Lessons learned

October 26, 2009 at 3:43 am Leave a comment

Paul and I used to spend a lot of time talking about our relationship. We’d reminisce about the early days, talk about the present, and dream about the future. We always joked about these “State of the Marriage” conversations, but knew that we were lucky to be able to just talk about things. Every year, we would spend our anniversary remembering the details of our first date, Paul’s proposal, and the time leading up to that evening’s dinner. We were less than four weeks shy of our fourth anniversary, but we were already starting to chat about how lucky we were to have found each other.

I enjoyed those conversations because looking at the past always helped me look to the future. It was so easy to see where we were going when we knew where we’d been and the hard work and commitment that it took to get us to the here-and-now.

So, I guess I don’t really know what to call this. State of Frances 3.0: Six Months Out? State of Widowhood? Reflections on Six Months of Hell? Regardless of what I call it, it’s just a look back at the road I’ve traveled and lessons I’ve learned over the past six months: Day 1 to Day 184.

Short, sweet, and to the point, the last six months have been a living nightmare. I’ve learned a lot about myself and others over this time, and I’m sure that there will be many more lessons to come.

Lessons learned:
The mind is a powerful and complex thing. In the early days, my mind put my entire system into such a state of shock that I couldn’t fully process what was happening. That shock helped to cushion my emotions, allowing me to get through the funeral and survive long enough to begin processing information. Over the last six months, my mind has slowly opened up the release valves allowing me to process small chunks of grief at a time. Every-so-often, my mind will open up a little further than I’d like and I call feel an intense flood of emotions. Other times, my mind must sense that I need a break because it will trigger a shutdown for a day or two at which time I can focus on things with such clarity that I forget I’m grieving in the first place. For the first 2-3 months, I found this to be so very daunting because I thought I was “getting better” and when the grief returned I found it hard to deal with. Now I know that it’s my mind’s way of giving me small windows of respite so that I can survive this. And I know that once that respite begins I need to be thankful for it and accomplish what I can because the grief will return…

The sound of silence hurts deeply. In the first week or two after Paul died, there were offers to help from nearly everyone I knew. My family would be there for me, my friends would be there, strangers would be there. But almost no one called; almost no one came to visit. I left phone messages that went unreturned; I sent emails that never got replies. Some people let me know that they just couldn’t handle my grief because it made them too sad. Others just went away with no explanation. Promises made were often broken, and on a few occasions I showed up to meet someone only for them to not show. Eventually, I got the hint. I was being ignored and avoided. And it hurt. It still hurts.

Support comes from places you’d never expect. While many of the people I thought would be most supportive seemed to be unavailable, I found that others were there for me in ways I never imagined. About five weeks after Paul died I went to have a manicure and pedicure after realizing I didn’t have the energy to care for myself on even that basic level. When the manicurist asked if I was having my nails done for a special occasion, I broke down in tears telling her it was for my husband’s funeral service in England the following week. All of the sudden, this woman in her early 20s became a supportive ear. She didn’t seem uncomfortable, she said all the right things, and she made me feel calm. (And I now see her every couple of weeks because of her ability to put me at ease.) Neighbors and co-workers have made themselves available to help around the house if I need it and for social outings such as golf or going for coffee. Even my real estate agent is up for having coffee every-so-often, if for nothing else than to talk about our shared political views.

There are other lessons, too. Such as: I can survive for at least six months on very little sleep and even less fresh fruits and vegetables; I can handle more stress than I ever thought possible; People will say stupid and hurtful things when they can’t think of anything else to say; I can cry more tears than I’d imagine, considering my limited intake of water; It is possible to love someone so much that your heart is in physical pain when they’re gone.

So, here I am six months later, a broken woman; broken, but hopeful for a happy future. The journey so far has not made me stronger, wiser, or more courageous. I am in survival mode, and while the outside world looks in and sees me as strong, I am truly at my weakest right now, using my remaining stores of adrenalin to get through each day. I am truly afraid for the first time in my life because I feel that I have no control over anything; I am at the mercy of my grief.

I am surviving this awful, horrid nightmare one day at a time; one hour at a time. While I wish there was a shortcut through the raw emotional pain, I know that I need to experience the pain in order to understand it. I have to understand the pain and emotions I’m experiencing so that I can continue on my journey and find the happiness that I know is waiting for me.


Entry filed under: General.

Getting angry I don’t want to go out and play

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