Monday, April 7, 2014

Grief: Why Is It So Hard To Take Care of Myself?

I'm trying to go to a different level in this grieving process.  It's not working very well.  It's like the children's game Chutes and Ladders (or Snakes and Ladders).  I climb up and then get a wrong turn of the dice and slide back down.  I don't slide all the way down to the bottom of the board any more.  That's not true.  Sometimes I do. But not as often. In many ways I have a magical life.  In many ways I still feel this dark bleak loneliness. Back and forth.  Up and down.  As many times as I slide down it is up to me to climb back up.

I was wondering if I was obsessed with my dead husband.  I think about him all the time.  I love him more every day.  I miss him.  I want to be with him; not with someone new.  I asked a friend whose son, her only child, died 12 years ago.   "Am I obsessed?"  I thought she'd say, "Of course not."  Instead she said, "Of course you are.  We all are."  It made me wonder some more.  When my husband was alive, even though we were very independent people, we were the center of each other's world.  I always say he held my kite string so I could soar.  He was who I came home to.  He was home.  He is home.  I thought about him a lot.  I made decisions with him and because of him.  In his dying time I gave up everything to be there to take care of him. It was a privilege to do so.  That wasn't obsession - it was a marriage.  It was love.  So my feelings really haven't changed.  It is just that the person I have these unchangeable feelings about and for is longer living.  Maybe that's what people who tell you to move on don't understand.  Just because someone you love dies doesn't mean your feelings for them change.  My husband isn't here physically for me to interact with on a daily basis - but he is spiritually.  My feelings of loyalty and faithfulness and love and respect haven't changed.  You don't stop loving someone when they die...sometimes you even love them more.

Understanding.  I saw someone yesterday who lives in a different city.  I only see him once a year. His only child, a son, died around the same time my husband died.  When he saw me his eyes were full of kindness and he gave me a big hug.  There was an understanding, a being present with each other because we both know grief.  We know it doesn't end.  We know the tears are always near the surface if not actually spilling over.  We can be heart to heart honest with each other.  I write this blog, I do the Facebook page...people I know read them and still I get hurt because I don't have that kind of understanding with them.  How can they know me and not know me at the same time?  Especially when I bang my drum so loud.  

I want to take better care of myself.  I want to eat better.  I'm so proud of my daughter who is losing weight and looks wonderful.  I will feel better if I eat better and move more.  Is that news?  It is to me when laying in bed watching TV and eating ice cream does such a good job of numbing me out.  It seems like it is time to take better care of myself.  How do I do it without my husband?  The seductively vicious question that grief always throws at me - Why bother doing it without my husband?

I also want to accomplish more.  I have a lot of things I could be doing. A lot of things I want to be doing.  I lack emotional stamina.  I was thinking that my heart is closed.  It isn't.  It is so open and hurt and vulnerable that I feel overexposed and in need of hiding myself away.  Sometimes doing one more thing - even a simple one seems like too much.

Today.  I've gotten a lot done.  I've set goals and accomplished most of them.  But there's movement followed by crashing loneliness and wanting to be still.  I want to eat now.  I want not to feel.  I feel joy and happiness and gratitude.  But all that doesn't light the darkness when it comes.  Someone said when her husband died it was like being a bird with one wing.  Rowing a boat with one oar.  It seems easier to go around in circle than it is to actually get somewhere. d

I've been complaining a lot lately.  Everything irritates me.  I want to stop complaining again.  At my daughter's house there is a jar.  Every time I complained I'd put a $20 bill in.  I said we should start it again...but with $1.  I can't afford a $20 a complaint any more.  Too many complaints.  None of them serious - except for the big one...I'm alive and my husband isn't.

I never thought of that.  Is he still even my husband?  He is to me, for eternity.  But my legal word is widow - not wife.  I hate the word widow.

It will be five years in July.  i am exhausted with missing him.  I want to move forward.  I want to be more fully alive.  I want to do all the things that would make him proud.  I also want to stay perfectly still and let my grief swallow me up.

Ease.  I would like to do things with ease.  Anger and hurt are all mixed up together.  Yet, I push ease away.  I know the things that will help me and so often I choose not to do them.

My granddaughter, pretending to be a butterfly, says: "When my chrysalis is done, I can fly."  Sometimes I feel like I am a butterfly turning into a very hungry caterpillar instead of the other way around.

All I can do is keep restarting myself.  I can keep showing up.  Keep trying fill the time I have left with joy and work and help for others - and play.  I don't thing any of this matters in terms of all the people in the world.  It matters, though, in terms of me.

Sometimes it's clear what I want to write.  Sometimes it's all a muddle.  That's how I am these days all a muddle.  I don't have the stages of grief over time (not that I believe anyone does) but lately they seem to spring up in different forms every five minutes.

Peace and contentment.  I know so many people who claim to have them.  Serenity.  My husband used to say serenity was just a rumor.  When people said they had it - he'd ask them to define it and tell him how they got it.  I have met people who are deeply spiritual and connected with themselves and with others - and yet retain a certain equanimity - a certain slight ripple rather than crashing waves.  Too many people say they have it but you can feel the lie.  You can feel the pain and fear and insecurity bubbling underneath.  I'd rather be honest about all my different feelings.

So - what is taking care of myself?  There are simple answers like washing and cleaning up and eating well and exercising and getting enough sleep. But what it taking care of myself emotionally and spiritually?  I'm throwing a child's temper tantrum again.  I want my husband to take care of me

That's where I am today.  Disjointed.  Uncertain.  But still trying.  Still doing.  Still showing up.  Brendan Behan said, "Every cripple has his own way of walking."  Even after five years I'm still trying to figure out mine.  With love. xo


  1. I've just discovered you. Thank you for creating this site.

  2. I understand so well, although I am way behind you at nearly 14 months everything you have written here resonates with me. I thought this morning when I was walking the corgis 'I just want Mark back, I want him to be there for me, to take care of 'stuff' and me' Silly really because when he was will me I was quite happy to deal with things. Thank you so much for helps me tremendously to know that I am not alone in feeling this way. Shirley xx

    1. I totally agree Whirley Witsend. I am closer to your timeline as today I am 11 months since I lost my precious Gra. I selfishly want him back and do not want to settle for anything else. This is my first experience with a blog but I am so thankful I found it and I find so much comfort knowing that there are others who truly understand how I am feeing, God bless you and Jan Warner for creating this blog.

  3. I'm so glad I stumbled on this sight. I understand every word you said. My husband of 37 years was murdered in 2007. I still love him as much today as I did then. I feel really resentful when people tell me to move on. If my heart wasn't so broken maybe I could. My children are always after me to get counseling because it seems my anger has grown tremendously. I am not sure who I am most angry at. God for taking him from me, the three kids who killed him or my husband for leaving me behind. My house is falling apart, I don't know how to fix the plumbing, roof etc. Money is tight. Sometimes I think maybe I should find another man, it would make life easier, but it wouldn't be fair because I love my husband with all my heart. I have shut down. I very rarely get dressed, my house which once was pristine is filthy, I have no desire to clean, to cook, to go anywhere. I don't care what my house looks like, I only cared when it was a home. I wish people would stop giving me advice and if I here one more time "I know how you feel", I am going to blow up. When someone you loved with all your heart, then you have earned the right to tell me you know how I feel. We all heal at different times, stages and sometimes maybe never. Do not judge and do not think you are helping me by trying to give me words of wisdom.I have to do this on my own time and my own way and if I don't do it at all that's okay too because it is not fun at all to do everything alone.