A woman who follows my blog, a woman who struggles in her own life, messaged me yesterday to offer support to me in my confusion about this grief and how to do it. She herself is what I’d call a shadow widow; her husband has Alzheimer’s and has been gone from her for 7 years and yet is still physically here. Her words brought clarity to me; she said that she sees my struggle with moving on, moving forward, letting go…all the words that are more and more placed in my way as I begin this 3rd year without Chuck. Placed along with the words that, of course, there is no timeline on grief. Constant contradiction-that is the language of grief in our society.
The words she gave me? It isn’t about moving on, moving forward, it’s about living on and she sees me doing exactly that. Those words released something inside of me and wandered around my thoughts throughout the day. Because you know what? I am living on. I may not be doing it in a way that looks okay to others but I am living on. My life reflects that, 2 years later.
I know it causes its’ own kind of pain in family and friends to see me so devastated and I want to tell all of you that it’s okay. You can’t fix this for me. There are no words anywhere that can fix this. Time won’t fix this. Nothing will fix this except Chuck being in front of me, smiling and taking me in his arms, and that ain’t happening, so I release you from the burden of having to make this better for me.
This grief time has pushed me to contemplate our culture and how it perceives real life. We have, certainly in the last decade, been swamped with a culture of positivity. Be positive at all times, find the good in everything, grow stronger from fill in the blank difficulties. God knows the DSM doesn’t help. It’s medicalized every form of human behavior. Do you know that it actually says that if, 6 months after a loved one’s death, you’re not having more good days than bad that you should seek help? I wasn’t even out of shock at 6 months and I hear the same from many others. Seriously? Wow.
The very act of naming something as positive names the opposite behavior as negative and therein lies my personal raised eyebrow. An example? Grief can make you bitter or it can make you better. Hmmm…how extreme. How about grief can open hearts to a depth of compassion and empathy never before experienced? How about grief can make you see better and more than you’ve ever seen before?
Mostly, we don’t care for darkness. There’s not much good ever said about it, is there? in any situation we’re encouraged to go towards lightness. Sadness, grief…both are associated with darkness and we’re encouraged to head towards light as soon, as quickly, as possible. All while being told, again, that there is no timeline to grief. Grief is not a place to linger. Move along, folks. Choose to be happy. And yes, these are judgements on those who are still grieving, still sad, who aren’t tiptoeing through the fucking tulips on a daily basis, being happy. I don’t believe for a minute that people mean to cast judgement on it, but it’s in the very words used. Because by the very words, they are saying if you aren’t this way, then you’re choosing sad, choosing grief, choosing not to be happy.
Maybe I’m too sensitive to words and I admit it freely. Being in this has made me more aware of words but I read that as a good thing, because words matter. Concepts matter.
I’ve spent 2 years doing, being, allowing, letting, going towards, pulling back…all in the name of moving this grief. And what I’ve finally realized is that I’m not in a negative place. The fact is, I’m not afraid of darkness any more than I am of light. Sometimes the only way to the light is through the darkness, don’t you think? The fact that I’m grieving deeply, missing horribly, isn’t a negative thing. It means I loved deeply. I’m not ever going to be the person I was before Chuck died and yes, I grieve the death of that woman, but, in a very real way, she’s as gone as he is.
Life changes people; we all know that. The death of the man I love changed me. Grief runs deeply but why is that a bad thing? How am I ever not going to have that as my baseline in life? He’s always going to be dead for the rest of my life. My heart is broken and I hurt but that’s kind of okay in this new world. I’m not going to try continually to move on from that any longer. Maybe, what life really is about when grief happens, is letting it be whatever it needs to be. Maybe that’s what acceptance is really about; that sadness is now a part of me and that’s okay. It doesn’t mean that I’m depressed or need to be on drugs. I get that it can make it tough being around me; I’m fairly intense, if not in words than with my energy. So I understand if you can’t deal with that. It’s okay. This doesn’t make me less of a person; possibly it makes me more of a whole person.
Even in the darkness, even in the grief and pain, there is light shining through, and maybe that light is the light of compassion and sweetness. I’m okay here. I’d never, ever, choose this and I don’t like it but this is what happened. I don’t need to re-wire my brain. I don’t need to choose anything. I don’t need to look for happiness or hope for it. It will happen or not as I live on, as it does with most people. I don’t need to seek joy or anything else. I don’t need to seek a Zen state of being. Maybe where I am is the ultimate Zen state, because I’m so very aware of the depth of life and love, having lost so much. What others see as darkness, I see as Love.
I’m still a whole person, made more whole because all of me is completely real. I don’t need to move through this, I don’t need to move on, let go, nothing. I just need to continue doing as I’ve been doing.