Things happen in life. For me, my biggest trauma and grief, of course, was the death of Don Shepherd on July 13th, 2011. It was sudden. Instant. Jolted awake by my new reality, literally. A phone call and a cab ride to our local ER that would alter life as I knew it forever. “We did everything we could – cardiac arrest – he didn’t make it.” There were no goodbyes. No good mornings that day. No last “I love you” or last anything. No time to breathe into it, get used to it, wrap my heart around it. All of that came in the aftermath of his death, and it took me a few YEARS to really feel the ground underneath me again in a way that wasn’t like an eternal earthquake. Even now, some of that trauma remains. It will always be there. The sound of ambulances make my heart stop/skip. Having to sit in any ER waiting room sends me into a place of panic. A ringing phone in the middle of the night or very early in the morning. Having someone tell me they will call or text me “when they get there” so I know they arrived safely, and then they don’t. Twelve years ago, my husband left for work and never came home again. He left for work, and less than an hour later, he was collapsed on the floor. Shortly after that, he was dead. I was still fast asleep in our bed at home, and he was already dead.
Even after all this time, it’s hard to explain to people what that reality does to me inside. Knowing he was dead, that he died, while I slept. And I know all of the things that I now tell others as a grief counselor – it wasnt my fault, I could not have saved him, it may have been worse to witness his death, it probably happened quickly and he probably was not in pain – all of these things I have been told repeatedly and in my heart, I know to be probably true. And yet –
The sudden nature of death happening in that way is so very cruel. The way it lies inside the widow who is left behind, the way it tortures and plays with our mind, the way it leaves us with anxiety, panic attacks, massive fear that everyone we love will suddenly leave, chronic fear, and an overwhelming feeling of the floor dropping out from beneath us – it’s very cruel.
So today, at more than twelve years into that horrific day that changed it all forever, I sit here on what is also New Years Eve and what is also my 3-year wedding anniversary to Nick – and what Im feeling is very different than when loss and grief and death are sudden.
What Im feeling today is a slow-burn. A simmering of things to come, and things already in motion. Im feeling my life unraveling again, but this time, it is happening at turtle speed. In some ways, this is torturous; but in many other ways, and as a widow of sudden death, I am thankful for it. To have time to let this all simmer in my brain, to try and make sense of it, to not only sit with it but to let it sink in -these are things for which I am not used to, and things that I welcome; in the most strangest of ways.
I should be happy on my wedding anniversary. But life is filled with the unexpected, and so Im not.
More on that later. Happy New Year everyone.