It’s hard to forget someone; who gave you so much to remember…….Carissa Fowler
The dictionary defines grief as deep sorrow caused by someone’s death; sorrow, misery, sadness, anguish, pain, heartbreak, agony, torment, affliction, dejection, despair, mourning, and lamentation.
How can one word have so many definitions? Well, I know it can and probably should have many more that are not described in Webster’s dictionary. How can one live with so many emotions twirling through their brain and their body? I wondered this myself after the most precious person in my life died unexpectantly. I experienced all of these words and a few not mentioned in the days and months and years that would follow. I also cried buckets of tears. They could have filled the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans and probably the Gulf of Mexico too. The tears became an annoyance since I didn’t seem to be able to control them and I am one of those people that like to be in charge of my life. I cried everywhere…at church; driving down the highway; dining at a restaurant; when I heard certain songs on the radio; when I passed our favorite places; when I saw old friends or a man with a baseball cap riding his bike. I could not stop them. There was no spigot to turn them off. They simply flowed at the most inopportune times.
I knew I had to take my life back but I didn’t know how. That’s when I started to pray. I prayed constantly and all of the time. As the deer pants for water, so my soul thirsts for Thee. I knew only God could be my strength, my rock. Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil. Please God, let me see the light at the end of the tunnel. He could turn my mourning into joy and He did, but it was on His schedule not mine. I, of course, wanted a quick fix. There is no time frame on grief. Don’t let anyone tell you any different. If you love hard, you are likely to grieve hard. If you are one who keeps it all bottled up inside, that dam will eventually break and tears will flow and emotions will roll out when you least expect it. This doesn’t make you weak, this makes you human.
I am not an authority on grief unless going through it makes you one. I did not know how grief could affect you until my husband passed away suddenly and my life was turned upside down and sideways. Being a retired Emergency Room Nurse, I thought I was a tough cookie, or as we say down South, a Steel Magnolia. I had seen almost everything imaginable hadn’t I? I had cried with Moms and Dads; held old men’s hands as they passed away; hugged prisoners; gritted my teeth when a teen age boy had his shoulder put back in place. I had also prayed with many and prayed silently with those who had rejected my offer of prayer. So why did I not know what to expect? I had seen both life and death in my many years of nursing too many times to count.
I did know that my husband’s soul had gone to be with His heavenly Father. That in itself rendered me some peace but didn’t keep me from the heartbreak. I felt like someone had split my heart in two and taken half of it. My eyes lost their sparkle and lust for life, the waiting on what would be our next adventure. It had been “our or us” since I met him at age eighteen. We were a couple, but not just any couple. We were one that loved being together. I barely knew any different. I tried to be joyful, but it was nothing more than an act. There was nothing about being alone that I liked. I hated coming home alone at night with no one caring whether I was in or not. I stopped cooking. What was the point when he wasn’t there to enjoy the food. Suddenly, all of the things that my husband took care of around the house fell on my shoulders. I felt like someone was holding my head under water and would let me up every so often to take a short breath, then put me under again. Everything that could possibly go wrong, went wrong. Everything began to fall apart, literally. Maybe I was falling apart too. I know I was going deeper into that rabbit hole and the deeper I went, the harder is would be to climb out. I did not want anyone to tell me to “buck up, buttercup.” I hated that anyone could think it was an easy transition and in six weeks I was supposed to be “over it.” One is not over it in the public’s time frame. I would tell anyone, think before you say that to some one who is grieving, it is not at all helpful.
I did not know that so much physical pain would incur. None of my books on grief told me that. The pain was so real but would not be dampened by narcotics, tylenol or alcohol. It simply had to run its course. I laid in my bed at times doubled over with pain. Somehow, I did not want the pain to go away. I began to believe that the pain was directly associated with my memories. I was afraid if it went away, I would forget how his voice sounded, how he walked, his mannerisms, his smell and I needed to retain all of that. The pain would ebb and flow like the tides of the ocean. Sometimes, the undercurrent was worse than others. But as long as I had it, I could remember all those things that I was afraid that I would forget.
