Grief is a sneaky son of a bitch. It lulls you into a false sense of security, lets you think you’re doing okay and then pushes you right off the ledge. It happens over and over, like some cruel remake of Groundhog Day, to the point that you don’t trust yourself to do the smallest thing, for fear you’re just going to free-fall and hit the painful bottom once more. It also doesn’t care when it makes its moves. I’ve come to approach just about everything I do with more caution than optimism. I’ve stood in the cereal aisle of the grocery store and cried because there were all those boxes of my husband’s favorite cereal on the shelves. The tears came again when I went to Home Depot to pick out paint and found myself thinking about past trips there. My husband looked at Home Depot the same way a child looks at Toys ‘R’ Us – as a giant playroom, chock full of things just waiting to be explored, taken home and enjoyed – even if we didn’t really need them.
If you’re familiar with the works of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, then you know that she describes the five stages of the dying process. Well, the five stages of grieving are exactly the same. It shouldn’t come as any surprise because grief feels very much like you’re dying. In a way, pieces of you have died. If you’ve loved someone long enough, shared their life for decades, you become a part of them and they become a part of you. Their absence feels as if someone has gutted you or peeled back your skin, leaving you ragged and raw. The pain isn’t some phantom pain. It’s real and it’s excruciating. I’ve felt each and every one of those stages, sometimes more than one at the same time. And you don’t get through them, you don’t get to check them off the list, because they come back to visit when you least expect it. Sneaky bastards.
I’ve always thought of myself as someone who walked the earth with a certain confidence – ballsy and bulletproof. Now I know that a good deal of that confidence came from the man who presided over my fan club. Without him, there’s a gaping hole in my armor. I handle things differently now. I’m more vulnerable, more afraid. I hate feeling like that, but I can’t seem to shake it. I’ve had conversation with others who have lost their partners, and they say the same things. Your center is gone, you’re off-kilter and now you’re just trying to maintain some sort of equilibrium. Take it from me, that loss of balance can and does make you puke.
The notion of moving forward seems an impossibility at the moment. I go through the movements. That’s it. I try to accomplish something each and every day, but it’s as if I’m on auto-pilot. The things I manage to do seem hollow, empty, because there’s no one to reassure me, admire what I’ve done and tell me “atta girl”. I do these things anyway because I want to believe I’m creating a life for myself, a life as a single person – a widow. I can’t tell you how much I hate that word.
Everyone tells you not to make any major decisions about your life for at least a year after losing a loved one, a spouse in particular. I have no intention of doing anything even close to life altering. Hell, it took me two hours to choose from among three shades of parchment at Home Depot’s paint department. Seriously, beige is beige, no matter what fancy name you give it. Planning anything beyond the next 24 hours isn’t even a consideration.
One of the worst aspects of widowhood is the loneliness, the quiet that falls over a house when only one person lives in it. I’ve had long, serious conversations with my dogs but, while they’re excellent listeners, they’re not big on responding. It’s the kind of loneliness that can’t be overcome, even in a room full of people. You see, I know and understand, even if no one else does, that there was a person who could fill a room, even when it was only two of us, and he’s no longer available.
People, friends and family, tell me that it will get better over time but I don’t know what better means. Does it mean that the pain subsides or that you just learn to manage it? I’d like to think that it will somehow get easier, that I’ll learn how to control the grief attacks with distractions and coping skills, but getting better is a lot to ask. Ms. Kubler-Ross said it much better than I am. “The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to.”
I’m just about through with all of the “proof and paperwork” side of death. I’m also packing up my husband’s things and donating them. Yesterday, I dropped off bags of those things, enough to fill the back of my SUV, and left them with the nice man at Goodwill. I then drove to Kroger to do my grocery shopping and couldn’t get out of the car until I stopped sobbing. I told myself, when I was packing them up, that it was just stuff, but I was wrong – very wrong. It seems that with every step forward, there’s also a very visceral, gut-wrenching reaction to it, even when it comes to shirts, jeans and sneakers.
I have a plan, though. I want to find out who am I am now. I want to get to that place where memories make me smile instead of bringing me to my knees. I’m not the person who was married and I’m certainly not the person I was before I became half of a couple. So, yes, I’ll repaint the master bedroom and put up the new curtains and make up the bed with the beautiful new bedding, the very feminine bedding, I might add. And then I’ll move back into that room because I know I have to. It’s a baby step in the healing process, but a step nonetheless.
Wish me well, my friends. I’m going to need it.
So good to hear from you Empress. How is it that you can manage to put such harsh reality in words so eloquently? I read this aloud to my husband. Bless you for sharing your pain and experiences, as it may be a serve others who have not reached the end of a path from which they will have struggle to start over. Wishing you strength and peace in finding out who you are now. ❤
TT, thank you. Writing about it is actually therapeutic for me. If it happens to help someone else, then I’m proud to have been a part of their journey, too.
