“Parting is all we know of Heaven and all we need of Hell.” ~ Emily Dickinson
I attend a widow(er)’s group that is facilitated by a nun who has lead these groups for years. Sister, as well as the other widows and widowers in the group, say that keeping a journal of private thoughts will allow me to look back and see for myself the progress I am making. I was told that this progress is all about moving forward, not staying locked in one place. I was told that grief is not something we get over but something we live with and that it will become familiar. I listen to the other’s speak to their busy lives with their children, or their friends whom they call to rally around them for support. I listen to them speak about work and co-workers. I listen to the tone of their voices tell me if they believe their words or if they only want to. I listen for that telltale sound of pain, to gauge how far along they are with moving forward.
Sister asks us how we’re doing, what we’re doing with our time, and what certain times of the year or things make us feel like. Have we removed our wedding rings? What have we done with our deceased spouses things, or plan to do? I listen to everyone discuss their lives and fears and small victories and I only feel cold inside. Everyone has busier lives than I do, more and better connections to others that I simply don’t have nor, at this late date, will ever attain. I am adrift without familiar land to spy and my oars are now broken. On Wednesday, May 20th, they will have been broken for 100 days.
There is one woman whose husband died suddenly over two years ago. She has come very close to befriending me, as much as she can with two very young children, and has told me to call her anytime. I find I cannot even though I have had such panic that I have so desperately wanted to. My hand does not move close to the phone. I feel like an interloper. She has a very close network of family and friends, a very busy life. I feel horrible because she has been nothing but nice and compassionate to me. It’s just me. I can’t reach out. I don’t feel good. I don’t feel like I can. I am so sensitive and fragile. I cry too easily and I don’t know what to say other than “I miss him so much I can’t stand it.”
Sister told me that I am so new to my grief, still so raw, and I was thanked for being so open about it. Then she went on to address the group by saying that we need to stay in touch with each other; that only those who have experienced grief can understand it.
I like going to the widow’s group because it is the only contact I have with another person beyond my daughter and my son.
I don’t like going to the group because I listen to myself and I hear what I’m saying, and I sound stupid. I hear the words come out of my mouth and they aren’t what I want to say. I can’t intelligently express myself there. I try too hard. Or I cry and cannot make sense. Or I babble in my loneliness and desperation to be heard.
They are patient and they do address what I speak to, but remember, I said it wrong. It’s not what I want to say. It’s just something I desperately pull out of thin air to try and join. Something to try and be a part of something I feel on the perimeter of. These people cannot adequately speak to me if they do not know the grief I cannot speak to. After I get the advice and counsel, they move on to other topics, other concerns, and I feel heat in my face. I feel a humiliation that I am still not able to tell them what I’m feeling.
I’ll continue to go because it will mean that once a month, I will have someone else to talk to. There will be people there who acknowledge that I am still here after a fashion. I think I will work on not saying as much. I’ll just listen and take a pass. I think I’d rather reveal the truth of my depression by not speaking to it rather than trying to tell them and failing. I’m not moving forward. I’m not stagnant but I don’t feel any forward progress. I’m depressed and as each day goes by I’m still the same depressed person. I’m not more and more deeply depressed, just sitting in this one spot.
I almost laughed at the last meeting. It wouldn’t have been appropriate. It would have been a caustic, humorless laugh of one who knows something that is a deep, dark secret. Someone thought I looked better. I felt like hell. I hurt all over and I was straining myself not to start crying. I felt horrible that night with no way to express it without sounding like I wanted it to be about me. I don’t talk anymore unless it’s to my children when they call, and then I get there and I think I talk too much. I am lonely and I guess I want people to know I’m there before the meeting ends and I’m shoved back offshore to drift alone in my little lifeboat.
The more I attend these meetings the more I realize that every grief is individualized and that no advice can cater to us all. The details of a person’s life, what they came from, what they had with their spouse, what they lived through, how much support they have available to them, and what kind of death was brought to their door will keep us all apart even in our symmetry of being widows and widowers. I wish I had a way of connecting to someone but I haven’t found it yet. They are all so different. They are all grieving and at various stages in that journey while I am indescribable. My life has been so different from any of these people. I lived in fear and intentionally diverted so much pain to myself to protect my children. Few people will assist someone like me. No one would want to sit and listen to my story of how it was, how it became for me after finding my beloved, and how it is for me now that he has died.
“Death leaves a heartache no one can heal. Love leaves a memory no one can steal.” ~ epitaph on a grave in Ireland.
I am new. I am raw from this pain. The loss of him is more than I can bear and I cannot find comfort in anything and from anyone yet. I heard myself say the word, “Making the quilts, and having her friendship, has helped me.” And it has. I would give almost anything to be so busy with quilts lined up one after the other that I had a waiting list. Then I wouldn’t cry so and stress so about things like rent and food.
But it will also keep me in this solitary life. I wonder if I had more orders for quilts or the embellished jeans I make, if I could buy better food and could eat better, if I would sleep better? Just having the necessary staples of life might make grieving, not easier, but I could actually address it without falling to my knees and putting my head in my hands and sobbing for the security I had with him.
I am without my beloved husband and there is no way out. I love him so much and I can’t imagine anything that will heal me, even though the group calls itself “healing hearts.”
“She is no longer wrestling with the grief, but could sit down with it as a lasting companion and make it a sharer in her thoughts.” ~ George Eliot
I do not want to grow old without him. There. I’ve said it. He kept me alive instead of existing. He showed me things I would have missed. He gave me love that I had been conditioned into believing I didn’t deserve. I miss him and I want him back. I want him to take me in his arms and let my cry and tell him how awful it’s been without him. I want him to rub my neck and my back and croon to me the soft words he had for me, the ones he’s whisper to make me smile and sigh.
“There’s no such thing as old age, there is only sorrow.” ~ Edith Wharton
I found this quote from Henri Nouwen:
“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving much advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”
The only person in my life, my entire life, who was that kind of friend, was my husband. He gave to me. He shared with me. He got in front of me and fought for me. He made the bogeyman shrink and go away. He stayed with me when everything went wrong. He never left me until he died and left me forever. I miss him and there are no words beyond that. If I say I want him back, does that defy God?
“Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak whispers the o’er-fraught heart and bids it break.” ~ William Shakespeare
I have words. I have a lot of words. But I have no outlet except to write them and put them online. There is no one to come sit with me as the sun sets and hold my hand as I cry. There is no one that will come listen to me talk about him for any length of time. There is no face like his, no comfort like what I got from him, no love like what he gave me. There is no bond like what I had with him. I am alone now and always will be.
There is no comfort now. There isn’t anyone to try.
“The sorrow for the dead is the only sorrow from which we refuse to be divorced. Every other wound we seek to heal – every other affliction to forget: but this wound we consider it a duty to keep open – this affliction we cherish and brood over in solitude.” ~ Washington Irving.
It will be 100 days. I don’t know who to get through it other than to bow my head and get through it. At least I have some commissions for quilts to keep my occupied. I know he would be so proud of me. I have to hang on to that thought. For a long time.