Sunday, June 15, 2014

Grief: Still Crazy After All These Years

I am sitting here on Father's Day trying to get many different things done.  The news is on in the background.  I am not really listening but every once in a while I hear yet another tale of grief or someone saying, "Happy Father's Day" without giving a thought to anyone who that simple phrase might feel more like a sharp blade through the heart than a cheery wish. I don't know why I don't play music.  It would be so much better.  Or those hypnosis CDs (I am so old I still write tapes and have to correct it) that I have been meaning to listen to for about three months now.

I'm coming up on the fifth anniversary of my husband's death.  I cannot believe I have lived so long after the day of his death.  I thought in the beginning surely he would come get me.  How much I would have missed if he had.  I wouldn't have known Gwendy blue eyes, my granddaughter, I wouldn't have  made so many memories with my daughter and new friends that came in to replace those who disappeared. I wouldn't have been here with old friends who stayed.  There are so many things I wouldn't have experienced.  There are so many people that would not have experienced me.  No blog.  No Grief Speaks Out.  It is confusing.

What is confusing?  How I want more than anything to just lie down and join my husband.  How I want more than anything to never have my daughter have to tell my granddaughter that Gammy isn't coming back.  I never want to make that little girl cry.

Five years ago I was desperate and devastated every second of every day.  Now that devastation and loneliness and agony is still there - but it is a layer of who I am.  I have a rather magical life and sometimes I can even be present to enjoy it.  Sometimes both at the same time.  I went to see with two woman friends an amazing production of the Shakespearian play Macbeth with Kenneth Branagh.  Part of the time I was dazzled - part of the time it was like I wasn't really there.  Why?  The last time I saw Kenneth Branagh he was playing Hamlet and I was sitting next to my husband holding hands.  When the play was over we talked about it all the way back to our hotel.  That happens a lot.  Me being present having a great time - a genuinely great time - and then the moment of OUCH! or getting sleepy - or wanting to go home and crawl into bed.

I have been feeling overwhelmed lately - doing more things as I wanted to - planned for - on this unwanted grief journey.  I posted about that on and within 3 seconds I had someone post that they felt the same way.  That's it, isn't it.  That's why we need to talk about it.  That's why I need to keep writing the blog.  I'm not the only one still crazy after all these years - most of us are - in one way or another.  I have people tell me after 35 years, after 50 years it all comes back.  It hurts every day...just in a different way.

I took little Gwendy to a cemetery and when she climbed over the graves I had her say hello to the people buried there.  There were two flat stones with red flowers blooming in between them.  On the husband's stone it said, "Gone Before."  I looked - he had died in 1933 - his wife (with the same name) had died in 1961.  Seems like a long time to wait.

It's not really crazy - it's just grieving.  Those who call it complicated or morbid are wrong.  It's just grief.  For some, perhaps, it goes away.  For most it gentles down, the contours of it change.  But  does it end?  Not in my life.  In my life every morning - and every waking minute - and then every sleeping minute I am conscious of my grief.  As much as I feel my husband with me spiritually - even talking with him and hearing what he says (not in his voice - he doesn't have a voice - it isn't an auditory hallucination) he is not HERE - he cannot come back HERE and HERE with me is where I want him.

So my grief - my craziness - is something I walk around - use - get knocked down by - get disoriented by - get challenged by.  Some days I transform it beautifully.  Other days not so much.

I don't know why I still meet new people with the news my husband is dead.  I don't know why I tell people his opinion about things.  I don't know why I keep telling his stories.  That's not true.  I still can't imagine Jan without Artie.  I don't want to imagine myself that way.  Why is he still so much a part of me.  I don't know.  He is.  When someone is alive you expect their loved one to talk about them and share things with them.  Who says this has to stop just because they died?

People ask me more often if I'm dating.  I say now if someone I liked asked me out or fixed me up I wouldn't say no.  But nothing happens that way.  I still wear my husband's wedding ring and mine and I think I must have a neon sign on my head that says "Married to a dead guy."  For some reason - no matter how many widows I see who are quite happily remarried - it still feel like cheating to me.  I still feel married.

I guess the best thing - if it isn't hurting you too much - and isn't hurting others too much - is to learn to love your crazy.  This year I made arrangements to go on a retreat with two women friends in July.  I didn't realize I will be there in silence on the fifth anniversary of my husband's death.  I am bringing chocolate.  I am asking my friends to leave me alone and not worry about me if I stay in my room all day - or be surprised if I show up somewhere.  I don't want to be hugged or patted.  Almost five years and as i wrote that last sentence tears came to my eyes along with though, "No.  He can't be dead."

He is.

I'm alive.

So are you.  Alive.  Whatever you do that you think is crazy probably isn't - it's probably being felt or done by millions of other people in the world who just aren't telling anyone either.

Mary Oliver asks,  "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"

The first thing is to find a way to actually think of your life as still precious.  The second thing is to show up and keep showing up.  No that's wrong.  The first thing is just to breathe.  To accept each breath as having a reason.

Gwendy blue eyes says we hold each other up.  She means when we hold hands we don't fall down or maybe she understands that "We hold each other up" has a deeper meaning.  I have a lot to learn from that little two year old.

If you are still breathing - what else are you going to do?  What else am I going to do so every day my husband will be saying - "You go girl!!  I called it right when I nicknamed you Panache!"

What am I going to do with my wild and precious life?  Some moments it is still watching too much TV and eating too much or even staring at the wall - but other days it really is quite splendid.  Why?  Because my husband loves me and being fully alive with grief is the best way to honor that love. xo


  1. Thank you for sharing this.

  2. It has been 10 years for me. My son was murdered and his birthday is Friday. Im still crazy. I havent left the house for weeks.