Darkest Hours of Night

Sleeplessness - up for the sun riseLast night I was awake again at 1, and 2, and 3, and 4, and for the sunsrise.  For awhile I was sleeping better.  I even felt slightly guilty at “doing so well” – whatever that means. Maybe a growing sense I was getting both feet under me.  But travel and fatigue and change of routine knocked me down.  Now I dread going to bed.  Days are hard – empty and meaningless.  Worst are those darkest hours of night, when sleep is so elusive.

I wrote in my journal of remembering years ago saying to Larry that bedtime was my favorite time of day, when we’d get into bed and he’d gather me into his arms and hold me “safe.”  Then remembering the time when the CPAP machine with the tubing and face mask joined us in bed.  So many ways that damn disease changed our lives bit by bit.

I read recently that grief creates a hole in your life that takes a long time to heal.  My life was so enmeshed with Larry’s in the end that the whole of my life feels like a hole.

But you carry on because there is no choice.

Kayaking mangrove tunnels in Sarasota
Kayaking mangrove tunnels

On my better days I fill my journal with all that I am doing, all that I have added to my life since Larry died.  It’s helpful to list the ways I feel courageous, trying things and expanding my “life space.”  Some have worked, some haven’t.  I’m proud that I’ve framed paintings and submitting them to two exhibits.  I celebrated my birthday by arranging a party with neighbors.  I went on my first group kayak trip through mangrove tunnels.  In the last two weeks I’ve traveled to my high school reunion (not a great idea) and to a family funeral (a difficult and courageous choice).

I’ve even started working again, because out of the blue an old colleague asked for me to do some work for them, and an old client called with a project.  It felt good to put my brain to work in new ways, remembering my competencies.

It’s good to be with friends, and be social, sometimes.  I still can’t handle larger groups and talking with people I don’t know well is completely exhausting.

Being exhausted is dangerous.  It’s when the darkness descends.  I have no extra stores of energy so my energy is depleted easily.  That’s what happened last week.  Too much travel.  Too many people I had to talk to from the past – at the reunion, at the funeral.  So many memories.  When a well runs dry it starts to suck up black dirt rather than clean water.  Then replenishment is needed.  But how?

We’re in that time of year when darkness is coming earlier and earlier.  Literally and figuratively.  What do I do with myself?  For awhile I was going to bed early.  But now I don’t want to even be in bed.  To face those darkest hours of night.  Alone.  More firsts are coming.  Thanksgiving.  His birthday.  Christmas.  Valentine’s Day.

I read an Iroquois grief prayer that has a line  “a great sob has lodged in your throat.”

This is a disjointed blog post – bits and pieces, not a whole.  That’s what my life feels like.



Mourning Rituals for 6 Months

I sit here at 8:49 PM.  Larry died at 9:02 exactly 6 months ago.  Both a heartbeat and an eternity.  I’ve spent the day in little mourning rituals.  Right now, I have a candle lit next to me which I’ll blow out at 9:02.

Larry enjoying the beach
Larry by the Gulf 10/16

In a way these “death-anniversaries” feel like a way to stay close to him.  I spent the day doing “his” things.  He loved walking by the water so I went to the beach this morning, a clear blue sky above the warm turquoise Gulf.

I came home and wrote in my journal, partly a letter to him about where I am now.

I ate some of his favorite foods – pizza for lunch, chicken wings for dinner.  I had a tiny version of his favorite cocktail – a gin and tonic, before dinner, and a tiny sip of his favorite liqueur – Amaretto.

I wore his Black Dog T-shirt that we bought on Martha’s Vineyard when we went over to look at one of his son Cody’s jobs.  I spoke with Cody today.

Larry playing in the snowI sat with some of my favorite pictures of him – the ones that show his mischievous grin – like the photo of him engulfed in snow, just after he had opened the door to our porch after a huge blizzard and fell backward in “snow angel” pose, wearing just a turtleneck and jeans.  That was obviously not taken in Florida!

And of course, I cried.  But not only did I cry when I consciously felt the depth of my loss.  I had moments throughout the day where I wasn’t even thinking of Larry specifically and yet felt sadness just leak out of me.

I had planned to take down the black ribboned mourning wreaths that have hung on my front door since the day after he died, made by a loving friend.  I figured that 6 months would be an appropriate moment.    And truth be told, I think there may be  geckos either eating them or nesting in them.

I couldn’t remove them.  It didn’t feel right.  It felt like a betrayal of the grief I still feel.

And yet – if you ask me to rate how I’m doing, I’d say I’m doing just fine.  Doing just fine, learning how to live well with the grief.  Just like we learned how to live well while he was dying.   I’ve read a lot of research about how resilient we can be, especially when we allow ourselves to feel the grief and also figure out how to move on.  That research makes me optimistic.

It takes work. I push myself to expand my comfort zone little by little.  I so miss being able to just sit quietly with the person who loves me, who I love.

These little 6 month mourning rituals helped me get through this day.  I sort of felt with him.

Six months.  A heartbeat and an eternity.

The candle is now out.