In the New York Times Opinionator section Couch Patrick O’Malley wrote “Getting Grief Right”. Patrick, got my attention.
Have you like me wondered, "Do I have my grief right?” I have been hard at my grief work. Donna’s death, my daily experiences, years of postings, and podcasts allows me to speak up and out. Besides this is the internet and everyone gets to speak.
O’Malley is a psychotherapist. He tells the story of a woman who lost a a very young child. But his piece addresses the loss he suffered when his first child died ten years earlier. Both narratives, O’Malley’s and Mary’s, are entwined and related. O’Malley makes the point to this patient Mary who questioned if she was in denial or angry enough. Mary speaks about how her deep despair is and the sense of exhaustion from masking her true emotions. She felt stuck in grief and failing to find acceptance and closure. He told her that she was not depressed or stuck or wrong. She was just very sad, consumed by sorrow and not grieving wrong. The depth of her sadness was simply a measure of the love she had for her daughter.
He notes that the loss was now part of her lifes' narrative and the narrative of loss was to claim and cherish and not to push down or adapt. I have written and spoken about this and about the issue of facing loss and making it part of my life.
This is the struggle I have felt. What is expected of me from me? Others? What are the expectations of those who have been there for me? I’ve been lucky in that many many have allowed me to be me and live my grief dictated by my own timetable and fingerprint. Or they have been too kind to tell me to grow the hell up.
In my stubborn selfishness I have embraced the 'this is my grief and I will do what I want with it'. But I fear it is time to move beyond it find a place to park it within my life. O’Malley offers insight into this goal.
O'Malley writes, there are three chapters of loss.
It is attachment: what is the strength of the bond with with the person who was lost. O'Malley says the size of the grief corresponds to the depth of the love. I agree because I know it first hand. I began grieving when Donna was diagnosed. And though out her treatment and till her passing we were connected unlike any time previously. It was unique, emotional, powerful, and real. I would say this is the reason or the strength of that connection may drive my inability to release and not place what is and was into the context of my new world. That bond of 30 years and the intensity of her final two years are stronger then I have understood previously. And those bonds are divers for my current writings, podcasting, book, and memories.
Is the death event itself where we begin to question our sanity. How we may shut down the natural pain in order to survive. I wonder out loud as I read my musings if I to am insane. Am I truly in control. Is this a run away locomotive that has me caught in its cow catcher? In my defense an hour following Donna’s passing I was calling friends and family to tell them the news. A dear friend who I have know for 30+ years said to me “What I do know about loss is that you cannot hide from it or shut it down or run from it. It’s pull will be there drawing you back in and driving your reactions and emotions. Face it embrace it take it on and go with it” I believe I have done that and have come to understanding and embracing the loss. I am not holding my grief as a Jedi light saber to slay the Sith Lords. It is a comforter. It is my path.
O’malley calls the long road after the last casserole dish is picked up when the outside world stops grieving with you. His patient said she wanted to show friends she was on the fact track to closure. What was needed he says is acceptance of the the sadness and loss.
I am not sure I ever really tried to achieve closure or even consider it. Closure is a myth. Closure is indifference. Closure is denial said pretty.
My Chapter 3 is about the plumbing the depths of the loss and the grief. I'm looking at it perhaps under the pretense that I want to help others. That remains a valid goal to accomplish. A way to find a place. At the same time, I worry or realize that I am wearing my welcome thin on this whole dead wife suffering spouse drams. There are a few out there who note that my embracing this loss is annoying the shit out of them and how selfish I am not to consider them or others by being caught up in my world. And that is not an inditement of them as much as its a look in the mirror for me. But it is my journey not anyone else’s.
I just read an interview of David G Hallman who lost his partner to AIDS. Hallman wrote August Farewell about the last 16 days of a 33 year romance and Searching for Gilead. Hallman makes the following point Hellman speaking about and sharing too much on his loss and love says he fears that he may have "skidded into an emotional exhibitionism". So clear and on point… perhaps I have done that.
I feel I'm delusional to believe anyone finds some comfort or help in my sharing. That thought drives my sense that I am in middle of vanity project about Donna, loss, and grief. My time would be better spent being a player or traveling. But that is the human condition hope is at the extreme edges of our lives. The few that do read are mostly polite and kind. Others may read between the lines and see pain in what I write as a confessional witnessing my lack of growth, refusing to heal, or not meeting their needs. Still others have moved on. I am pretty annoying at times and dead wife sad widower perhaps has lived its life.
The challenge now is to file this random musings within my personal context and shield it from harming others. Park it, feel it, and shut the frack up about it. Perhaps in the darkness before dawn when I am listening to my internal clock ticking off the minutes and breaths till sunrise I’ll hear what I feel and smile "I know the truth". I made my truth. Then up and make coffee.
But in case there is one out there who is looking for some knowledge about grief or loss. I will say this. Embrace it accept it do not shy away from your loss and grief. Let it be part of you let it be your own measure of who you are for the time being until it naturally takes its place in your new world. Do not manage it and don’t let it manage you. Listen to it talk to it dance with it. It will run it’s course.
Create a narrative a story and place in the world where the memories and grief exist. To get grief right. Own it live it be proud that you can find it’s meaning and place in your world your life your context. Grief is not a prison of the heart or poison to the soul. It is a journey to find meaning and a place to reside in a new world. The loss has created a new world for you. Do not feel guilt for surviving a loss.