Counting my days
A tidal wave of memories, intense feelings, pain, and distress knocks me over every hour. Wailing accompanies each crest of the wave as if I am giving birth. It is not birth pains but death pains I am experiencing. A sharp, quick, unexpected, untimely death.
The waves last an entire week. They only give pause when my body and mind are too exhausted to cry. I set to cleaning and organizing hoping a change in environment and tidy space will give me some sense of control. But it doesn’t really. I find myself becoming very attentive to every little detail … the books placed at the perfect angle, a throw laid just so over the arm of the couch, the Japanese teapot directed perfectly toward the door and on top of the coffee table book for just the right aesthetic. Every dish done and put away, every can of beans lined up according to type in the corner of the cabinet, shoes, and clothes all organized perfectly. Again, it is only a facade. The truth is … I am out of control with grief. Nothing I could possibly do could help me cope at this point. Grief must have it’s say.
The tidal waves of memory have gotten a bit smaller now. Oh, yes, they are still there and they still don’t announce their arrival. I am caught off-guard each time, like a riptide pulling under an unsuspecting child playing in the surf.
Mixed in with the tidal waves are contrasting highs and lows. One moment I feel hopeful and confident, “I will be OK, I can do this, I prepared for this.” The next moment I am in complete despair, “How could this have happened, how can I possibly continue to manage without my dear sweet love.” Again the swings from high to low exhaust me and I am unable to function at all. My brain is clouded, I can’t remember anything, I am incapable of work or creativity or planning. It’s a mishmash of contrasting intense emotions.
“There must be some way to ease this pain! How long will it go on? How will I ever cope? Can there really be any way to be consoled?”
It’s the little, intimate things that I miss the most. A hug on waking, watching cooking shows while eating dinner, a kiss goodnight. My dearest friend said, “The “little” things we moved through in our days with our loved ones are in every fiber of our being and are woven into our existence-our sense of ourselves and who we are in the world.”
That woven cloth has been ripped in two. And now I have to make something out of one half. I know who I am … but do I really? We were one flesh, attached at the hip, always on the same page, always knew what we needed to do before we spoke of it. 46 years was no small amount of time to be married. But I am young, and I hopefully have many years ahead of me as a single person. What will those years be like? What will they reveal about me?
I decided it was time for some extreme therapy. I gathered my daughter and a very close friend who had recently experienced intense trauma and my son-in-law (he would document the event). We drove up to the top of the ridge, the blueberry barrens in Appleton, Maine, a beautiful spot with a lake far off in the distance. The area is usually completely isolated. But this time the fields were ablaze with glorious color which heightened our anticipation of the event but also brought other site-seers. No matter.
Our intention was to scream at the top of our lungs for as long as we could, in unison. The wind was whipping up there on the ridge but our voices carried far. Several times we screamed – from the highest shrill to the lowest tones coming directly from the diaphragm. It was designed as a release, an antidote to that feeling that something is so scary that when we open our mouth to scream we can’t. I am sure you have had that dream. This was no dream.
The occasion was dubbed #screamingwomensreatreat2018 Catchy, isn’t it? It felt good, it did what it was designed to do. We all felt more powerful.
The days are getting better but the nights are still really tough. I have begun to make plans for the weeks and months ahead but am still reluctant to put on eye makeup or commit to anything I can’t bail on. This grief thing is not for the faint of heart. It is the height of confusion and the sourest taste in your mouth. It is difficult to move on because you feel as if you are leaving your loved one behind. Of course, you must, but how can you? I know I will find my way because I understand the importance of processing one’s feelings, talking about them, writing them down, analyzing them. I have learned that well, and it’s a good thing. I will need those skills more than ever in the days ahead.
I am happy to have been thinking about photo shoots and costumes, medieval robes, and 19th-century houses. Computer work is still difficult and talking on the phone the worst. But I will get there. I now know what it means when people say ‘give yourself time.’ Grief is a demanding entity and an unpredictable soul. It must be allowed to dominate your decision making, you really have no choice but to let it have its way.
With that, and I could be wrong, I will learn to heal just a bit faster, I hope.