Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The many paths of grief…

More often than not, for better or worse, when young people lose a spouse it is invariably to some immediate catastrophic event. Something that rips their lover from this world. Quickly and unexpectedly. The long illness is not as common, but happens as well. That path I became intimately familiar with. I have found few widows/er that have experienced a long terminal illness…that tends to be more predominate in the later stages of life. But they do exist and I have had the pleasure to befriend a few of them on this journey.

These paths. They are so different. And yet exactly the same. What I am finding is that the grief is the same. The path to get there different. No matter if you lost your love in one earthshattering moment, or over the course of a month, a year or five. It is the same path. No path is better. No path is easier. Both are a double-edged and filled with regret and loss. Many would always choose their path over another, and I believe rightly so. And it does not matter if you lost your love young or you happily lived a long beautiful life together. Because in reality, we all end up at the same spot. And it sucks no matter which path life led you down...

It is like this damn relentless relay. And we are all on it. There are no winners. No loosers. No one is 'greiving' better than anyone else. We are all just doing it. Everyone is at different legs of the journey. And where we step onto the course of widowhood is different as well. A friend asked me the other day how I could be doing so remarkably well at the 6-month mark, and I did not know what to say. I do not think I am doing extraordinary well. But yet I am doing it. But this was spoken from someone who had lost thier beloved in the blink of an eye. One moment here. The next gone. I may seem to have gotten my shit together and am moving forward....albeit not always steadily and not without many tears and recriminations. But I have found that I spend my days laughing more than I am crying. And that is something. But who is to say how I will feel next week or even tomorrow. Not I. Because I know all too well that this relay continues on and I will continue to stumble, trip and even fall sometimes. I only hope that I will always find the strength to pick myself up once again and brush myself off and continue onwards.

Although I still relive those final months with David. I do not do it as much as I used to. And strangely I am grateful for them. Not to say that any of the pain and indignities that David endured in those final months was fair or even remotely pleasant. But it gave us both time. It gave him time to finish the things he felt important at the time to finish and it gave me time to say goodbye.

It is harsh to say. And it is something I oft never even say out loud. But after the stroke, much of what made David the man he was faded. Yes, he was still acutely and almost inhumanly aware of what was happening and the awful changes occurring in both his body and mind. But there was a disconnect. Things did not always sink in completely. He understood and yet he did not. Yes, he was still my love. But he was dying. And he was the first to admit that he was a shell of his former self. And when everyone went home and there was no one else to ‘keep’ it up for. He would fade. Become disconnected and say and do things that were not always the easiest to experience.

So after that stroke and the inevitable outcome that we both knew was just lurking in the shadows…I think much of David died then. Yes, he kept up the fight. He created moments that would have to last a lifetime. But he was never the same and either was I. It was brutal and horrifying. Because we knew, both of us, that the time had come.

I have tried to explain it. But it sounds cruel and insensitive to those who never had a loved one with a terminal illness who was in the final stages of ‘actively dying.’ But I grieved for him. Because on so many levels, my beautiful husband...My beautiful warrior had already died. His body was still fighting and the remnants of David’s amazingly strong mind was still in there…waging his last battle against that infernal disease. And yes, he was able to do more in those final months than statistically was possible. But so much of what made him David was gone. There would be brief moments of complete connectedness. But sadly, much of that was when people came over. He wanted to appear fine. But once he was safely alone with just Alec and I. All pretenses were gone.

So, I do not know. But sometimes I think that is why maybe I appear further along at the 6-month benchmark in this excruciating journey than some. But I still grieve. I still hurt. Just not as much as before. Because I grieved for David long before he was ever gone.

God, it sounds so horrible and fucked up, but it is true. I grievied heavily in those final months before he even took his last breath. And when that final moment came, it took my breath away. I was numb for a time. But not completely and not for long. I do not know how much numbness I even had to protect myself against the onslaught of grief that came. It was not shocking or surprising. It was the end. And I knew it was coming. Although that knowledge did not make those final moments any easier. It did mean that the whole grief machine was already in overdrive and basically just continued on...


At February 25, 2009 9:43 AM, Blogger Star said...

I hate that "you are doing so well" thing. I am doing what I am doing. I am where I am. And I do not choose to show where I am to most people (except through the blog).

My sixth month date is Saturday. I really hope its not as bad as last week.

At February 25, 2009 1:21 PM, Blogger Satine said...

My memories of you and Dave are from a 10 and 12 year-ago period mainly, and that is what I hold alive today with me when I take walks in familar places where we all hung out. Today my heart is heavy with memory yet something familiar about it is simutaneously a comfort. Hang in there.

At February 26, 2009 5:33 PM, Anonymous Roads said...

That's brilliantly put, Skye.
This "grief before grief" is something I can relate to.

Like you, I was glad not to be widowed to some shockingly sudden event. I was grateful for that extra time, although I'd have done anything to spare the anguish and suffering which came in its place.

That 'anticipated grief' made it easier to try to move on. But it made for some embarrassingly painful moments on those occasions when I found out that I wasn't quite as far on as I'd thought.

Perhaps I should be ashamed of those mistakes. But I think that's what often happens. People do.

At February 27, 2009 11:34 AM, Blogger Skye said...

That is all we can do some days. Just be where we are and do what we can do.

It’s like that Ingrid Michaelson song says …
All we can do is keep breathing. Sending you strength and smiles for the weekend…

Well put Roads,
Grief before grief. It is something that many do not talk about, but is so very much part of a prolonged terminal illness.

The moving on part is dicey at best. Some days are better than others and some days are worse. I try not to be too hard on myself and attempt the almost impossible task of not worrying about the future. It will take care of itself…

At March 27, 2009 11:25 AM, Blogger Supa Dupa Fresh said...

Oh, anticipatory grief is so real. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. I knew it was coming for my Gavin, too, but we could hardly deal with it. I wrote a few posts about this, but it's still not clear to me, or easy to articulate. (Great. I really should have shared then, huh!).

Is it helpful? I don't know. The are definitely two paths.

BTW, I've met just as many young widows/widowers who were dealing with long-term illness as who have had a sudden loss. Pretty much 50/50.




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