LOVE TO YOU…God knows we have had MANY a talk about all these stages of grief… I so know your pain.. and believe me..it doesn’t really get better with time..we just learn to deal with it differently each day..one step at a time… I am still stepping..slowly and carefully like you.. and YEPS..I am back to eating CEREAL.. yea..thats it.. give it to Mikey..he eats anything..
hugs n peace
Honey Bunches of Oats, Diva. 😉 ❤
POST TOASTIES… mr ford brought home 2 boxes the other day… VERY WEIRD..cause we have NEVER eaten that before..I asked him why..he said he didn’t know.. just felt like it… hmm ESPN…. LOL
Lol! I always knew Mr Ford was something special!
Oh Diva you make me laugh. So wish we lived closer. I would be a total PITA. Just to get you fired up.. Hell I would flirt with Mr. Ford just to get you wild….
Flirting with Mr. Ford in the cereal section… sounds like a new Bravo show!
LOL AZ GIRL.. I think mr ford has a ” secret ” g/f at the grocery store…hahahaha… he hasn’t let me shop in over a year… makes me think one of the reason certain weeks he FORGETS things on the list…he’s distracted…. hahahahahaha….
flirting w/ mr ford.. ah what memories.. in the ladies room at a function where I was receiving an award for the best house design in St Lucie … over head these 2 chicks talking about this tall good looking dude in the gray suit that they WOULD SOOOO DO…normal chick banter… then some other chick HAPPENED to mention… heh..don’t you know who that dude is… well…. they answer was NO.. she then proceeds to tell them.. that’s Design Diva;s husband..ya know Linda Pease… TG , I was in the restroom..about peed myself when they were told that… they for sure thought they were gonna get their asses kicked….. later that evening walking around I had mr ford blow both of them kisses…I told him about the convo…. beeitches freaked out…hahahahahahahaha
YEPS..we do make sure to have fun when we go out….
Hiya Empress! I’ve missed you! Thank you for sharing your experiences with us. Your poignant written expression has left me lacking in a suitable reply. Does it help to know I read your words with great interest, I hugged my hubby a little harder. I just kissed my adult daughter. I said a little prayer for you. I told you, I’m without good words.
Yes, Lainey, I’m very happy to hear you hugged your loved ones. Do it often, for you and for me, and thank you for the prayer. 🙂
I’m, a single person so I don’t what it is like to lose a spouse, particularly one that you have cared for through an illness. But, I did lose my mom at the age of 18. I did well through it all until I had my first “crisis” without her. I was sobbing so hard my body was shaking and I couldn’t talk. Just know, it is okay. In a way, it may be better to release the stress than have it manifest itself in another way, like an ulcer, losing your hair, hives, etc. I’ll take crying over those any day. Keep taking the baby steps and you’ll find your way through. Everyone’s experience is different. I’m sure you are getting lots of opinions and advice, just do what is right for you.
Codystl, A very smart man told me that the more we loved the person we lost, the more we grieve. You must have loved your Mom very much. I don’t mind all the crying I’m doing. Sometimes it’s exactly what we need.
Your words brought tears to my eyes. I am now aware how full the rooms are with only my spouse next to me. Thank you so much for reminding me. To simply be thankful for each day.
Give him a hug, okay? ❤
So beautifully written Empress. It is true,.. time, a lot of time, to process and heal, there is no shortcut. Things are never the same, life evolves after that which we can’t control and have no choice about. I hope you find some comfort knowing that you are not alone. Much love, hugs, and prayers.
Empress, this is coming from someone who has lost both parents and his brother. You need Tincture of Time. It’s true. Your pain and sense of loss will lessen. Your life will never go back to normal; the way it was, but slowly you’ll get into your new normal. You might not even notice the process, but you’ll get there anyway. It’ll be a different normal, but it’ll work for you. And you’ll be able to find comfort in your memories. You’ll smile and chuckle at the stupid things you, he, and the both of you did. You’ll get there.
Empress you are a warrior. Do not forget that. You have lost your best friend, lover and comrade. I can’t even imagine your pain. One day at a time. We are here for you. We are here for you….
You said it all and left us in tears! Xoxoxo
I’ve never commented on your site, but I’ve enjoyed it and thank you for sharing your thoughts. Please accept a virtual hug; I hope you see the sunshine breaking through the clouds soon.
How brave you are to share this. I wish you well. My prayers are with you. Hugs.
I have no words just hugs. (((((Empress)))))
A virtual hug to you Empress. I wish I could hug you in person.
Life is a journey, sometimes we glide on air, other times we are walking through fire.
I begin this journey with my late son. His wife’s brother has died and so they brought his 2 children along with their own 4 into their family. I soon loved Kit Kat and Jon Jon. They would follow my son around like lost souls they learned to laugh again with his help. After my son died I lost contact with my adult grandchildren along with Kit Kat and Jon Jon.
