Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Could Grief be the Best Teacher You've Ever Had?

You know me…I always try and look on the bright side if I can (except when it comes to Halloween costumes apparently), but there have been several times when I’ve jokingly said that there’s nothing wrong with a good wallow every once in a while.

But this was something I learned a lot later than I should have.

I’ve always known that I’m an impatient griever.  Right after my husband died, I remember saying to my sister, “I can’t wait to be a year out and farther away from this whole ‘widow’ thing.”

I don’t know why I thought that.  That was before I’d read any books about grief or before I even knew any other widows.  But I had it in my head that if I could just get a year away from his death…I would be much better off.  Maybe I wouldn’t even be considered a widow anymore!

Denial.  Denial, denial, denial.

And I wasn’t just denying that all of this had happened.  It was so much more than that.  I didn’t want to feel angry because I didn’t think it would do me any good.  I didn’t want to feel sad because it wasn’t on my agenda.  I didn’t want to feel lonely because I knew that if I didn’t want to be alone, it was within my power to fix it.

How unfair I was to myself to not let it all in!  And the truth is…it came anyway because you can only push it back for so long before it takes a battering ram and gets in somehow.  Just because it was within my power not to be alone…didn’t mean that I wasn’t lonely.  And just because being angry did me no good…doesn’t mean that I wasn’t.  And even though I kept telling myself I was fine…the sadness was always there. 

And little of it always will be.

It’s ironic, isn’t it, that the woman who couldn’t wait to get away from widowhood started blogging about pretty much nothing but widowhood?  But for the first, I would say, 2 years after he died, I did everything within my power to push my grief away.  I stayed as busy as I possibly could, trying to develop a life that had nothing to do with my loss.  I tried to outrun it, out-shop it, and outlive it. 

And now you have no idea how much I regret that I did that.

I wish with all of my heart that I had started blogging or journaling the day after my husband died.  Oh, I had some things written down here and there.  But the truth of it was that my life was so frightening to me at the time…to put it down in black and white was unthinkable.  The anger, the confusion, the sadness, and…yes…the despair.  With everything around me geared toward moving on and moving forward, I thought I was doing the right thing by not “wallowing,” putting on a happy face, and getting on with my life.  And I know that it must sound so odd to you that I wish that I could remember every little detail about my early days of grief now.  But I’ll tell you why.

It’s because I think that was when I was learning the most.

I was concentrating so hard on moving forward as fast as I could that I forgot to focus on the present and what I was learning.  I didn’t know that my sadness was forming my compassion.  I didn’t realize that my anger was fueling my determination.  I didn’t know that my confusion was developing my focus and helping me put together a different life.

That all of those things…they served a purpose in shaping who I was becoming.  And by ignoring them…I was denying a part of myself.


  1. Oh, I'm so glad I found your blog. I'm only 10 weeks in to this widow world and it's such a relief to find others who have walked these steps. Thank you for your honesty and lovely writing style. I look forward to scavenging through past posts throughout my grief and healing.

    My mom actually heard of you through her neighbors - who are apparently your relatives. (The Dimmick's in LC --- small little world.)

    Thanks again. Wishing you peace and blessings, Maria Lewis

  2. Wow....I was also thinking in a year I will feel better...I don't know if I had known then what I know now, that I ever would have made it this far. The despair, my God, the can this possibly be happening? That I will never see him again...this wonderful man who was part of my life for 30 years? How is this possible? Then the God, the doctors, people who never called me when they said they would...this whole thing is insane!! For some reason, at almost 2.5 years, I have been thinking of all the people who told me to move on, let go, go to church, etc....And you know, all I can think of is "when you leave the person you love more than anything in the world dead, in a bed in ICU, and you turn and look through the glass at his lifeless body.....THEN you can talk to me about this.....I am getting more comfortable with this living alone, and I no longer worry that I am not getting out very much...I was so desperate to feel better that after 6 months I volunteered for an agency I should never have volunteered for because people said I had to do that, I would feel better. Today a person I know told me to go to church...I am spiritual and I don't have to go to church to know that. I am finally doing it my way, and while not the ideal way, I am dealing with this the way I feel I need to. Your site has been heaven sent!!!

  3. IS such a small world! You can't get better than the Dimmicks. I hate to brag about my own family, but they're good people. :>) I'm so sorry for your loss and there are many of us who are walking this road and eager to support each other. Reaching out (as you're doing now) is the best way to put one foot in front of the other. Please keep in touch.

    Sue...I'm still learning the lesson that only I can do this the way I'm meant to. I sometimes have a hard time tuning outside influences out, but when I do and grieve on my own terms...I feel so much better. Hang in there. Please know that I value your friendship. You are one of the most authentic people I know.