I’m beginning to understand the truth of grief — you never truly get over it. Whenever I think I’ve reached a stage of acceptance and peace, grief has a way of swinging around and coming at me from a different direction, and it always takes me by surprise.
Yesterday was a good day. I started in on my novel for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and managed to write the allotted number of words in just a few hours, which pleased me. I’m such a slow writer, I thought it would take me all day to do it, especially since I piddled around for a while, trying to decide which kind of paper to use, which pencil, which clipboard. (Yeah, I admit it — I still write by hand, mainly because it’s easier on my eyes.)
I also posted a blog for the first day of NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month).
My self-imposed commitments finished for the day, I went walking in the desert. It was perfect weather — blue skies and warm, still air.
Then bam! Out of nowhere, grief socked me in the gut. I wanted so much to see my mate, to talk to him, that I would barely breathe. The pain lasted for hours. And tears? Too many to count.
The novel I started writing for NaNo was about a grieving woman, so perhaps that had something to do with my upsurge in grief. I’ve been worried that immersing myself in the story of a woman who lost her husband be a bit much for me at this stage, but I also know that I won’t want to revisit grief once I’m done with it. (Yes, I know — one is never done with grief, but the pain does lessen an the bouts of tears come further apart.)
It’s possible any writing would have brought on this re-grief — he was my sounding board (literally a sounding board –I always read to him what I wrote). And it’s possible it was just time. Lately I’ve been distracting myself when the pain crept in, so it could have been building up.
The whys of this spate of grief, however, are not important. It still comes down to the simple truth: He is dead and there’s not a damn thing I can do about it except learn to live with it.
November 2, 2010 at 7:35 pm
When grief sucker punches me out of the blue, it’s often hard to tell what triggers it. Sometimes, it’s as though grief waits until I start trying to get back to a semi-normal life. Then, wham – instant ocean for no reason. I’m not controlling grief – it’s still controlling me.
November 2, 2010 at 7:44 pm
It does seem to wait until one gets back to a semi-normal life. Could be we’re most vulnerable then because we don’t have our defenses in place. So much of the tension of grief comes from always being ready for the next blow, and when you let down your guard a bit, the blow lands. The best reason I’ve heard for embracing grief and letting it run its course is that otherwise you spend your whole life tensed up against grief.
We will survive, though, oceans of tears and all.
November 2, 2010 at 8:15 pm
Learning to live with it isn’t easy, but you keep trying and that’s a positive step. Your character’s grief is certainly something you understand, but it must be very difficult to write about. No wonder it unleashed your own emotions! But I’ve checked your NaNo word count and see that you’ve managed to write even more than the daily average both yesterday and today, so you’re coping. Good for you! You’re proving that no matter how hard grief is, you’re not going to let it defeat you.
November 3, 2010 at 9:34 pm
Nope, not going to let grief defeat me. I’m surprised the word count hasn’t yet — I am a very slow writer, but perhaps that’s only when I want usable words. I’m glad you found me at the NaNo site. I’ve added you as a writing buddy.
November 2, 2010 at 8:25 pm
Blessings to you, Pat. I think writing about a grieving woman will help you in the long run. It may bring on tears, but it will help you to live it out through your character. Your own fresh grief may breathe life deeply into your character’s experience, as well.
November 3, 2010 at 9:35 pm
I’m hoping it will work out that way, Carol. I’d like to see if this sort of immersion in writing brings enlightenment.
November 3, 2010 at 11:00 am
You tell so well what my Mum has told me too, and even years later, the grief can suddenly hit for what seems like no reason. She says she tries to remind herself then, it wouldn’t be so bad if it hadn’t been so good.
November 3, 2010 at 9:36 pm
Thank you, Sheila. It’s always nice to know how others dealt with this situation.
November 3, 2010 at 9:25 pm
Well, I came to comment on the NaNoWriMo bit of it.
I know my wife wants to write the story of her father some day. Her grief at his loss lasted a long time.
I know NaNo isn’t for everyone, but I think it’s perfect for writing like this, because unlike grief, NaNoWriMo has a definite end and a definite limit. (well…goal).
Writing, especially a first draft, isn’t about the reader. It’s all about the writer, and what the writer needs to say.
I hope the process works for you!
November 3, 2010 at 9:31 pm
That’s a very good point about NaNoWriMo having a definite end and a definite limit. I need achievable goals right now! It remains to be seen if I have anything to say.
September 21, 2015 at 2:56 pm
I am an eight month survivor and your book has helped me so much. I feel as if you really understand what I am going through. The ups and downs of grief are Hell. My husband was older than me and we have a 24year old son and he is all that is keeping me going now, although he is in his first job after university and living in London UK away from home. I was thinking that I was doing better but tonight loneliness and grief have hit me so hard and the longing to see or touch my darling husband becomes almost unbearable, but I have just re read the very last piece in your book ‘Afterward’ and it has calmed me down and given me hope that somehow I will survive. thank you for making your feelings public and helping others.
September 22, 2015 at 6:43 am
Susan, I am so very sorry about your husband and your grief. At eight months, it’s still so very hard and will continue to be hard for a long time to come. But I promise you, it does get easier. Not easy, because how can it be? They are gone, and nothing can change that, but the intensity of the pain will diminish, and eventually, the upsurges of grief become less frequent. Stop by whenever you need to voice your anguish. I do understand, at least as well as anyone can understand another’s grief.