Just when I find myself moving along a little more effortlessly and thinking, “I’ll be damned. I think I’ve got this handled” … it happens. WHAM! Grief jumps out of nowhere and slams me so hard in the chest that I find myself gasping for breath and thinking, “What the fuck just happened there?” (Or, “what the heck just happened there?” Depends on how much you curse, I suppose. I enjoy the “F” word at times. It has more oomph.)
That’s what happened to me this past week. I had a few really good days, in part because my friend Mary (who I met in San Diego at Camp Widow) came to visit. It was so nice to have adult company around who just “gets it.” No explaining required. And it’s not as though we spent our days sitting around crying about the fact that our husbands oh-so-rudely decided to up and die on us. On the contrary. We toured Vancouver and did the ride over Canada that I have been wanting to do for quite some time. We ate out (a lot) and watched a movie and just breathed. I loved it.
The nightmare in Vegas happened while Mary was here (did I mention that Mary is from Vegas?) and instead of losing my shit and thinking about all the terrible things that could happen in the future without Ben here, which I would normally do, I just sat with her while she made sure her loved ones were safe. They were. Thank God.
Eventually our visit came to an end and I took Mary to the airport and then drove myself back home. Alone. And that’s when Grief came back to pay me another unexpected visit.
I find it interesting how I can go from normal to utter panic for absolutely no reason in the blink of an eye. One minute I am fine and the next I am pulled over roadside gasping for breath and scrambling for the jar of Ativan I keep for just those emergencies. In one single instant my life goes from perfectly fine to a full on nightmare I cannot seem to control no matter how hard I try.
When will this end? Will it ever end?
I started scrolling through some of my old writings, and I discovered something I wrote at this time last year. My heart was so freshly broken at the time (I was nine months into my life without Ben) and I was wishing I could have a do over. Just a few moments to change some of the things I did, and some that I didn’t do. Towards the end of that post I wrote last year I read these words:
“I have read (and have now been told in person) that grief is like a pounding, relentless surf, kicking and clawing at your soul and knocking you down for TWO to FIVE years. That’s right, ladies and gentlemen … two to five years. I have barely yet begun. But I am also told that the pain eases and the pounding of the “mourning” waves slows between punches. The knowledge that the pain will ease should bring me some peace but it does not, because I don’t actually want to live in a time when Ben is not foremost in my thoughts. I don’t want him to be forgotten. I am scared that one day I might wake up in the morning and actually not think of him first thing. I’m scared that I might wake up and think of him as a passing thought and a quick smile. I feel like if that happens then he didn’t exist. And what of all those years he put in standing in the pouring rain at soccer? What of all the years he worked to support us? What of all the years he spent cooking for us, taking us on vacation, laughing and loving us? What was it all for if we just continue to live our lives without him foremost in our thoughts?
Anyway, apparently I don’t have to worry about that any time soon because the experts tell me I have anywhere between one year and three months to four years and three months before that happens. So it appears I will continue to randomly burst into tears in my office on occasion, talk about Ben endlessly to anyone I come in contact with for hours on end until no one wants to be around me anymore, and I will continue to reach out for him when I wake up in the morning for awhile longer yet. I’m ok with that.”
Reading that post brought back all the memories of the utter desperation I felt last year, but at the same time it made me realize that I am actually not in that exact spot anymore. I feel I may have clawed my way a few inches forward. The waves of grief still come, but I think there is a bit more time between the big ones now. (If you want to read the entire post I wrote last year, you will find it at: https://wendylynnesaintonge.wordpress.com/2016/10/)
Upon reflection, I am in fact in a better place this year than I was last year. Far from perfect, mind you, but better. Just a bit better. And despite the fact that I didn’t want to get to a place where Ben is not constantly in my thoughts with every single breath I take, it seems I have in fact done just that. Against all odds, I reached that place whether I wanted to or not. It is a fact that I do have some brief moments where I am thinking of something other than my sweet husband, and while that realization makes my eyes water just a bit, I know it is probably a good thing.
This is my (Canadian) Thanksgiving weekend. My family will be over tomorrow and I will be cooking a turkey dinner. Ben will not be at the table and my heart will break a little bit over that realization when we sit down to eat, but it will be slightly less painful than last year. Slightly.