I reached a different level of sadness today, both better and worse. For twenty-five months now, I’ve grieved the loss of my life mate/soul mate. As much as I hate the word “loss” when it refers to death, it was an unbearable loss to me when he died. All my hopes were lost along with our shared life and too many collateral losses to enumerate here. At times I could barely breathe for the pain. But somehow, I have managed to survive.
I truly never expected to grieve — he’d been sick so long and had suffered so much, that I was relieved when he died. In fact, I wished that he would. I’ve had a hard time these past months remembering that his death was actually a good thing — all I could think was that he should never have suffered in the first place. And he shouldn’t have. No one should have to deal with such pain for so many years. He stayed away from drugs as long as he could, suffering unbearably, because he knew the truth: the same drugs that would relieve his pain would addle his mind and disorient him. He wanted to be himself as long as he could (though he already was drifting from himself — the cancer had invaded his brain, and the poor man could barely hold two thoughts in his head.)
I wrote once about grief and our lizard brain. That feral part of us eventually adapts to the different reality, and the effects of new grief pass — the nausea, dizziness, inability to sleep or the inability to stay awake, the inability to eat or the inability to stop eating, the loss of one’s grip, the loss of balance and equilibrium, the hormonal storms. And finally, even some of the emotional storms pass, and there are times when we can see a bit clearer.
As I’m learning to face my new truth — that I’m going to have to find a new way of life, a new focus and new meaning — I’m recalling how relieved I was that he died. I feel selfish and self-indulgent for wanting him back, for yearning for him, for begging one more word or smile from him. Even the thought that he might have stayed a while longer if he could to satisfy my selfish longings makes me weep for him and for me. He was terrified of lingering as a helpless invalid, and if he hadn’t died, if he had remained here with me, he would have been helpless. I’m glad he didn’t have to deal with that, glad he’s safe from further indignities, glad he’s spared pain and a reliance on drugs. (He was taking so many drugs that he feared becoming a drug addict but, knowing how little time he had left, I could tearfully promise him he would never become a drug addict.)
Can you tell that I’m crying as I write this? As I said, this is a new level of sadness — better because I am learning to be at peace with his death and the need for it, worse because I feel as if I’ve lost him yet again. Every step away from grief seems to bring with it a new and different grief. Not as breathtaking, perhaps, but still sorrowful.
I will continue to yearn for him, of course — that is the nature of grief — but perhaps (at least some of the time) I will remember that he deserves to be at peace, even if it’s the serenity that only death will bring.