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Thursday, May 27, 2010

myths

i met with someone the other day who is an internationally known researcher on stress and coping. She has interviewed hundreds of people about loss and talked to me about common myths about bereavement. It was helpful to know, as i suspected, that how one deals with loss is extremely individual. There is no time line-it takes as long as it takes. i also realized while i was talking to her that it is not unusual to hold on to a part of the person that one has lost. i have held on to things because Bruce loved things and i can get a visual, a memory, when i see his things and remember the circumstances accompanying them.

There are also people who can put themselves back in a moment from the past and relive that moment. Individual differences account for this and i am not able to do this. Apparently people who can close their eyes and be back in a moment are good hypnosis candidates. For the rest of us-me included-there may be other things that trigger a memory.

Ultimately, i am coping with this horrific event in my life. i guess it doesn't make a difference whether i am coping well or not-for who makes the quality judgment? i get up in the morning and i function and as long as i keep doing that i guess i will be ok. It doesn't matter whether i want to function or not - i can't even think about what i want aside from him walking through the door. And i have thought about him coming home. i do not think i would be surprised, and the days without him would just melt away-as if this nightmare just ended. i guess eventually this image will also fade.

So in all of her interviews with the bereaved, she could not tell me what makes the difference over time and when it happens that the pain subsides a bit. She could tell me what was not helpful according to the hundreds that she has spoken with. It does not help to have people want to "fix" it-to make you better and get over the loss. It does not help to try to find meaning in the loss-as if there were some reason that it happened. i have people in my life who want to help me put this away, when there really is no place for it. The road ahead is dark and uncertain. i just have to continue on my way, hoping that one day there will be some direction that i am heading towards, and the ground beneath me will be firm.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

the weekend

Weekends are especially hard. i used to love weekends when he was alive. They gave us time and although we didn't always plan events sometime the long stretch of days without plans was wonderful. We would usually grab a movie with friends and then have dinner. Sometimes on Sunday morning we would get up early and go to the beach to have breakfast overlooking the ocean. But most of all it was a chance for us to be together, without rushing around.

Yesterday, the weekend looming, i felt such an intense wave of sadness wash over me. Another weekend. So much to feel sad about-i miss him, i am lonely and i am too apathetic and isolated to reach out. It is not that i want to do anything either. My natural inclination after the busy week is just to sit around. i have nowhere to go and no one to go with-which could be a good thing. Maybe sometimes it is a good thing-but last night, it felt bad-making me miss him all the more.

Recently, i was thinking about how good everything was right before he died. And now i feel as if all of the work i did to achieve some measure of success is gone. i was mentally good-having come away from menopause and his illness with lots of anxiety-i finally had some control over that. i was physically in good shape, we went to the gym daily and i felt fit. i was getting a handle on my new job and i had a beautiful new house, finally able to decorate and enjoy. And then the death. Now i am depressed. My body is full of aches and pains and i have trouble getting myself motivated to exercise. So much changed in one morning.

How and when will i ever recover from this?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

cemeteries and gravestones

When Bruce was alive, he gave his students an interesting project to do. He called it the cemetery project and had them go to a cemetery and spend some time observing the headstones. They would often come away with interesting tidbits about the people who were buried there. Ironic now that i spend time in a cemetery visiting his grave. Yesterday, I ordered the headstone, something that i should have gotten taken care of in the first year.

Part of the small steps that i am now making to move through the grief, the headstone is yet another thing i must push myself to do. Visiting the grave is a strange experience. i know that i am in the cemetery, but i am really just visiting a patch of grass-and i am never quite sure that the patch of grass is the right one. It is a beautiful location overlooking Newport Beach, and the rolling lawns and the gravestones of others, make it a peaceful place to come. i am not sure what to do with myself while i am there so i usually wander. i do my own little cemetery project, noting the gravestones and information about Bruce's neighbors. i can't help thinking about what he would say if he were watching over me.

i am so aware of the resistance that i have to fully integrating his death. But i push myself now because i know it is the right thing to do. i hope that it brings me some comfort finally. i guess there is no other option.

Monday, May 17, 2010

small steps

i am making some small steps. Last week (or maybe the week before), i removed the toothbrush from his side of the sink. i tried to throw it away but dug it out of the garbage and put it in a drawer. On Friday, i took all of his underwear and put it in the trash and left it there. By Friday afternoon the trash was gone and i had succeeded in moving a bit forward. Yesterday, we hung some pictures in the family room, a task that Bruce and i were going to do the weekend that he died.

Small steps forward and the emotional toil is enormous. i do not want to take steps without him beside me. He always wanted to hold my hand as we walked. After his heart attack and bypass surgery we would walk for miles around the neighborhood in the morning. He would hold my hand or grab my sweatshirt to move me forward at his pace. We speed walked almost as a unit. No wonder that i am having so much trouble taking steps without him.

But i know that my survival depends on my moving on. i cannot hold on to my life with him forever-some of that life in the form of material things must go. So next week, i will take another small step and maybe at some point some day, the only things i will hold on to will be the memories.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

why now?

i have been struggling these past 2 weeks in a worse state than usual and i have been wondering why now? Nothing really is different. But i have been in a really sad state. Mother's day came and went and yes, even that reminds me that i am without him. He was always quick to point out that he really did not need to acknowledge Mother's Day since "I was not his Mother". But he did rally the kids when they were little before my daughter took over and planned things. Still part of being the Mom was having him be the Dad. So maybe part of the current tsunami of grief is about Mother's Day and the upcoming Father's Day that follows.

