I’d planned to stop writing about grief. Someone I respect said, “There comes a time when it’s healthy for one to move on and drop the grief banner. It comes at different times for different people and it is an important part of the healing process.” I thought I was at that point. I’ve been getting on with my life, living each day as it comes, dealing with the loneliness, seeing the whole of our shared life rather than the terrible end.
For the most part, we had a good relationship. We were friends, life mates, and business partners. We helped each other grow. We never expected the other to fix our individual problems, though we often took each other’s advice. We didn’t cling, demand, or base our relationship on unrealistic expectations. Together we provided a safe environment where each of us could be ourselves. We supported each other in any way we could. And we enjoyed being together.
Long-term illness, however, skews a relationship. Over the years, our world kept getting smaller and smaller, trapping us in a life where neither his needs nor mine were being met. In that constricted world, small betrayals loomed large. Small disagreements seemed insurmountable. And there was guilt galore. After he died, I worked through all of those leftover problems, came to a greater understanding of our relationship and what his ill health had done to us, and finally realized we both acted the only way we could in such an untenable situation. I also dealt with the soul searing pain of loss, with the confusing physical symptoms. (Like falling in love, falling in grief causes changes in hormones and brain chemistry, and creates incredible stress, but unlike love, you can’t regulate those changes with sex. Unless you’re into necrophilia.)
I thought I was through with grief, but grief wasn’t through with me. There was no great realization, no lightning bolt of discovery, just the truth settling into my soul: I’ll never see him again in this lifetime.
Seems an obvious conclusion, doesn’t it? I’ve been saying for fifteen months that he’s gone, though I always accompanied the statement with a bewildered remark about not being able to fathom the sheer goneness of him. And yet somehow, someway, in the dark recesses of my mind, I felt as if we were on a break, as if I’d come to take care of my father for a while, just as I did for my mother, and soon I’d be going back to our life. It didn’t help that, when I drove away from our home for the last time, his car was sitting out in front as it always did when I left. (I’d donated it to hospice, and they hadn’t yet come to pick it up.) Nor did it help that I’d made this same trip, stayed in this same room several times before.
I’ve often listened for the phone, hoping he’d call to ask me to come home as he’d once done, but now I know the truth, I feel it.
Eleven months ago I wrote: I dread the time it hits me deep down in my soul that he is dead, that I will never be going home to him, that I will never see him again. Well, this is that time. There are no more issues to work through, guilt to suffer, or blame to lay. No more feelings of being rejected or abandoned (as if it were his choice to leave me). There is no more stress or gut-wrenching pain. Just pure and simple heartbreak. And silent tears.