I had a rough time around the publication of my new book, Grief: The Great Yearning, due partly to the fact that the story of me and my life mate/soul mate has been told and is now contained between the covers of a book, and partly to the realization once and for all that he is never coming back. I already knew that of course, knew it from the moment he died, and I came to that same realization dozens of times afterward, but this time I reached rock bottom of acceptance, and it took. Surprisingly, the last couple of days have been good ones. My emotional state evened out, and I felt light. It wasn’t just that my grief took a hiatus, but also that my anger had dissipated. I’ve been angry for so long, since way before he died, that it became my default state. Because of that, I didn’t even realize I’ve been angry.
For many years, we sustained loss after loss — his health, our business, security — and finally, his life. So many reasons to be angry. I haven’t been furious or enraged, just a quiet anger that went soul deep. So, why did the anger leave me, even if only temporarily? I don’t know. Perhaps because the realization he is never coming back brought the knowledge that the past really is the past. Or perhaps this is simply the latest stage of my grief, a letting go. Or perhaps it’s because spring is almost here.
Whatever the reason, I no longer fear the third year of grief. I expect to experience grief upsurges, but for the most part, I think I’ll be entering the shoulder season of grief.
In the travel business, the time between the high season and the low season is called the shoulder season. I’m coming up on the two-year anniversary of his death. I will probably have some unbearably sad days as the date approaches, but after the anniversary, I could be entering a time of not-grief but not non-grief, either, a bit of a shoulder between the wildness of my early grief and the road to the rest of my life.
I still don’t know what I’m going to do with my life, but I feel a quickening of interest. If I let myself, I still panic at the thought of growing old alone, of being old alone, of dying (although the idea of being dead doesn’t bother me, dying does — it can be a terrible thing) but I still have many good years left. I actually might accomplish something. Or not. I’m not sure if I want to “do” or if I want simply to “be”. I do have a new philosophy, though — the platinum rule. If the golden rule is to treat others the way you would want them to treat you, then the platinum rule is to treat yourself the way you would want others to treat you. So, I intend to be kind to myself, to be patient with my deficiencies, to be proud of my accomplishments. And I intend to encourage myself to be bold and adventurous.
Sounds like a good beginning to my shoulder season of grief.
March 8, 2012 at 7:47 pm
Hi Pat. The shoulder season is a good metaphor for those in-between times when we’re going through changes. I agree with your platinum rule. We are often too hard on ourselves. Life is both doing and being. I wish you well as you write a future that works for you.
March 8, 2012 at 8:07 pm
Your post using the metaphor of the shoulder season really caught my imagination, as you can see. Oddly, just giving a name to the third year of grief has made me less fearful of it. I can do this. I’ve been doing it. Then, one day, I will write a good future for me. What’s the point of being writers if we can’t write our way into a workable life?
March 9, 2012 at 12:17 pm
I like your platinum rule!
March 9, 2012 at 12:33 pm
And I intend to follow it to the letter!!