Sucker Punched by Grief

After the first excruciating months, dealing with a major loss is like being in the ring with an ever-weakening opponent. The feeble jabs inflict little pain, and you start feeling as if you can go the distance. Gradually, as the blows come further and further apart, you let down your guard. You even welcome the blows that do land, because they remind you why you are fighting. Then . . .


Out of nowhere comes the knockout punch.

My knockout punch came after a restless night. I finally fell asleep in the early morning hours, and I dreamt.

I dreamed that my life mate was dead, but I woke to find him alive and getting well. It was wonderful seeing him doing so much better, and a quiet joy seeped over me.

I started to wake. In the seconds before full consciousness hit, I continued to feel the joy of knowing he still lived. Then . . .


The truth hit me. I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t move. Then, like an aftershock, came the raw pain, the heartbreak of losing him . . . again.

I’d only dreamt about him once before, and that was at the beginning when my defenses were still in place. In that first dream, I told him I thought he’d died, but deep down I knew the truth, and there was no shock when I awoke, just a feeling of gladness that I got to see him once more. But this time, I had let down my guard. I even felt a bit smug that I was getting a grip on my grief so early in the process, and so the dream caught me unaware. In the depths of my being, I believed that he hadn’t died.

I cried on and off for two or three days (I lost count; grief tends to override time) but now I’ve regained my equilibrium — at least until the next time.

A friend who counsels the bereft told me, “In my experience with grief, a healthy person, such as yourself, is going to grieve in a gradually diminishing way for two years.”

Two years??!!

If so, I have a very long way to go. I’d planned to stop blogging about grief. I don’t want people to think I am eliciting sympathy, nor do I want to seem pathetic, grieving long after the non-bereft think I should be done with it. But if I’m going to have bouts of pain for many months to come, I might as well share them and let others take whatever comfort they can from my learning experiences.

This episode with the dream taught me to be patient with myself. I’ve been thinking that I’m mostly healed, and I’ve been feeling like a slacker, just taking life a moment at a time, not doing anything to prepare for the rest of my life, not doing much of anything but reading, walking, writing a little (a very little), taking photographs, and going through my mate’s collection of movies. Now that I know the power of the sucker punch, and how easily it can gain the upper hand, I understand this simple life is all I can expect of me right now. And perhaps that’s the way it’s supposed to be.