Four years later I had lost my best friend, the only person I could talk with, my 2 pets, and then my Dad, Brother and Mother met the Angels. I won’t go into detail settling my mother’s estate and in the process had to divorce myself from my brother.
My husband’s son-in-law was having heart problems, so we reluctantly decided to join Face Book so we could receive updates from his daughter how things were progressing with his sil. He had stints? and is now in good health.
Kit Kat had friended me on FB even though I haven’t seen her in years. As I going though my time line, I learned that yesterday at 4:30 pm she is now the proud mother of a son, Gregory.
Cried this morning for you while reading your blog .. how well you put into words what I could not say during the times of my personal loss.
Grief is a tsunami of emotions which comes in waves and sneaks up on you at the most unexpected times, doesn’t it? I can relate to grocery store trips and to the Home Depot experiences ..standing in the aisle sobbing and couldn’t care less who walked by to see me.. now, when I see someone do the same thing, I judge less and have compassion .. reach out and ask if they need a hug … my Mom and I would sob and sob together when we went shopping and stop to look at the Nestle Quick as it was my brother’s favorite to add to milk ..we could remember his smile and his expressions on his face when he would mix the concoction and drink it down in one gulp.
It’s the little memories which come back out of the deep freeze of our memories that I find stop one in their tracks … so .. my heart goes out to you as I thank you thank you thank you for writing as you not only bring back the love of your life on the pages you write, you allow us to remember those we have loved and lost as well ..
Warm hugs and soft kisses I wish for you this day and beyond until you can no longer shock yourself with hearing your own laughter fill the empty air with joy ..
I had to think of my grief like the mail. eventually it stops coming.
Let no one tell you how it is yours to own and if you need to sit. sit. pull strength from me. I am sending it your way.
My heart hurts for you. The loss is harder when you are among many people. Please know that your “internet/blog friends” are always here for you and we are praying for you as well.
You share your pain and steps forward in a way that helps others who are going thru the same emotional roller coaster ride.
I love that you shared your heart with us… That you risked being vulnerable so you could be genuine and transparent. It’s amazing you’re not catatonic. I’m thrilled you are writing… Baby steps, no? You have an incredible ability to translate feelings into poignant words. It’s a rare gift. People will recognize they’re not alone in their feelings as they read your words. They will find comfort in that… I respect you so much.
I am so touched by your writings and your insight can be so helpful to others. I would love for you to send this to publications. I myself would like to share this ony facebook. This really should go viral. I just lost my father recently and three months ago my mother had a series of severe strokes. The grief is devastating but not as devastating as the loss of my husband would b for me. I completely relate to every word you wrote. Much Love to you and only the best in building your future. You r a gem. XO
Oh, Jo-Anne, thank you. I’d be honored to have you share it. Much love to you, too and I’m sorry for your loss. ❤
*hugs empressofaiken really hard* its always the little things that catch you – the Birthdays, anniversaries, the major holidays, those you see coming and you can try and brace yourself, but its the cereal aisle, its Home Depo and knowing it was somewhere that brought him wonder, its a song that suddenly starts playing on the radio – those are the ones that cause that sudden sharp pain – I am so sorry for your loss – it is a brave person who can continue to even just get up out of bed in the morning when their heart feels so broken and alone – I know that every step you take, each and every day, are the steps that your beloved would want you to take – I know that he would want you to find the joy that still exists in the world – one step at a time, beautiful one – your husband is with you with each step – and so are we – you and he shall remain in my prayers –
I know it is now July but I just found out you had a blog and your story touched me in so many ways. I tossed and turned all night last night thinking about you and others struggling. I was determined to find your blog and thankfully it was not hard to find. Yet I have no words that can or ever would express what I wish to impart so I will simply leave you with knowing you are in my prayers and thoughts……..
I come here every so often to see how you are managing thru your tremendous loss. I read your article on grief, along with your earlier posts, to my husband and we were both left in tears.I think of you often and hope you are getting out a bit more every day and riding your wonderful horses. It helps. I don’t know what it is, but getting on top a horse elevates you, in more ways than one. 😉
You fail only if you stop writing, right? Please let us know how you are and where you are in your life. Some of us can recover more quickly than others, and I am one of the slow ones, but the pain will become less physically painful with time. One day you will be able to look at his picture and remember the good time you were having with him when the photo was captured and smile, not cry. You are a gifted writer and are able to write what those of us who have had to deal with such a loss but couldn’t articulate it very well, feel. Well done and thank you.
Thank you for finding words which resonate with so many. I am so sorry for your loss, and hope someday if I lose my husband that I can handle it with the honesty and grace which you have. You are so brave and authentic, women like you are true role models for the rest of us.