My husband died on April 2. I can’t believe it’s been eight months since his death. Three quarters of a year gone by that I barely remember. I think I’m just beginning to wake up again, from the death and perhaps even more from the months and years of illness that preceded it.
I’ve been rereading the best book on managing to live while grieving – Resilient Grieving by Lucy Hone. It’s got an optimistic active view about what to do, rather than the passive view that it will just take time. It’s not just about the research (like Bonanno’s) that says the majority of people will recover to full function in about 6 months to a year, but it’s about research that tells you HOW to recover.
I’ve been doing such activities – traveling, trying new things, meditating, exercising, journaling, spending time with friends, even taking on new clients, while allowing myself to also nap in the hammock and cry when I need to.
So I’ve been asking myself why I felt such deep anguish over Thanksgiving, finding myself dissolving into tears multiple times for several days. Hone talks about something she calls “grief ambush,” that she describes as the sadness overtaking you suddenly from some trigger that brings you back to the past.
Thanksgiving was a trigger like that for me, bringing me back to so many wonderful holidays with Larry,
In the first eight months since his death, the loss was dulled somehow by all the challenges of the illness. His decline, his frustration, his incapacity, the hopelessness of it all – that was front and center. I found it hard to even remember Larry before the symptoms of Multiple System Atrophy.
But this Thanksgiving brought healthy Larry back, and part of the anguish was that for the first time I grieved all those six years of darkness. All those years that I was so strong, so positive – trying to match his positive spirit. After eight months since his death, in those days surrounding Thanksgiving, I was finally able to grieve the loss of healthy Larry.
And being by myself for the days surrounding the holiday (except for a few hours while I ate turkey), it really sank in that I am alone in the world, the only one responsible for me. Yes, with friends, yes with family, but ultimately alone.
I feel like that descent was necessary. Maybe I’ve passed into a new phase. I’ve felt so wounded from it all and in need of rest, recover, cocooning – staying still in a way. Maybe I might be ready to start to move, literally and figuratively.
I know that grief is full of twists and turns and it’s not just a list of stages you go through in an orderly fashion, so who knows what will come next.
But today, eight months since his death, and fifteen months since he was first admitted to hospice, I’m thinking that it’s time to find a life for myself.