I got some news last night that I did not want to hear. A phone call from someone in my family, letting me know they were diagnosed with something. Honestly, I don’t mean to be so vague and mysterious, but I feel the need to write about this because that is how I cope, and because I cant really think about much else right now except THIS. At the same time, this person is private about these things, at least for right now, and doesnt want this diagnosis spread all over the internet and Facebook, which is where this will end up if people share it. So, I need to be discreet for now, until this person who I love dearly gives me the okay to say more publicly. Besides, this post isnt so much about this person’s specific diagnosis, as it is about my reaction to it, and all the many grief triggers it provided to me, free of charge! With just one phone call, my mind is reeling and my anxiety is through the roof. And then, in the very next breath, I feel so selfish for making this about ME. But why is death so complicated and isolating? Losing my husband has changed the way I react to everything …
The very first thing that my loved one said to me on the phone late last night, was: “I have some not great news that you’re not going to like, but what you need to know first is that I’m going to be okay.” This person knows that a phone call is what changed my life forever, and knows that any out of the blue phone calls late at night or early in the morning, scare the crap out of me. And so for them to word it in this way, was extremely important, and so appreciated. It allowed me to really hear what they were saying in the rest of the phone call. At the same time, as this person described to me the diagnosis details and that they “caught it early” and that after some treatment, they would be okay and blah blah blah, my chaotic mind started spinning and spinning …..
But what if youre not okay? What if youre NOT okay? What am I going to do? What is our family going to do? Why cant I breathe correctly right now? Where is my husband? Why isnt he holding my hand while you tell me this? Why isnt he on the phone too, taking in this information with me? What if you die? Or what if you DO turn out to be okay, but someone else dies instead, totally out of the blue like with Don? What if I make myself believe that you’ll be okay, only to be thrown into devastation and turmoil and chaos by something else that is even more terrifying and scary? How can I even help? My life has been tossed into a manhole for me to find again bit by bit, and Im a mess. What if I cant help enough or be supportive enough because Im not strong enough or sane enough to handle this on top of what Ive already handled? What if you get sick? What if I get sick and I still dont have any health insurance, and Im still living paycheck to paycheck at age 44? My life feels like a game of JENGA. If one piece fall out, the entire thing crumbles into nothing, and everything I have worked so hard to recover, is once again, gone. WHAT IF THINGS JUST ARENT EVER OKAY???
And so as this person I loved wrapped up our phone call, making sure to tell me again that they will be okay, I did my best to fake my way through being resilient and strong for them, and being supportive. But the second the phone call ended, my body convulsed into a fit of sobs. Selfish, shameful sobs. Again, the chorus of “Where are you, Don?” came shouting at me, and I just got so damn angry. My husband is supposed to be here for this. He is supposed to be here, right now, today, and for all things like this in the future. We are supposed to get through this together. He is supposed to talk me down and hold me close, and help me figure out what comes next. He is the logical one, and Im the one who panics. Now Im stuck with me and my panic, and I really dont like it. I dont like being scared all the time, but I dont know how to not be scared. Calming myself down is not the same as having my husband here to do that for me. And getting off the phone with someone you love who gives you news you need to take in – feels extremely lonely and isolating when you are sitting by yourself sobbing, because your husband is gone and you can’t be in his arms.
I hate being the person who whines over and over: “Life isnt fair!”, but really, it’s just so unfair. Why cant illness and death and tragic things spread themselves around? Why does someone who loses both of their parents at a young age, like my friend Sarah did, also have to then lose their fiance to death at a young age? Why do some people get to live their lives with very little trauma or grief, while others get it piled onto them over and over? I wish that because my husband died at age 46, just 4 years into our marriage, robbing us of our dreams and future and family together, that I was now exempt from all other forms of trauma and loss, at least for a little while. It’s only fair, right? I heard about this family who had this seemingly ageless gene, where generations of them lived to be over 100 years old, with little health problems or issues. Well, that is lovely and wonderful, but why do THEY get all the luck? Why do THEY get to live long lives of health, while others die for no reason halfway through their lives? Cant we spread around the LIFE a little bit? Cant each family get just a little bit of illness and/or death, so that nobody is smacked in the face with it all the time? And yes, I realize that I sound insane, but these are the anchor-less thoughts that go through my head, when I am left to my own device, in a room by myself.
I just feel like I CANNOT lose anyone else, and I feel like, as the surviving spouse of sudden death, I am constantly waiting for that other shoe to drop. Waiting for that next phone call. Waiting for tragedy to come, just fourteen seconds after I dare to be happy. I know, I know. This is no way to live. This is no way to be. But I dont know how to stop it. My mind and heart jump on this freight train of fear, and sometimes I literally don’t know how to get off.
Let’s just make a rule. Nobody else can die. Ever. Okay? Can we all just agree to that?
Because if not, I feel like its going to take me three lifetimes to really figure out, HOW to keep coping with loss.
If anyone has it figured out, and it’s NOT some cliche’ thing that I already know like: “You gotta just live everyday like it’s your last!” or “Tell everyone you love them, because none of us are promised tomorrow!”, please give me a heads up. Im begging you. I love this whole “life” thing and all, but sometimes I just don’t have the stomach for it.
Thanks for reading my drivel.