June 25, 2022
A few days ago, a friend texted me bemoaning the fact that she hadn’t seen a new blog from me lately. In fact, she gently chided me for that terrible infraction and apparently inhumane thing to befall her otherwise idyllic life. So, she told me to snap to it, get with it, and grind one out ASAP. While I’m at it, she strongly urged me to produce one of my trademarked “funny ones,” because she didn’t want to read anything “sad and maudlin” as some of my recent blogs have been – in her words. Well, we have been friends for over 30 years and as such can feel free to just put it out there and tell it like it is. So, I called her out and gently chided her for dictating the “tone” of this or any blog I write. Admittedly I was in a “mood,” and normally I am not one who is confrontational. I am a peacemaker at all costs. But for some reason, her “demand” really triggered something, and I let her know. She was instantly apologetic and remembered that I had recently experienced the loss of my significant other, observed the nine-year anniversary of my baby grandson’s death as well as other family trials and tribulations. She knew that she had crossed the line. And she is fully aware that I am calling her out here and now in this installment of Widow’s Pique; in fact, it was her idea. And that’s why I love her.
Grief is something I liken to an octopus. It has many tentacles. It comes equipped with its own array of emotions and feelings. There’s shock, anger, sadness, relief, acceptance, disbelief, guilt, a sense of helplessness, the gnawing what-ifs that accompany the questions of WHY? Even if your loved one’s death was not unexpected, you still go through your own range of feelings. I know I did every time someone I loved left this world. When my husband died almost seven years ago, my daughters and I were devastated, but we weren’t surprised. He had been deteriorating for some time and his quality of life was not what he or we wished for him. He was a person who played tennis, sailed, and taught sailing, coached soccer, built our deck and pergola, loved gardening and flyfishing, was a talented woodworker, and just enjoyed life. When all those past times were gradually taken away from him, it diminished him – and he hated it. So, my grief began long before he passed away. I grieved that I was losing my partner. I grieved that I left a job that I loved to devote my time and energies to care for my husband – and I have no regrets. That is where I was supposed to be – in sickness and in health. I grieved that we never realized our retirement goals of travel and simply enjoying the proverbial golden years together. Instead, he suffered enduring multiple visits in and out of the hospital, getting weaker and weaker. He knew what was happening and yet he still had his most adorable smile and kind eyes. He never missed a chance to tell me he loved me and to thank me or to apologize for our circumstances. I grieve that his final days were spent in a sterile hospital environment, but I am grateful for the staff and the fact that my daughters and I were together as he passed. I relive those days and hours often. And my girls and I often relive little moments of his life, often with a smile or a tear – “Remember when Dad…..” That’s grief.
The grief I feel for my grandson’s passing is different. I continue to grapple with anger and disbelief, and it wells up at the most inopportune moments. It’s often so unexpected that I wonder if God is playing a harsh trick on me to somehow make me think that I am paying for some past sin that I need to atone for AT THIS MOMENT to remind me that HE is carrying all the cards and has all the answers. All I can tell you is that this type of grief is especially cruel because it just doesn’t make sense to me. I have even considered therapy (I will keep you posted.) I have written about Baby J’s death in other blogs so I am not going to go into details here but suffice it to say that it continues to have an all-consuming impact on my life, and I am not sure if or when I will be able to move on from it. In fact, I already know the answer – you never do. He wasn’t with us long, but he was an integral part of our lives, and we will love him forever. The grief is palpable, and it weighs on me like an anvil on my chest. It is a physical and spiritual pain like no other.
When my boyfriend (seems odd using that word in one’s seventies) passed away a few months ago after battling a terminal illness, my feelings of intense grief really surprised me. Not because I didn’t love the man (he was kind, smart, thoughtful, understood me so well), but because I wasn’t prepared to surrender so fully to the sadness I felt after a relatively short relationship. Was it because he was my first serious “person” to whom I gave my heart since my husband? Perhaps. Whatever the reason, when he died, I was bereft and feeling so sad at my loss. He was a huge part of my life and I continue to miss him. And unfortunately, at least for now, I think I have reached my grief limit, my ceiling, my brink, my max. At least for romantic relationships. I just can’t do it.
I certainly recognize that I can’t hide from grief, nor do I want to. It’s a part of life that all of us experience. I think that I and many members of my family have done more than our share of grieving, much of it premature, witness, my sweet grandson. I have lost two brothers at young ages, one in his twenties, the other his forties. It doesn’t seem fair. But somehow, we go on. Some days, I will cry at the drop of a hat just remembering. Others, I think I am forgetting but truthfully you never forget. And I suppose that’s the silver lining of grief. Because, grieving for someone means you loved someone. How sad would it be if we never experienced that?