Monday, August 12, 2013

Grief: Disbelief is not Denial

I think along with the death of loved one for many of us there is a continuing feeling of disbelief.  I want to share with you that this is both common and normal.  It is not the same thing as denial.  I know that Artie is dead.  As I have written, I was lucky to be with him during the process of his dying. Seeing him inhale, exhale and not inhale again was like walking along the sea shore - watching the tide go out - waiting - only to realize that it was never coming in again.  That's how enormous the death of the force of nature that was my husband is to me.  I was lucky to be able to spend time with his body - to say goodbye to that as well.  As many times as I am told, and I believe, that his spirit is with me - I miss his body.  Those of us here in our earthly and earthy bodies find it hard to figure out how to be in a relationship with spirit lacking flesh.

So...I know that Artie is dead.  Although I often go back in time, using the technique of rolling my memories backwards, to connect with a loving, comfortable, taken care of feeling - I know I am not really time traveling.  There is no where I can go where Artie is still alive.  I can think of him as alive Artie but his life story as Artie Warner, as well as all his physical attributes of Artie Warner are gone forever.  A bag of ashes, as ridiculously fond I am of them, is not a man.  It doesn't contain his essential nature; his humor, his stubbornness, his wisdom, his Artieness.  I wonder if in his new form he has a name.  Never thought of that.

It doesn't matter.  When i wake up in the morning I'm still a little surprised he's not next to me. One morning I had a pillow leaning against my back.  For a second I thought it was him.  When I travel I sometimes find myself reaching for the phone.  If I watch something I know he'd enjoy - or would have enjoyed - the impulse to share it with him is still there.  While I don't believe wherever he is he is still interested in tennis, or politics I do think he is interested in me.  It's that sense of disbelief that contributes to my sense of loneliness.  I have had friends say I can call them any time.  I know I can.  I am lucky that way.  I want to talk to Artie.  I want to hear his voice.  I can guess what he would say.  Sometimes I even hear him telling me something.  How can that be?  How can it be that never is when I will look into his eyes, never is when I feel his arms around me, never is when I will hear his voice? How can the world go on without him in it?  It does.  How can I go on without him?  I do. How well I go on is up to me.

Sometimes there's even a voice, or the back of a head in a crowd.  I think for a minute - there he is - and then I remember.  Maybe that is what memorials and doing random acts of kindness in someone's name is for.  To keep them near.  To keep them alive.  That's not a bad thing.

I found out another widow is married, another has found someone else.  I keep looking at that in myself.  Is Artie too alive to me?  I hear him saying - No.  I am your one true love.  But he also says - you don't have to be alone.  You can find another man.  I wonder if it is different now that he is dead.  When we first started dating he still dated other women.  I went out with another man.  I knew that as much as Artie wanted to play fair, if I had had a sexual relationship with this man it would have been the end of Artie and me.  Is it like that now?  Does his spirit really want me to be free to love again or is it a test?  That's part of my disbelief.  I can believe that my husband is dead and that we can be spiritual soul mates and yet I am free to have a new love relationship because I am still alive.  However - it is difficult for me to believe my marriage and all that entails is dead as well.  Every time I take my wedding ring and his off I get so uncomfortable I put them back on.

I always wind up somewhere different than where I started when I write.  I wonder now if disbelief is normal and common but problematic when it holds us back from being fully alive.  Can I be fully alive with grief if I cut myself off from the possibility of having a new love relationship - someone to share the rest of my life with?

There is one thing I know for sure.  It is a complete and humbling surprise for me that my Facebook page Grief Speaks Out already has almost 11,000 likes from over 45 countries.  Grief has no borders, no boundaries.  We turn to Facebook pages and blogs because we need a way to express ourselves, we need to feel we are understood.  I am sorry there is so much grief in the world - but I, a natural loner, am grateful for this community of grief warriors that fight for each other across religions, ages, languages, ideologies.

Alongside my disbelief in so many things besides Artie's death - why o why are you dead? - is the growing belief that the common language of grief can bring us together in ways that nothing else can.  If only more friends and family would give us the support that strangers do.  Those that do...they are very special.

Wishing you companions along your way.  Wishing that you discover friends and maybe (if you don't have one) a life partner and that when they appear you not only notice them, but that you allow your heart to open to let them in.   xo

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