Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Grief: The Sneak Attack

I had a flashback today in the most bizarre place.

I was at my dental appointment and suddenly I started to feel like I couldn’t breathe and like I could cry at any moment. Now, most people would assume that it was some sort of dental-phobia that I was suffering from, but the truth is…I like going to the dentist. I know that sounds strange, but going to the dentists office is one of the few places that I can’t take my kids, so I kind of look forward to it. Kind of like my yearly OB exam.

I know this is a new dimension to my craziness, but trust me…as a single mother to 3 kids, I’ll take the breaks where I can get them.

Normally, when I’m sitting there, I get so relaxed while they chip away at my teeth that I practically go to sleep. It helps a lot that my dentist has these awesome massaging dental chairs. I’m sure I pay extra for that, but when you don’t get some rubbing a whole lot in your every day life, you’ll take what you can get.

I practically need a cigarette when I leave.

Anyway, today, after over 3 years of my husband being gone, I had this flashback to when I went to the dentist right after he died. And I mean right after. It suddenly occurred to me today how weird that was. He had just died 2 weeks earlier and I still kept my dentist appointment? I mean, what was I thinking?

The only reasonable answer I can come up with is that I was trying to keep everything as normal as possible. For example: As I was coming home from the hospital right after he died, I was asking people, “Has anyone taken the kids to McDonald’s lately? Who’s taking my daughter to ballet tomorrow?” Like, if I acted normal, everything would be normal.

Rookie mistake.

So, what’s more normal than your regular dental appointment? I mean, if everything is okay…why shouldn’t you go?

I showed up, plopped myself down in the chair, and talked to my regular hygienist. She asked me all of the routine questions, one of which was if I was on any new medication lately. To which I replied, “Well, I’m taking Ambien because my husband died 2 weeks ago. Which reminds me…you should probably cancel his next appointment because he won’t be able to make it.”

Being new to the Widow Game, I hadn’t learned the hard lesson of what a conversation stopper that is. My hygienist promptly put her clipboard down, teared up, and had to excuse herself.

Which of course made me late bringing my kids to McDonald’s later.

As we all know, grief just sneaks up on us. Its attacks are farther apart, but they still come. Even though I’ve been fine going to the dentist for 3 years, suddenly today, I just wasn’t. And it brought on an anxiety attack of epic proportions.

I usually don’t do that until I get my bill. Damn, I miss having Dental.

When I get this way, I feel like I’m drowning from the inside out. I can’t breathe. I can’t see straight. But instead of the water coming in, it’s coming out of me faster than I can keep up with it. I know that there are other factors involved…work stress…personal stress…and my daughter’s birthday coming up. Who knew that it would all come to a head in front of a masked woman with a pick in her hand?

Lately, I feel like I’m just treading water as fast as I can, trying to fight the current that’s doing its best to pull me under. I try as hard as I can to remind myself that these are all (relatively) little things that are making me feel this way. When I look at the big picture, we’re all doing pretty well. We’re healthy. The kids are happy. And even though I have to pay out of pocket for a dental exam…I’m able to pay out of pocket for a dental exam.

All things to be grateful for.

I don’t know where I’m going with this. If you haven’t already figured out by this blog…I’m feeling a little lost right now. But there is one thing that makes me feel better. And that’s you all my Widow Chick friends.

Because I may feel like I’m drowning a little. But I always know…we’re all bailing out the same boat.


  1. Yep...I went to the doctor one week after the funeral. It was the first time I attempted to drive. As soon as I left the office (I mean AS SOON AS), I had forgotten all of my doctor's instructions. I am glad she has moved locations so I don't have awful flashbacks every time.

    My next appointment's in October, though. Between our anniversary (October 3rd) and the one year sadiversary (November 6th). I am not expecting a good fall...

  2. Today is not a good day for me either. A friend of mine is trying to set me up with another widow who might be interested in doing some of the things I like to do but can never find anyone to go with....now how freakin sad is that? Now I am getting set up with other widows because my friends can't or don't want to go with me. I thought that would happen with men!!! Nope, other women. God, I am not only drowning a little, I am sinking fast. What kind of loser am I? I still have "those" thoughts, there is an easy way out...but I guess its not so easy because I am still here. Next time I get my prescription filled maybe....It's been 16 months for me, so seeing people feel this way after 3 years is both comforting and distressing...I don't have kids, only dogs, and without them...I don't know. We were together 30 years, married almost 20, and I don't feel like I have anything in my life anymore.

  3. I had one of those yesterday! Wow!! They suck so badly!!! Been a bit over 3 years for me too. No warning...just a stupid, f'd up day that gets worse instead of better. Today I feel drained...just kinda numb inside again....I think it should be back to that "new normal" again by tomorrow....I hope.... Trish

  4. ugh, It does sneak up on you. In the beginning I was so scattered I had to put notes on every wall I had. When it hits it hits hard, I have "those" feelings too. Last Friday as a matter of fact. I reached out to my online community and got amazing results. I am not a Pollyanna, I can feel like crap as much as the next person, but the people who responded made me feel better.