I could hear my family and friends whispering, “She’s really doing good.” No, no, I would scream in my head, I am not doing good. Can’t you see? I’m not doing at all. Are you all blind? It all seems crazy now but it was very real at the time.
I didn’t tell anyone how I was feeling not even at Grief Share. I was strong, a Steel Magnolia. I knew I had to get out of this funk and there was only one way out….through my heavenly Father who was with me every minute of every day. I prayed that He would help me and He did. It didn’t come over night as I had hoped. He slowly put projects in front of me that I could not avoid. I began spending one day a week at The Gatehouse, an inpatient Hospice Care. I was able to hold the hands of dying patients or read the Bible to them or just let them know that someone was always with them. I could help them cross over the Rainbow Bridge, something that I had not been able to do with my own husband. It was most comforting to me.
God led me to start a Widow’s Social Group so that we could help each other. He also led me to go on a Mission Trip. He guided me to help those who were less fortunate than I. He has blessed me so richly throughout my life and by being a blessing to others, joy began to slowly come back to me ten fold. He brought me to my knees again and again. He also sent extraordinary people to help me. I consider them His angels.
I realized that I was mourning my old life, a life that was gone, that would never be the same. I had to find a new life, not the same, not better, not worse, but a different life. When I did, the tears stopped flowing and laughter which had always been an integral part of my life came back. Now my life is a life of giving and sharing whatever talents I have. It is a good life and I know that my husband is looking down. I can hear him say, “You did good, Mom.” as he had so many times in our marriage.
Do I still miss him? Yes, every single day and it has been that way for over a decade now. Do I still cry? Occasionally, a tear drop or two slips down my cheek when I hear our song on the radio or see something that reminds me of him, but that’s okay. I talk about him all the time and that’s okay too. He was here, he made a mark on my life for fifty four years and I want to remember the special things that we did and the way that I loved him and how he loved me back. I hope I don’t make others uncomfortable, but I really don’t care. That is their problem and some day they will understand.
God gave me a gift to be able to pen my stories. I try to put our memories on paper for generations to come. I want my family to know where they came from and what a loving relationship we had and how much we loved our children and grandchildren. I want them to know that we laughed about crazy things and we were not perfect but we gave them every bit of love that was in us. We were blessed by God. I was blessed by God. How many people can say that they married the love of their life, their soul mate, their destiny when they were young and still felt the same way about that person only more so fifty-four years later. Now, I want to be a blessing to others, just as He has blessed me. I know that only through the joy of giving, can you can find the joy of living. Grief is not for sissies. It teaches you to reflect on the memories that you share with the person you lost. It also teaches you to be humble, that life is short, like a blink of an eye. I wish that no one had to go through grief, but that is not the case. So love hard, be kind to those you love, laugh a lot, and never end the day mad with each other. When the time comes, tune in to your heavenly Father for He is there waiting to help you with the transition to a new life, a different life, a life that you can be happy in with His help. It may not be the life that you wanted but it is the only life that you have so don’t waste it by wishing for something that can never be again. As my husband would say to the boys before a game, you don’t get a do-over, so give it your best shot. Find your mantra, your help wherever you can. I believe that it is with God. I believe that without Faith in His loving care you will never survive grief. He and He alone can get you through those dark days, those tsunamis, those hurricanes and tornadoes. Hold on tightly to Him. He will carry you on days when you can not walk. He will hold your hand on days when you are lonely. He will keep you safe on days when you are afraid. I wish the dictionary would put His name next to grief. Maybe, some of us would not have to look so far and so long before we know that He is the only one who can get us through the pain and agony. It has been over a decade since I lost the love of my life. I still miss him and think about him every day but I do not mourn him any more. We shared so many memories and so much love, it would be impossible to forget all of that and yes, there are times when I wish it could still be but it’s not. There is a time for everything, a time to live and a time to die; a time to mourn and a time to rejoice; at time to turn your mourning into joy. It can happen. It will happen but you have to pray for that joy and when it comes, it will be sweet and you will once again experience the fullness of life.