I’m a research geek. Whenever I am trying to improve something about myself or understand anything in the world, I research it and delve into it and try to understand it better.
In all my research, there is no correlation between how a person handles grief and anything else. Some people can really put it away, others feel paralyzed for years and years. There is no predictor or commonality between the two extremes. Age, circumstances of death, length of relationship, social or economic status. Grief isn’t a choice and everyone processes it differently.
Having said that, I also really try to learn from my mistakes and I really try to understand them so that I don’t repeat them.
And here’s what I have learned…
Meeting people and trying to build new relationships during the worst time in your life, is a bad idea. A really bad idea.
Grief turns you into a person you don’t know. You are emotional, sensitive, at times irrational, at times too trusting, at times not trusting enough. For me personally, Michael is always present in my mind and heart, but it’s not just Michael. It’s his absence that screams at me. And the PTSD kicks in frequently. It takes a toll on you to watch the love of your life deteriorate in 7 weeks and die. You see, there was no nurse or doctor to call. There was no morphine drip. No aides. There was no hospital staff to come and help with meds or to help with physical tasks. It takes a toll hearing screams and wailing for hours a day, or hearing the person you love screaming that he doesn’t want to die. It takes a toll tending to their every need when they are inconsolable, in pain, or in a moment where they are raging at you. It takes a toll to go through this just MONTHS after going through the same thing with your father, all the while trying to be present but at the same time process that you are losing everything that matters right in front of your eyes. Be strong for him, you tell yourself. Because although you are losing him and you’re terrified, he is losing EVERYTHING and grieving his ENTIRE LIFE. Take care of him. He needs you. You have plenty of time to be scared later.
It has changed me. I am quite often surprised at the emotions that come up and the timing in which they occur.
I’m not in a constant state of depression. I am emotionally all over the place, and that leads to high highs and low lows. It leads to me choosing to be alone a lot of the time because I don’t trust myself in public situations very often. I’m not a sad person; quite the opposite. I experience and seek out joy and new experiences and chances to grow and improve as often as I’m able. I laugh a lot. I cry a lot too, but there’s more to me than sadness.
Things in the DR got off on a bad foot. Things happened, things were said, things were done, and through all of it I’ve been hurt and frustrated and scared. And really examining it lately, I realized…these people have only known me through the worst time of my life. A time when I am lost and lonely and trying to learn how to live alone for the first time ever, and a time when my life support system has vanished. My dad leaving just months before Michael, my friends at home who have lives to live, my circle. Add to that my physical situation that I’m working on addressing and living in a new country (alone), and it just amounts to the fact that my start-over was a fucked-up mess because I was a fucked-up mess.
I’m told by people who know these things that I’m doing really well and I shouldn’t be worried about my process at all. I’m told that the steps I have taken since he passed are signs of strength and hope and wanting to improve my outlook and the rest of the days I have to serve the life sentence. And I do believe that in familiar company that may be true. But trying to start a new life with strangers who know nothing more than this emotional and lost side is a recipe for failure.
There are a few people who have gotten to know me personally. They know I have kids. They know where I’m from and things I like. They know stories and they’ve shared laughs. We’ve found things in common and basis for friendships. They know a little more about me as a human than most others here do, and I THINK those relationships are blooming.
When things here get overwhelming, I talk to my core people who knew and loved me before death changed me. And they’re loving and supportive. They’re my cheerleaders. They’re my laughers and my criers. They’re my compass to who I used to be. They knew me when I was at my best, not just at my worst.
So today I let all my frustrations go. I realize that I’ve given nobody reason to think anything differently of me, and I accept that because I can’t change it and because I cannot control my process or my feelings or the way I handle this loss. All I can do is apologize when I’ve wronged someone, try to help others understand me if they choose to, and put one foot in front of the other.
For any other new widows who may be reading this, here’s the other thing I’ve learned. Give yourself a full year after loss before making life-changing decisions. One full year. I didn’t. And I should have.
There are some good things happening in my life :). I was offered a position with a US rescue yesterday, and I’ve also been approached by several people in response to my posts seeking freelance writing work. After some thought and talking with a couple of trusted friends, I decided rather than accept a full time position with this rescue, I am going to instead be a consultant working with non-profits and small businesses to help them organize, establish, market, fund raise, write, and communicate. I already have three private clients not including the US Rescue, so I think maybe I’m finding a niche. Time will tell! This will give me an excellent diversity in my days as well as the freedom to work as I wish, travel when I need or want to, pay the bills, and not be tied directly to any one operation. It will allow me to help whomever I want or whatever cause I believe in. And give me time to just be.
Take care of you, friends.