I Have to Plan to Think and I Have to Think to Write

Today I realized I have perfected the ability to look without seeing.  I was sitting on the couch staring out the window and my daughter said to me, “That’s crazy, eh?”  I looked at her and said, “What’s crazy?”  I guess there had been some birds at the bird feeder which is right in front of the window.  There had been quite a squabble as the birds jockeyed for position to get at the food and it was quite entertaining.  It happened, literally, right in front of the window and I hadn’t seen a thing.

It wasn’t that I was lost in thought, I think more than anything I was devoid of thought.  I find that I can zone out completely, just go into stillness of body or mind or both.  I can still multi-task, I can walk to my car, or do housework or all those day-today tasks that need to be done.  I do them without thinking, just like breathing.  Now I find that often I can pass people in the street, at the store, at work, and it doesn’t register who they are.  Or maybe it doesn’t matter who they are.  Or maybe I don’t want to recognize them because to do so triggers a thought process about their family, spouse, routines that they blissfully take for granted; things too painful and too close for me to dwell on right now.

I think, truthfully, that the reason I choose not to see things is that I don’t care.  I don’t have the emotional resources to spend on interest or concern, not even for myself, let alone others.  Alternately, maybe it is that I can’t care.  Caring is active and needs effort which is just not possible for me right now.  Caring is a step beyond where I am at presently.  For the immediate,  I have to plan to think, just like I have to think to write.  It all takes effort and is very draining.

If I’ve Fallen, Just Walk Around Me. For Now.

I feel like my eyes are constantly on the ground, checking out where my next step will be, afraid to look up.  If I look up then I might have to make eye contact with someone.  If I look up I might miss my step and fall down.  Wait, I’ve already fallen down. There is a fragility associated with my reintegration into the workforce.  I am vulnerable at a very basic level.  Everyone knows that I have fallen, and fallen hard.  I’m trying to pick myself up and people want to help me, but I won’t let them get close enough to me because if I do then they might see everything, all of the sorrow, vulnerability and weakness.  I can’t even look inside and see everything yet, it’s too painful.  To have other people glimpse that part of me is like a violation.  I need the distance to sort myself out.

It has been difficult to return to work.  I have trouble getting to sleep which impacts on overall wellbeing in general.  I drag myself into work already tired and aware that my focus and concentration are subpar. I never was rapid fire with my verbal responses and I’m worse now; since Kevin’s death I go out of my way to avoid interaction where I may be asked something that requires functional, logical thought. Then there is the physical strain.  My work is sedentary, I sit at a computer and type all day.  For the last ten months my days had been filled with physical activity and movement.  Pushing, pulling, lifting, bending and walking – all day, every day.  Now that I am back working at a desk I feel tremendous strain and tightness in my neck, shoulders and lower back.  I have headaches, I have nosebleeds. I feel dread at having to talk about my loss over and over again with my coworkers and this adds to the stress I am carrying.

There is a reality that most people won’t realize until they walk this path – that of losing their partner.  At least I think that this is the case for most, perhaps not all, but most.  The passage of time doesn’t make it easier – it makes it harder.  The fact is, one month, two months, a year – I will still be grieving.  It’s not likely to get any easier for me, at least I don’t see it.  Just because the event has faded in your mind, doesn’t mean that it has lost any of its rawness for me.  If anything, it appears that this pain is increasing right now.

I Walk In the Half Light

I’m sad.  I wear my sorrow like a cloak.  It drapes my shoulders and gently rustles as I pass by you.  You can feel it even if you don’t know me.  I know because now I am intimately familiar with the tells associated with profound loss.  I can spot those people wrapped in sorrow – I know the signs.  I see it in their eyes, in the posture that appears defeated, the gentle sighs they breathe, the looking but not seeing, the hearing but not listening.  A wistfulness in the eyes – I see it in my children when they remember something about their father.  There is distance and detachment from the present as they go within to their own private world of memories.

I can recognize the fellow sufferer now, and I respect them.  The uncertainty that they are shrouded with weighs heavy on them, a burden they have to unwillingly shoulder.  I suffer the same trials, how will I get through this day, the next one?  There are so many fleeting thoughts throughout the day, familiar thoughts, sorrowful thoughts, some may flit by others while may strike a nerve and dissolve my control.  It’s a constant stretching of nerves in anticipation of the unknown, a sound, smell or image, a familiar gesture; these are the things that assail my resolve, that make me grief’s prey.

Grief, sorrow, anguish, these are emotions that most of us have experienced at some point in our lives, and assuredly will experience over and over as we age, as we live.  An unfortunate reality for every single one of us in the here and now, and there is no comfort in this thought.  For some, I am ahead of you on the journey and I feel sad that this path is so heavily travelled and that so many will follow.  For others, I know will never be able to comprehend the sorrow, anguish and perhaps scope of your loss, it is yours not mine; but I recognize that some have suffered and lost far more than any one person should have to.  I wonder how deep the dark hole actually is?  I consider the notion that these loves and losses shape us, enrich us – maybe one day I will be able have these words ring true, but not now.

