Grieving the Nothings

I’m gradually moving away from the influence of grief. I’m not moving away grief itself, since there is a good chance that somewhere deep inside I will always be crying (I can feel the gathering tears even when I am not overtly sad), but I am moving away from grief’s influence. I can think clearly again, though the answers to many of my questions about life and death and the meaning of it all remain unanswered. I can focus without being distracted by thoughts of my deceased life mate/soul mate. I am not revved up with anger or guilt or adrenaline. I don’t feel quite as soul-shattered or heart-broken as I did at the beginning, and my yearnings for him are not quite as vast. His absence looms almost as large as his presence once did, but I am getting used to working around the void. I am also getting used to the unwelcome knowledge that I will never see him again in this lifetime, never hear him talk, never be warmed by his smile. (I’m just getting used to the knowledge that I will not see him; I will never get used to the fact.)

But . . . now that the big losses are a bit tamer, the small losses are becoming more apparent. I have no one with whom to share a moment with. You know what I mean — you’re watching a movie and, after a particularly touching scene, you turn to each other and smile. If I turn, no one is there. I sometimes look at his photo at such moments, but there is not much “sharing” when it is between you a piece of tinted paper.

I was also going to say I have no one to share anything with, but that’s not strictly true since I do have people I can share major happenings with. What is true is that there’s no one to share nothing with. There are so many little nothings in a day — miniscule victories or insignificant happenings that aren’t worth talking about, but that you want to mention anyway. And there are times when you’re sad or lonely or restless, and just want a moment’s connection before continuing your daily tasks. You can call someone perhaps, or email, but it’s not the same thing. By the time you make the connection, the moment of nothing has become something.

I also have no one to share the small incongruities and ironies of life with. Once walking in the desert, I saw a television on the road. So totally incongruous, it seemed as if it were an art piece in the making, and I had no one to tell about it in passing.  Today I went to the dentist to have him check on a small matter, and he told me to eat lots of sticky candy. The irony of the advice tickled me (I mean, really, when was the last time your dentist told you to eat lots of sticky candy?), and I had no one to tell that to in passing, either.

Come to think of it, there is no “in passing” anymore.

I made it through some of the major traumas of grief. Now I have to try to make it through the nothings.

I Am a Seven-Month Grief Survivor

Grief is so encompassing that for months my thoughts focused entirely on my dead mate — my soul mate — reinforcing my idea that falling in love and experiencing grief are the bookends of a shared life. When we were together, he was so often by my side as we ran errands, fixed meals, watched movies, talked for hours on end, that I didn’t need to focus on him — he was there. And then he wasn’t.

In the movie The Butcher’s Wife, Demi Moore talks about searching for her split apart. Very romantic this idea of finding your split apart, but what happens when your split apart is split apart from you once more? I can tell you — it releases such a storm of emotion that you feel as if you will never find yourself again, that you will be forever swept away in the tsunami/hurricane/soulquake that is new grief.

I’ve weathered seven months of grief, from the first global storm to the more isolated mists that beset me now. I’m settling back into myself, letting go of the incredible tension that grief brings. We bereft are so focused on our lost one, so tensed against hurtful memories and mementoes, that it can bring on a host of physical problems, including Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.

I am lucky. I’ve been able to release this tension through walks, through tears, and — at the beginning — through screaming. I have not passed all the landmarks of grief — some people experience their worst pain at eight months, others need two years just to regain their equilibrium, and of course, there are all those firsts that are yet to come: the first Thanksgiving, first Christmas, first anniversary of his death — but perhaps the worst of the storms have passed. Or I could be fooling myself. This sad but not terribly painful stage I am going through could be just a hiatus, the eye of a storm, and the forces of grief are gathering themselves for a new onslaught. These months of grief survival, however, have taught me that I will be able to endure whatever comes.

I thought I’d be different after going through such storms of grief, (shouldn’t I be?) but I feel as if I am still myself, or rather, I feel as if I am myself again. I am sadder, of course, and that sadness will probably always shadow any future happiness, which is as it should be. One can never unknow such trauma. It will always be part of me.

He will always be part of me.

In many ways, he gave me life. He made me feel that life was worth living because he was in it. I have to learn to feel that life is worth living because I am in it, and that will be a long time coming. I am still at the stage where I don’t care if I live. NO, I am not suicidal. I am not stockpiling pills or thinking suicidal thoughts. This not caring is perhaps one of the longest-lived stages of grief, one that we bereft only talk about to each other — or our counselors — because it is so often misunderstood by those who have not been in a similar situation. One thing that keeps me going is curiosity about where life will take me now that he is not here for me to love.

Where does that love go when it is no longer needed? I don’t know. I do know that you love someone, their well-being is as important to you as your own, and then suddenly that someone is gone, leaving behind those unfulfilled feelings of wanting to help. Of caring. Of empathy. I still think of him almost all the time, still wish I could put my arms around him and make him well. When I hear a noise, sometimes I think it is he, and my first inclination is to go to him. When I hear or see something that would amuse or outrage him, sometimes I get up to go tell him. But these thoughts and actions are not as painful as they once were.

I have survived seven months of grief. I will continue to survive.

Grief Update

It’s been three weeks since my lifemate died. I feel as if I am in an emotional whirlpool, spinning round and round, never quite knowing where I am or where I am going. I have days of relative calm where I can be glad he is finally at peace, then something happens to remind me of  my loss, and grief pulls me under. Most recently, I was cleaning photos out of my computer when I came across an image of him I didn’t know I had. (We did not take pictures of each other, so the only other photo I have was taken 15 years ago, and it does not look like him at all.) Last August, we took a trip to the north rim of the Black Canyon. (It’s only 20 miles away, but because of the bad road, it might as well have been 200.) The photo I found is of him, alone in that desolate place, with his back to me, looking at . . . eternity, perhaps.

I never expected to grieve so much. He was sick for so long and in such pain that we didn’t have much of a life together the past year or two. I struggled to live while he was dying and thought I succeeded, but nothing prepared me for this total devastation. It turns out that all of it, the good and bad, was part of our life together. In the movie Three to Tango is a film clip of a movie I have never seen — I think it’s Of Human Bondage.  The woman in the clip asks: “Will we be happy?” He answers, “No, but does it matter?” And, for us, it didn’t matter, at least where each other was concerned. We were connected, no matter what. And now that connection is broken. And I feel that I am broken, too.

I know someday I will find my way again. I know someday I will be able to laugh, to find joy in living again. I know that someday I might even find a new love. But for now, I don’t know how to be.

Hospice hosts a grief support group, and I’m thinking of going. If he were alive, I would never consider it — we were always each other’s support group. But if he were alive, I would not be grieving.

I hesitated about posting this — I do not want people to feel I am soliciting sympathy — but this is a writer’s blog, and what is writing if not life?