Don’t you hate it when people talk about healing and grieving as being all part of a journey? I do. But then, it is. Kind of like walking on pebbles at first, it’s painful and uncomfortable and you have to go slowly. Then gradually the path changes and becomes easier to negotiate, perhaps from pebbles to gravel, to sand, to sidewalk.
In the beginning there was actual relief that my husband’s suffering was over. Not many of the books on grief mentioned that so I felt a little guilty, but gradually my commonsense took over: of course I’d be relieved he was no longer in pain, in such a broken down body that made me cry just to look at him, and I decided not to feel guilty.
Then the journey began. The process went something like, this requiring concentration:
- On slowly going back to work. My brain was in a fog, I had to concentrate really hard on the simplest of tasks. I often felt like a complete idiot.
- On coming off the antidepressants. Really, how does anyone cope without these when you think you will die from the grief? Really - die. When you think you can’t possibly survive, and you don’t know how you will manage to get through the day. And yet, you do.
- On sprucing up the house ready for sale
- On moving
- On cutting my hair inexplicably short. (Very unattractive it was too – perhaps that should be in all the self-help books: don’t cut your hair just because you can, you are not thinking straight.)
- On going back to university
- On not crying in public at random moments. I cannot explain how much of a relief it was when I gradually stopped. I didn’t want everyone to see my grief, or have to explain why I had suddenly dissolved into tears. I was embarrassed, and so relieved when I could stop adding to the Places I Have Cried In Public list. I last cried in public over a year ago. It was my birthday, so it was kind of extenuating circumstances. Anniversaries and significant days are nowhere near as bad now.
- On participating in the real world
The latter was somewhat difficult as losing my husband had been the focus of my world for a couple of years and it felt like it informed everything I did. Or should. And yet it felt terribly private so that I didn’t want to talk about it even though it seemed to define me so.
So this journey – I really dislike that word, I must try another – so my experience of grief and healing was so different to almost everything I read in books. The only advice I felt that resonated with me was that we all experience grief differently, and to treat yourself gently.
I saw a counselor who advised me to get out there and join things, start new hobbies, meet new people. So I tried slowly at first. I’d report back to her that I couldn’t get somewhere as I was crying hysterically earlier in the day. What do I do?
She advised: go anyway.
So I did. And it worked. I gradually looked forward to these events even if I initially had to talk myself into going. Sometimes I had to promise myself I could come home after an hour if I didn’t like it.
And so here I am now, just over three years later with new friends, new activities and new hobbies, nearly healed, and walking on smooth pavements.
Oh and rowing - I finally got into a racer recently.
It is like flying!