  5. gosh, you have no idea how much I needed this today! Thanks for always having just the right words and the perfect mix of humor and truth!

  6. I can relate. The very next day after my husband died I had a pedicure done. I had not been able to leave my house for nearly two months. I was constantly with my DH during those days. People brought me food, groceries, took my kids to church etc. I was 24/7 taking care of him. I have a problem with ingrown toenails so to get away and finally get some relief on my toes felt so good. And yet it was hard to as-matter-of-fact tell the beautician that my husband had just passed away. And that I needed to hurry on out of there because I had funeral arrangements to make.

  7. Oh Widow Chick, feel like a re-run here. January 6th was not a good day, understatement there. Feb rolls around and there on the calendar: my Dear and I had dental appointments together, first time we managed that in this after retirement (wanted or not) time. I think I need to cancel his appointment, so I call, "I will be there but my husband won't." "Would he like to reschedule?" "Uhh," really, I hadn't thought that far, "no, he can't he's died. "

    You're right, that does sorta gum up conversation.

    That said, they were so kind to me, the dentist and my husband used to bring fav beers for each to try. And Widow Chick? if you need one of those pool noodles (theoretically) to help while treading water, let me lend you one.

  8. Thank you all for all of your comments. Like I said...I'm so glad that none of us are alone. It's a relief to know that some of the things I write about, others either think about or have gone through something similar. Grief rolls in waves and it's nice to know that there are others who can pull you out when you need it. Thank you!

  9. Jeff died on a Friday, and on the Monday I took the car to a pre-scheduled appt. My best girlfriend had given the mechanics, guys we know fairly well by now, a heads-up a while before, and when they saw me they said Gosh We Didn't Expect To See You Here Today, and I was all, Jeez, the car needs an inspection sticker, whaddaya gonna do. Yeah. Weird. Shock, I think they call it....But now a year later I can hardly go in there without having a breakdown, remembering that day.

  10. Great Story Widow Chick! As always you've described it perfectly. Been there...done that!
    Hang in there!

  11. You paint such clear pictures, and though I am not in the same place or situation, your genuine moments enveloped me. As someone who was honored to read your words, just know that you are special to the universe ( no, I'm not one of those...) and I am better today for having read them. I know that forward is the only direction we can go, and you are doing that in the best way that you can. Thank you for sharing, no, for including your readers in your reality.

  12. Well, it's nice to know I am not the only one in this madness! Sadly but thankfully, the highlight of my day is checking to see what you had to say today. I am new to this, and I don't like it a bit. It has been five months. Within the last week I have found myself more lost than ever...sobbing, in fact. AND, not sure if I am losing my mind but I am smelling my husband in different parts of the house, at work, in my car. No one else notices this. So yes, grief is not sneaking up on me...it is kicking my ass!

  13. Mags! Lots of people have said that! I posted something on my FB page about having lights flickering around me (not all the time, but one day it was ALL day and everywhere I went). Lots of people commented on the "scent" thing. And when I told a friend of mine that no one else seemed to notice but me he said, "The message wasn't FOR anyone else but you." :>)

  14. I went to hot yoga a few days after my DH passed, my sister who was here from back east helping with the arrangements etc. anyways she had never been to yoga and off we went, saw one of my regular teachers and he asked me how I was.....I just said, well fine, my husband passed away a few days ago. Yeah not thinking what a conversation stopper it is. I continued with I needed to destress so I came to yoga. I think in the first few weeks it is easier to follow the routine, after a month or so, reality strikes. As for meeting up with another widow, a friend of mine had her husband pass a week before mine, cancer also, our kids were friends we lost touch but we became friends again. It is the most therapeutic friendship I have, when others don't get me she does. It is healing on another level. Especially as our hubbys passed within a week of each other, we are at the same stage...we get each other. At times when I feel like I am losing it, I discover she is going through the same thing, same stage. Oh yeah, on the strange occurence, my son has a Buzz Lightyear (he is 17) and he swears it's head moved and it was staring at him, he moved the head and it turned again. He put it back downstairs by his computer.

  15. Thanks,I really needed to read this today. I'm glad to know that I'm not losing my mind and that others have these meltdowns.It's also comforting to read others posts to see how they deal with these situations.

  16. I am at almost 5 years and it still doesn't take much to get me all teary eyed. I just quickly slip on my shades so I can still look manly. :)

  17. I am exactly 4 months in and I still struggle to take a breath. I am working and "doing" things but ............... am so, so homesick for my husband. Again, it takes my breath away. I see photos of me taken since he died and .......the light has gone out of my eyes for sure. Month four has been very sad and I am exhausted. Please keep writing for all of us.

  18. It's funny that I read this... I had kept my dentist appointment less than a week from my fiance's death too. Good to have a heads up as to what may be in store for me.