Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Grief: 'Tis the Season to Be Sad, Confused, Exhausted and Angry - Oops - I Mean Jolly

Welcome once again to the holiday season.  I apologize for not writing before Thanksgiving.  In the midst of all this cheer, I thought of myself hanging on the meat hook of the holidays.  Here's my run - Thanksgiving. My husband's birthday is December 11th, Chanukah, Gwendy's Birthday is Dec. 20th, Christmas, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.  My birthday and my wedding anniversary are Feb. 3rd (my husband married me for my birthday present) and finally - Valentine's Day.

Thanksgiving.  Am I thankful?  Definitely.  I am thankful for little things like a cosy blanket and big things like having a smart, healthy and beautiful granddaughter.  Gwendy's birthday is a good day  When my daughter was pregnant I didn't know if I could love this new person.  I can.  I do.  I love being a grandmother.  I love that she looks at my husband's picture and says, "There's grandpa!"  She may have never met him when he was alive but she knows all about him - and I have this strange feeling she's seen him more that once.

The holidays. I'm working on it.  I have so many presents in my hallway it looks like a toy store.  I'm going to have to choose which ones to bring to Marblehead near Boston which is where my daughter and granddaughter live.  I couldn't possibly carry everything.

I'm going out on my husband's birthday.  Never did that before.  I'm spending New Year's Eve and New Year's Day with my daughter and granddaughter. It's the first year I've been willing to do that.  I did go out with a friend once - wasn't very happy. My birthday.  We worked that one out.  We sing "Unhappy Birthday to You" and I laugh but no one is allowed to mention it's my wedding anniversary.  I love that I have a wedding anniversary but I can't handle spending that wonderful day without my husband.  My daughter tried singing, "Unhappy anniversary to you." but I stopped her.  I can laugh about having an unhappy birthday - and actually have a happy one.  I can't laugh about having an unhappy wedding anniversary.  I miss my husband too much.

This is what is going on now after almost five and half years. Things are different.  I am doing more.  I am enjoying more.  I am also having to accept that around these dates everything falls apart.  I'm going out - I'm cleaning up - I'm taking care of projects - but I'm also laying in bed watching lousy TV and eating ice cream to numb out.

In between the good times I'm a mess.  I couldn't find my purse this morning - it was on the door knob where I had put it.  I thought Dec. 26th was a Monday - I think it's a Saturday.  Oh - I just looked at the calendar - I think I'm leaving on Tuesday the 16th - the 16th is Wednesday. As if to prove my point, I just talked to my daughter. This is an edit.  The 16th is Tuesday not Wednesday.  And then she was quick to say - not TODAY.  I actually knew that one. 

I've been meaning to write a blog post for days.  I got a stupid taxi driver who was taking me to the wrong address - I told him he needed taxi driver lessons - he laughed.  I cursed him out.  Unnecessary - maybe.  There are lots of times now when I feel like a person.  Times like that mixed in with times as I am going to meet someone I say, "Please let me look and sound like a person."  There are things I would like to do that I'm not - but I finally at the age of 63 feel that what I do is enough - who I am is enough.  If I do more - okay.  If I don't - okay.  If I'm better behaved - okay.  If I'm not - okay.

I'm meeting with someone who thinks she is my friend to tell her if she can't be sensitive to who I am - and respectful of who I am - I can't be friends with her anymore.  I'll call her D.  Why did I feel punched in the throat?  R told us botha long time friend had been killed in a car accident.  R was willing to be vulnerable and take the risk of saying how sad she was. D responded,  "Something good has come out of his death because you are reconnecting with people."  I couldn't believe it.  In front of me - the radical griever.  I rounded on D and probably shouted, "Never tell a grieving person that something good has come out of the death of someone they love."  D said she was providing "comfort".  First of all - there is not comfort.  Second of all, comfort is never given by someone thinking the most painful thing that has ever happened to you is good - especially when in R's case it had only happened a couple of days ago. I asked D how she would feel if her phone rang and she found out her son was dead.  What would be the good in that?  Her eyes teared up and she said, "That's hurtful."  I said, "It's meant to be.  I have thousands of people who tell me how hurtful it is when people say things like you just said.  They won't tell you that - but I will."  I was so angry I couldn't sit next to her.  D. waited a while and then said - "I can't help loving you."  Blech.  R said I shouldn't feel bad about my reaction.  I don't.  I thought perhaps D said she couldn't help loving me because she thinks I'm always angry.  I sent her an e-mail saying that I have been out with a lot of people this week and had good times with all.  Not angry once. (Of course all my other friends are my friends because they understand about the not jolly part.)  I even sent her the Henri Nouwen quote:

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares."

I'm not sure why I'm ranting about this.  Maybe because I know similar things have happened to you.  Maybe because I am still so hurt by it.  The truth is D doesn't get it.  She probably won't get it when I explain it again for the last time.  I'm too hurt to be hurt by people who are not only  careless and insensitive but also not willing to be educated.  It's a new thing for me - consciously setting boundaries for myself.  

I need people to understand that grief goes on forever.  I am sad, confused, exhausted and angry.  I'm also happy, content, grateful and silly.  If you don't get the sad part - you don't know who I am.  If you don't get the happy part you don't know who I am.

I admit to watching true crime stories on television.  The ones that respect the victim's families.  The grief on their faces.  The homicide detectives who carry the picture of a victim with them even after 20 or more years.  The grief on the detectives' faces.  It doesn't stop.  It doesn't go away.  

I am aware of the ways my grief has shifted over the years.  More and more I am daily inspired by my husband.  More and more my gratitude for our time together fills my heart and soul.  I have done things in the past five and half years I am proud of - and I know he is proud of me too.  Now his life is more important to me than his death.  There are things I would have missed if I had indeed died when he did.  I say to him, "It's time.  Come and get me."  He always says, "But you want to..." and mentions something I want to do.  I say, "Okay...but after that."  But then there are new things.

It doesn't stop the shrieking.  I want to be in the same form as he is more than anything.  I also want to be alive to play with my granddaughter more than anything.  

It all tumbles together.

Maybe this is a holiday season to be simultaneously miserable and jolly.  Wouldn't it be something if I could pull that off?  Isn't it something that I am even considering the possibility of jolly?

I wish for you that in the midst of the genuine - real - normal - tumultuous pain that is grief - you also - when you are ready - find time for love - for sharing - for laughter.  Why?  For me it is now partly for myself - but largely it is because I want my husband to see what I learn from him every day.  I want him to know that I open my heart because of his love.

I also take too many naps.  I also numb out.

That's me.  Be on your guard.  You don't know when I show up who is going to appear.  There's one thing you can know for certain - don't ever tell me that there is anything good about my husband's death.  Everything I have done, everything I have achieved, every laugh I have laughed is hard fought for and the fight occurs every day when I wake up and have to accept all over again that he cannot come back.  The person I most want to share things with, the person who understands me, the person who is my reason for being has died.  No matter how much fun I am having when I am with you - if you love me - you must never forget that about me.  

Have a moment each day - when you are ready - for the possibility of beauty and joy.  

I leave you with a Mary Oliver quote.  It is a question worth asking yourself - and when you can - with the guidance of those who have died before you - answering - as only you can answer for your self.  If you don't know the answer - it will come to you - slowly over time or maybe in a split second.  Maybe you already know the answer and you just haven't become of aware of it yet. 

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” 


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