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Self care,  Special Topics

Some Thoughts About Grief: Spoiler Alert — It Sucks

Grief sucks.

There is nothing that prepared me for the loss of my husband. Although he was older than I,  my denial of the possibility of being pre-deceased held steady.

Afterall, he was healthy and freakishly strong — an athlete by temperament and
training. Even a little discipline from time to time. With the exception of the annual fried baloney sandwich and pretzels for Steelers games, some of his self-care habits still reflected that history. No smoking. No drinking. Regular exercise. We often joked that those factors, combined with sometimes extreme immaturity, bode well for a very, very long life. There really wasn’t any reason for me to be be concerned. Even in his final 48 hours on this plane, our focus was on discharge planning and rehabilitation.

While I was not thrilled about the facility I chose, I admit to looking forward subtracting three-plus hours of driving from my daily schedule. A place a mere 2 miles from the house meant lots of opportunity for family — and chosen family — to spend the time to help him heal. And my level of exhaustion was making it dangerous to be behind the wheel.

Ghouls of Grief

I made the mistake of asking some local professionals we know for their input — to say it did not go well is an understatement. Then, again, how often is one handed four or five pages listing “rehabilitation centers” and told to choose our top three? Surreal? You betcha. So was being forced to remove more people from the circle of trusted friends.

grayscale photo of bird on wire fenceThat’s when we (both) started to learn that grief brings out the worst in some folks. They make it about them. People we considered social friends assumed levels of intimacy that were simply inaccurate. They tried to force themselves into times and places they weren’t invited and didn’t belong — and, as a result, forced me to move them out.

Their attitudes of entitlement were apalling. Favorite Husband didn’t want to see or hear from them. I know this because I know him and because I asked him. To try to break into our tight family circle in our most vulnerable time felt beyond cruel. I don’t even know the word. Certainly “compassionate ” is not it.

I’m not generally this “public” with the things that move me, especially the ones that break my heart, but I find the unexpected death of my loved one has left me with almost zero f*cks to give. About anything. Writing often helps me make sense of the world and I’m not currently feeling the need to keep all of this private. I hope that I find other outlets for my grief and my rage.

Even in Grief There is Gratitude

I find myself feeling extremely grateful for the role I played in publishing From Two to One: Surviving the Loss of a Loved One by Rosina Leigh Eller.  This link is not a commercial — simply a recommendation for anyone in love with a partner who could die… so… everyone, I guess.

Thanks to Rose’s brave and honest account of her grief, not everything that happened to us came as a total shock. I learned about her compassionate heart while working on the book with her. I am grateful for working with her and for the friendship that developed as a result. Close friends know talking on the phone ranks pretty close to the bottom of the list of things I enjoy doing; outside of immediate family, Rose is among the few I’ve been able to talk to. I am SO grateful she is willing to share with me.

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I started this post with an eye toward finding healing words from brilliant writers.I’m not sure of how I did, but today that’s true of everything. These all spoke to me. If your heart needs comfort, I hope this helps.

Wiser Minds Speak on Grief

I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil. — J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King

Grief does not change you, Hazel. It reveals you. ― John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything. ― Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

What we have once enjoyed, we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes part of us. — Helen Keller

Death is a challenge. It tells us not to waste time. It tells us to tell each other right now that we love each other. — Leo Buscaglia

No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. — C.S. Lewis

Relationships that don’t end peacefully don’t end. — Merritt Malloy

Now something so sad has hold of us that the breath leaves and we can’t even cry.― Charles Bukowski

Pain is certain, suffering is optional. — Buddha

Absence is a house so vast that inside you will pass through its walls and hang pictures on the air. ― Pablo Neruda

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