Waves of Grief from Ordinary Moments

Original pastel of one set of footsteps in the sand
My pastel of my lonely beach walk

Today is Father’s Day and next Saturday would have been our twenty-third anniversary.   Going through these sad “firsts” is so hard.  I’ve purposely planned to travel on our anniversary to lessen the loneliness.  I expect those first special days to be hard.  What I don’t expect are the waves of grief from ordinary moments.

I bought a car this week to replace his wheelchair van.  After agonizing over which make and model, how old and how much to pay, I drove out of the dealer lot.  Instead of feeling excited, or relieved, I felt miserable.  As I turned toward home, it hit me like a ton of bricks that this was the first car he wouldn’t see, wouldn’t sit in.   When I drove into the garage, there was no one to show it to, no one to celebrate with.  I just closed the garage door, walked in the house and was overwhelmed by a painful yearning for him, a horrible wave of loneliness that felt like it was sweeping me under.

I’d been doing ok.  Getting out with friends, finding a gentle routine that involved exercise, art, and meditation, journaling and lots of walking.  Laughing sometimes, crying here and there – small swings up and down.

Then the last few weeks, I’ve felt these frequent waves coming at me of grief, and sometimes panic.  Think of playing in gentle waves at the beach and all of a sudden having a rogue wave smash you down and drag you out from shore.    If you expect big waves, you plant your feet, you brace yourself.  But when you don’t know it’s coming… when you’re not ready….

It’s been hard to catch my breath.  Two nights ago, I was looking for something in the liquor cabinet and came across some Vanilla Crown Royal he’d asked me to buy for him.  The next night I happened to open the medicine cabinet in the guest bath and found his electric toothbrush. AHHHH!  And sometimes the tears come without any prompting at all.

In a book called The Other Side of Sadness on new research about grief, I read that these oscillations are normal for about the first three to six months and then, for about 60% of bereaved people, they start to abate.  They come and go less frequently and with less strength.

Knowing it’s normal doesn’t make it any easier, though.

Life almost seems harder now than a month ago.  Maybe I’m expecting more from myself.  At first, I gave myself a pass on just about anything hard.  Now I tell myself to just get on with it.

But I also think the waves of grief hurt more now because a certain new normality has started to creep back into my life.  That new gentle rhythm I talked about.  The waves of grief stand out more starkly in comparison to a few hours of “normal.”

Plus, the permanence of losing Larry is starting to sink in.  I took a walk on the beach early this morning and saw several older couples walking along holding hands.  That won’t be us.  He won’t come walking in the door, all whole again.  He won’t ever hold my hand or drink that Crown Royal or use that toothbrush or sit in my car.

They hurt, these waves of grief from ordinary moments!!!  The yearning for something that will never be.  I know I’ll get through this, but damn, I feel so very very lonely.




5 thoughts on “Waves of Grief from Ordinary Moments”

  1. I just found your site, and I have to comment. As a caregiver for my mother who died from Alzheimer’s Disease, a caregiver at times for my father-in-law, and a caregiver for my husband so many times, but mainly as he went through treatment for his rare incurable cancer that ultimately took him unexpectedly one day… I have to say. I get you. I totally get everything that you have to say. I’ve been there, I’ve battled the insurance, I’ve moved people from one place to another, I’ve re-established the home health care so many times I know the drill by heart. And… like you. I’m now alone. I’ve been alone for over a year and a half – and yes.. it does get easier, but it doesn’t disappear. Sorry to ruin that for you!

    I’ve also written a blog, started before my husband died as what was supposed to be a record of our journey through cancer treatment for a second time (he had a different unrelated cancer 8 years earlier.. what a kicker), and after he died the blog turned into my grief journey. Right now I’m trying to update the website in an effort to make money and fulfill my fiver year plan… and that is how I found you. In doing research to see who else is out there.. I found you.. who essentially sounds a lot like me.

    Just wanted you to know that although you are alone.. you are NOT alone. I hope that you reach back out to me. Take care and be gentle with yourself.

  2. I get it… all of it. 🙁 The permanence of his absence really sank in around the 18th month, and I almost drowned in the tears, sadness, anger, regret.

  3. Thank you for reaching out. I know that for most people who die, there are people who are left behind who are hurting. Some of us more than others.

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