But i am thinking that maybe some of this is the realization that my life needs to change-that i need to start getting rid of his things and make my life about me alone. i am trying to push myself forward. i never really believed that i would do things when i was ready-which is what everyone tries to tell me. i don't buy into that i will be motivated by some inner time line. i have always pushed myself against my inclination to sit back. i have gotten where i am because of the push-i guess i feel if i wait till i am ready, i may be 92 and wheelchair bound. So i propel myself forward and i always had his help. i actively get up and do something, even though my desire is to do nothing-lie in bed and read a good book.

The conversation that i had with the widows made me feel that there was some sense of urgency about the stuff. Maybe i feel that i would be mentally healthier if i can start to come to terms with the things he left behind. It has also uncovered some resistance - i guess it is the final acknowledgment that he is gone and will never be here. Even though i know this intellectually, i think if i look around and his things are gone, it somehow reinforces my loss. Everything reminds me of him and has a specific memory tied to it. He wanted this big house and had the vision, which we made happen. Once his things are gone-there will be a new emptiness. i already deal with the emptiness that accompanied losing him-now when i look around there will be empty drawers, empty rooms-more emptiness that i cannot fill.

So maybe i am being anticipating a new chapter in my grieving? i do not know. i do know that i need to get a handle on all of this-i am just too sad lately. But i do not know how to begin to deal with this flood of sadness. Yes, i am being self-absorbed and self-indulgent, and this too needs to pass. But for now, i will wade through the feelings until i figure out how to get past it.

Monday, May 10, 2010

still missing him

Missing him sometimes comes in waves. i am ok one minute and then overwhelmed with missing him the next. Not sure why but these past 2 weeks have been especially hard. Last night i was struck as i left to walk the dog how much we complimented each other. i was always trying to spend as little as possible on things and he would often say that i got what i paid for. He usually got me to agree to spend more and get nicer stuff.

i thought about that as i contemplated replacing or buying things over the years. Who will do that for me now that he is gone? We had a great rhythm, he and i. i look around the house and i have a story about all the purchases that we made together. My friend Lil said last night that the house was like a newlywed's house with everything new and shiny when he died. Like we were starting over. She said that it would be hard for me to see the house as mine since most of the things, including the house had no history. He died 4 months after we moved in and most of those months were about renovation and then unpacking.

Recently i thought that in order to resurrect my life, i would need to work hard to bring some good things in. What i did not realize was that the hard work already began, i will have to work hard to avoid being swallowed by the quicksand that is grief. Everyday is hard work.

Friday, May 7, 2010

griefstreet

When Bruce died, i was in shock for a long time and supposed that eventually the numbness would wear off. What i did not anticipate was that the numbness would be replaced by pain and then the pain would be replaced by depression. Bruce used to tell me that i had a hard time visualizing the way things could be-like if we were to redo the flooring and i could not imagine what it would look like. Well, of course he was right, i cannot accurately predict how i will feel about anything in my future. i am a bit unnerved that my image of the widow me is so different from the romantic view that i had envisioned.

As time passes, i increase the window of time for my life on grief street. i thought that the passage of the year would put me in a better place than when he first died. Then i thought that it would take two-now i am thinking that it may be 5 or forever. i am not sure that i can ever recover. There are grief recovery workshops but i wonder how do you recover from this type of blow? Like a boxer in the ring, i may be able to get up and go a few more rounds-but i am not the same. What this has done to my psyche is irreparable. i am not the same, i do not recognize myself sometimes. What happened to me-was who i was, buried with him on Newport Coast?

And so i live on grief street and may have that address for a very long time. i guess he was right about my ability to foresee the future without him-it feels dark and sad. i was so dependent on him for so many things. i could do anything, knowing that he was home and waiting for my call.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Shades of gray

i have been feeling lower than usual. Not sure why-there is no event coming up or special day to remember. Yesterday morning i did not want to get out of the car after returning from the gym. Why bother?
But i got out of the car and walked the dog and took a shower, got dressed and went to work. And i thought about my life all day. Its as if when he died the color disappeared from my vision and all i can see are shades of gray. Some days i try hard to think of some positives but lately there are none that i can identified. i get tired of having to wade through the quicksand.
Bruce was the one who said that attitude was everything and he often reframed what i was feeling into something more positive. "No", he would often say, "You are not anxious, you are excited"- and we often referred to catastrophes as "adventures". So what do i do now that the person who could turn things around for me is gone? i have never been good about doing this for myself and it does not seem as if i will ever get started.
i hate this world without him. He infused my life with color and laughter. He could always get me to perk up, even if it was because i was exasperated. i do not feel strong enough or energetic enough to do this for myself.
i have stopped trying to find the positives in every day. Just feeling veiled by my grief-so that my vision is restricted. I need to find some motivation to continue trudging along.

Monday, May 3, 2010

denial

ok-so now i admit i am bit in denial-or aspire to be in denial. i put the toothbrush in the garbage and then took it out and placed it in the drawer. There is definitely an emotional tie to all of his things. And also my things that are tied to memories with him. i am trying to figure this out. There is fear there-fear of losing the memories that i have of him. The things are a gateway to him and i guess i am afraid that if i lose the things i will lose the memories as well.

But it borders on the absurd. Can i throw anything out? So much effort at trying to determine how much an emotional string exists in looking over all the stuff. How much can i push myself. i believe that there is growth there-that if i push myself enough, it will be healthier for me.

On a completely different train of thought-i was thinking about the complex set of losses. Not just him, but also the companionship and friendship of someone. i feel so solitary now. So would the loss of him be different if not compounded by the loss of everyone?