  People pray for them on that day,  if they pray.  People are more sympathetic - if you are lucky to have sympathetic people in your life.  I have learned how to cushion those days.  I either plan special things with friends and family or I plan to hide comfortably in my bed  It is the day after that things often come crashing down.  My grief doesn't let me skip over it.  It wants my attention.

This might also be called The Days Before.  It is the 4th anniversary of my husband's death on July 17th.  I call this his dying time.  Things start happening.  I cry more.  I put my clothes on backwards again.  I drop things.  I have difficulty sleeping.  My body and my mind are remembering how hard I worked to give him a good death.  They are also remembering that he was misdiagnosed and because of that wouldn't go into the hospital.  They are remembering when he finally went in and instead of being fixed was properly diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer.  When the new doctor first told me I said, "That sounds like Peter Jennings (a news anchor) who left to fight lung caner and was dead in 3 months."  I expected the doctor to say, "Don't exaggerate."  He was silent.  I asked the oncologist what I should tell people who wanted to come from out of town.  He said, "Tell them to come right away."  Artie was dead in six weeks.  Some of you have had people die more quickly.  I was lucky to have time to say goodbye.  We held hands and listened to jazz.  We apologized for the ways in which we failed each other.  His last words to me were, "I love you."  My last words to him - when he could hear them with his earth  ears - were "I love you too."

I don't talk about Artie as much as I used to but now every day is full of Artie stories.  In my dreams I am searching for him and I can't find him.

See, I was going to write about the 4th of July and it is all about the anniversary of Artie's death.

It is the days before and the days after.  It is hard for people to understand that this period of time is exhausting and stressful.  I have trained my mind to think of Artie in memory: alive and vital and full of fun.  Around these times that becomes more difficult for me. I relive his death. I can feel myself wrapping his dead arm around me in a last hug.  I can hear myself sobbing into his still shoulder. I also remember half expecting him to sit up and say, "Just kidding."  I still make myself show up.  I still try to help others.  But I am more damaged.

I say often that things aren't better but they are different.  This year I am actually flying to Venice, Italy with my daughter and granddaughter on the anniversary of Artie's death.  That would have been impossible in the years before.  My daughter asked how I will be on the plane.  I told her I can't tell her.  I don't plan to be any particular way.  I try to stay in the present moment.  It doesn't matter - things happen around me.  My sadness gets bigger.

There is a quote I put on my new Facebook Page called Grief Speaks Out.  When I read it I started to cry.  It is:  “There's a fine edge to new grief, it severs nerves, disconnects reality--there's mercy in a sharp blade. Only with time, as the edge wears, does the real ache begin.”  Christopher Moore

This is what I think grief warriors understand and yearn for others to understand with them.  Life goes on.  You can be inspired by all the qualities of the love you have for those who have died.  You can live a full and happy life.  However with this is coupled the ache.  The ache of loneliness and missing doesn't go away.  It is a mark of love, but a mark all the same.  It seems to throb a little more - or a lot more - around these holidays and special dates.  

Know that whatever you go through at these times that you are not alone.  If it effects you on the day, or the days before or the days after or every day; honor and respect that part of you.  Know that there can be happiness as well.  Alway ask those questions I repeat.  Who else am I?  I am a grieving widow but I am much more than that.  What else do I feel?  I feel sad and lonely and sometimes angry and abandoned.  It is not reasonable.  Artie promised he would never leave me but his body wouldn't let him stay.  Sometimes I feel abandoned anyway.  It's important that I recognize that I feel happy, satisfied, grateful, and many other things as well.  Emotional movement.  Let your mind, body, heart and soul see and breathe in the joy as well as the pain.  It is there.  I promise you.  It is there.  Like a blades of grass growing through a cement sidewalk. 

July 17th.  Four years.  How can I have lived almost 4 years without Artie living beside me?  I have.  That's what makes us warriors.  We fight for our lives.  We live not only for ourselves but for those whose lives have ended.  Wishing you - and me too! - love and strength.  xo 

1 comment:

  1. For me, grief is elusive yet hauntingly tangible. Like a shadow you think you can hold in place with your toe, so you can look at, study it and share it with the world, so they too can understand...and yet, it only stays at your feet, never leaving you for a minute, but elusive all the same.

    The scene below captures the essence, heart, soul, sorrow and love of grief and why it never can be gotten over or go away. It is from the play, "Rabbit Hole" by David Lindsey-Abaire:

    “Mom? Does it go away?”
    “This Feeling. Does it ever go away?”
    “No. I don’t think it does. Not for me, it hasn’t. And that’s goin’ on eleven years. It changes though.”
    “I don’t know. The weight of it, I guess. At some point it becomes bearable. It turns into something you can crawl out from under. And carry around -- like a brick in your pocket. And you forget every once in a while, but when you reach in for whatever reason and there it is: ‘Oh right. That.’ Which can be awful. But not all the time. Sometimes it’s kinda…Not that you like it exactly, but it’s what you have instead of your son, so you don’t wanna let go of it either. So you carry it around. And it doesn’t go away, which is…”

    Thank you for sharing Artie with us. Your courage and love is such a gift, as he clearly has been to you.... May your trip to Venice fill your pockets with memories of a life fully lived.

    with gratitude,