There is no other expressive outlet that I can use other than words, written or spoken, that will convey how I am feeling and how intensely my husband’s death has affected me.  Writing has become my comfort and my release.  So often throughout our marriage Kevin would utter the words, “Let it go honey, just let it go.”  I’m trying Kev, but it isn’t happening.


The Days Are Different Now

It’s been over a month since Kevin died.  That particular event feels both near and far in my mind.  It’s hard to explain.  It is a pivotal event in my present and my past, I can’t think about my future.  For me so much has changed and with a permanence that is the most unsettling thing.  In the past Kev would go away, sometimes for a couple of days, sometimes longer.  When the kids were young he would take them away with him camping, travelling, to the cottage, after all as a teacher he had his summers off.  The first few days alone by myself were delicious, I would eat when I wanted and whatever I fancied – dinner could be Ritz crackers and a cup of tea.  I could sleep in the bed sideways if I wanted.  There was no one to look after but myself.  After a couple of days of self indulgence I would start to miss the routine, the responsibility, the interaction, the activity,  and was ready to have him come home.  And he always did.

There was a lovely denial that I existed in while he was sick, and to an extent he did too.  There were things he wanted to do and he was a determined sort, I think we all thought that through sheer force of will he could just keep on going.  He knew he was sick and would eventually die from his cancer, but we always focused on his being in that seven per cent that make it five years or more.  Ten months was all we got, and I wasn’t really ready at all.  Now my reality is that I can never settle in to watch television with him; he is not here to spin his yarns; I don’t get to listen to him practicing his keyboards anymore; his sketchbook remains unopened on his desk upstairs; he’s not here to help ‘organize’ my life for me anymore, and most importantly, I miss our discussions – he had an opinion on everything, right or wrong, but he was never bashful about sharing it.   His voice, that rich deep timbre of his voice, I miss his voice.

These are my daily struggles. This is the stuff that no family or friends can replace.  This is the stuff that catches me off guard at the oddest moments.  It is my forever loss, because it is permanent and it is real and it can never change.




I’m Grieving, What Does That Mean?

I had an appointment with my doctor yesterday.  I’ve been off work on sick leave and needed a note to allow me to return to work.  I need to get back to work.  I need the structure in my day, a reason to get up, a reason to go to bed.  Right now I feel like I am free falling – I have no definition to the requirements of my day.  It was ten months from Kevin’s diagnosis to his death.  In that time my world shrank considerably.  There was no easing into his treatments.  He was walloped right from the get-go with the radiation.  It was so debilitating that he couldn’t even lift his legs onto the bed.  My days, necessarily, involved a lot of personal care and attention to Kevin’s needs.  Although there was an ebb and flow to the level of support required, since the end of January it had steadily increased until it became all-consuming.  Consequently when it ended I was literally without a purpose.

Without a purpose.  And so I exist.

Absolutely there are things to do and that have to be done, but that’s just part of existing – we eat, we sleep, go to work and pay our bills.  When Kev was alive there was a plan, goals and aspirations – mine and his.  Somehow they have all lost their lustre.  And so, for now I am existing, no long term plans, no goals or aspirations in place.  I know this is part of the grieving process, but knowing doesn’t make it any easier or any less lonely.

I find that I draw distinctions now about grief, for example, was it a sudden death or a prolonged illness resulting in death? The emotional response is significantly different on several levels.  Obviously the relationship; spouse, relative, friend, child – all very different grieving processes.  The type of illness, the age, the death experience itself.  I have an insatiable need for details so I can compare them to my own experience – however, I’m the first person to say every single experience is different.  And it is different, each and every situation, no family dynamics are ever the same, no two individuals will have had the same life experience.

In my case, my family, friends and acquaintances will know of the singular experience that I am grieving (my husband’s death) but theirs will be an external view.  They may have an idea of how I am feeling, but they won’t ever know what I am going through, how could they?  Just like me with my children, their feelings will be uniquely their own and will be different for each one and different from mine.  I won’t say “I know what you’re going through,” because I don’t exactly.  Who knows what’s going on in another person’s mind?  I do say, ” I miss him everyday.  He loved you very much.”  Because he did, and because they need to work through their own grief in their own way secure in the knowledge of his love.   I won’t say, “time heals all wounds,” or “in time it won’t hurt so much,” because right now it doesn’t feel like it will, because right now it implies that Kevin’s value will lessen as time passes, it implies forgetfulness, it lacks depth.  I will say “yes honey it hurts” and stay in the present tense because that’s where we are now and it is painful and it is personal and he was a huge influence in all of our lives.  Perhaps my sensitivity meter is up or perhaps this is the way most people feel when they grieve.  I do know that I’d gladly miss the platitudes and settle for a simple and genuine “I’m so sorry to hear about Kevin” – it pretty much covers everything.