This post is actually a podcast I did in 2014 three years after Donna died. I would love to preface it by offering up its profound content. Not so much profound as that was then. This is now. As Donna would say "There is a reason they call it history. It happened then." Though I abide by its simple message of time, looking back and reflecting today presents me with new knowledge.
August 7th 2011 is the day Donna passed away. For those of us who have lost a loved one, anniversaries of death freeze time. Life seems to come to a full stop. It’s as if you hit a wall and emotionally splatter. We know when anniversaries are yet they sneak up on you. They come in the night and steal your sleep, They tiptoe around you during the day stopping you in your tracks and making you look inward and think. Anniversaries exhaust you. Anniversaries are different from the time between them. They are markers of what was and what isn't.
One of the groups I joined is Widowed Village and from time to time post to the thread Widowed in 2011. Mostly I receive posts from others in this is a loving and supportive community. Yet anniversaries seem to drive a flurry of activity from the members.
Hi All approaching or have 3 years. I have a difficult time going to restaurants alone. I see other couples talking to each other and that is hard for me. I can walk alone because when I see couples my age, they pass quickly and something else catches my attention. I hate going to parties where couples do couples things like dancing. I's rather go with my girlfriends. they are special to my well being, even more than my family. I do wish my husband and I had spent more fun times together instead of brown bagging it and saving for retirement. I remember one day he bought me flowers for no reason and I told him that we cannot afford such luxuries.
And that is just one post of many in the same vein. Some are tragic and the pain expressed three years later is as fresh as it was on day one. It feels as if we will never escape. But we do, to a point, and find a place to reside.
It is now four more years and the posts from Widowed Village are fewer by a significant amount. None the less when they happen they contain the same sense of pain and hurt that we all know all to readily. What bodes well for many many widowers who started in the group in 2011 many seemed to have found a balance or better said do not need to post here, plead for help, and help others. A kind of adaptation to loss.
A healthcare professional said to me a year or so before this podcast “You’ve adapted well to your loss” Gee I was proud a professional in neuroscience and psychology noted I’ve adapted it must be true. My error was drinking the kool-aid and not looking within to see my own reality. In perfectly clear 20/20 hindsight perhaps she was making herself feel better that she had achieved an outcome she could live with. And to be truly cynical she knew I was malleable enough to buy her kool-aid punch and feel I adapted. Perhaps that is harsh.
Not sure I really adapted as much as I have come to terms with my existence and the boundaries of my pain and fear. Is that adapting? Perhaps adapting and marking time are different.
Many do not adapt they struggle day in and day out. Some of us less so and there are those who get married within six months of loosing a spouse. We all face and relate to the death of a loved one differently. We all respond to grief differently. I’ve written about this before when hospice and palliative care teams are in place the incidence of complicated grief is lower for loved one when compared to patients who have not been part of hospice. Adapting may be related to the care the patient received and the loved one received. I have said hospice saved my life.
To a point I have adapted. I am doing less of what we did and more of what I do now. I don’t leave my socks on the floor or eat in the living room or not make meals. I am striving to find my way, not our way. But I have not adapted to the loss, there are moments of sadness and filling my time with mindless activities. Some days life is about routine to avoid being frozen in the amber of history and grief.
A friend is pushing me to avoid isolation, being alone is fine and I frankly enjoy being alone but, isolation is not healthy so I am doing more to fill the time. Making plans with neighbors and friends. Filling the void I’d say. That is not adaption. More like acceptance. Unlike closure which I believe is denial said pretty. I may never adapt but I will accept my life and feelings because that includes Donna. Including Donna does preclude me being me or living.
Not too long ago someone noted, that I am not ready to move on. I have been considering that and clearly I am ready to move on. But, let me repeat. I am not moving on just to move on for any reason. Moving on or adapting or whatever, is it finding someone to replace the loneliness do my wash cook etc. I can do all of that and more. It is about being challenged again being stimulated inspired. And that is not necessarily someone, it is something like these podcasts which getting up for these is becoming a challenge I need a podcast dysfunction product. This drives meaning and purpose for me.
Grief is a playlist softly playing in the background. It is the sound track of your life after the loss of a loved one. Some turn it off and make a new playlist. Others listen and dance or sing or cry or let it just play. No matter what, it’s my playlist, our playlist, and our choice. That is key, choose to do something with your grief, pain, and hurt. Make something of it. Use it to power through …
Today re-reading this I can say I have adapted not to the profound sense of loss that shrouds me but to buds and blooms of knowledge and light within my grief work and journey. Though my grief and its playlist on repeat I have learned more about Donna, me, us, and some new life knowledge.
What is fun is looking back at this playlist metaphor and knowing that I do have a playlist. It’s on Spotify Love Letters to Donna Love Letters to Donna Give it a spin.