The thing about grief, and perhaps its blessing — if there ever was one — is how predictably unpredictable grief can be. The waves can happen at the most inopportune times, under the weirdest circumstances, (terrified on the operating table as I went in for emergency surgery) and in the strangest places (in the restroom at the bank.)
A lot has happened since the last time I posted. (Sorry, I’m sure I was missed, but life happens, right?) Following my last post, I was actively interviewing for communications roles at several companies, and took a position managing communications at a private high school.
The irony of finding and being offered this position is that it’s always been my personal mission in life to do things and act in ways that help me become a better version of myself. Mark knew this too, and sometimes I feel like I was meant to find this role and Mark helped me do so. Not only do I continue to evolve as a person, doing what I love, but I get to help others evolve into their best selves too. The irony, right…dare I say life is good?
I draw the line at saying that…because the guilt I feel because I’m still here is very real. I know moving forward and living my life is what I am supposed to do, but there are times I can’t help but feel I’m dishonoring my husband because I feel happiness. All normal. I know that, too.
Because I’m starting to feel happiness doesn’t mean I don’t have grief waves, though — I do. But now when I have them, they tend to be longer, deeper, and involve more introspection. You’d think they would be less intense over time, but it’s the opposite. When I think about the good that is happening in my life, I can’t share it with the one person I want to share it with, and that saddens me.
And that’s the “real” grief, in my opinion…all those experiences and moments you’re robbed of having. You’re not going to feel it in that first few days, weeks, or even months. For me, it’s not physically losing Mark, because that part of my mind adjusted to his loss pretty quickly, probably because his mind failed him long before he passed, and in many ways, I felt he was already gone. For me, the deep grief hit later and continues to stalk me, in each moment I want to share with him, and in the moments I need him — both good times and bad.
Not long after I landed my position, I got ill…really ill. In early October (another reason I’ve been “grief MIA”) my oldest son and I took the cruise to the Bahamas that Mark and I were supposed to take for what would have been his 45th birthday. I had been having some cramping, which was irritating and interfered with walking more than 3 miles a day (you walk a lot on cruises.) Despite not sleeping well, and receiving a multi-thousand dollar casino surprise win on Mark’s birthday (no joke!) I wasn’t myself. When we got home, it escalated very quickly and needed an ambulance ride to the ER.
I hate the ER…and hospitals in general. After spending weeks-long visits with Mark in ERs, Cardiac Floors, Care Floors, Rehab Centers, I have grown to fucking hate hospitals and it’s the last place on Earth I want to be. And before you say “Everyone hates hospitals,” just know, not everyone does. I know a few people who would move in if they could. Whatever. I was diagnosed with a severely inflamed Appendix and Tubo-Ovarian Abscess that had been infected for some time. After being rushed to another hospital, I needed an emergency Appendectomy and possible Hysterectomy, and after being told it was a risky surgery, I lost my mind on the way into the OR.
When Mark passed, I remember saying I didn’t care what happened to me. And I didn’t. I wasn’t suicidal, but, when you’re grieving, your mind is empty. You’re not processing anything the way you should be. I was so distraught that I had NO control over Mark’s death (no matter what I did to take the best care of him I could) that I finally had to admit to myself I don’t have control over anything. Relinquishing control has never been easy for me, and realizing I only have perceived control over anything has actually been a crucial life lesson.
It took being on that table at midnight worrying if my kids might become motherless for reality to finally hit me. I still wanted to live. I recall telling the kindest nurse ever (a man, by the way) that my husband had died just three months before and I used to say I didn’t care what happened to me, but now I do. I remember him rubbing my cheek sweetly before the sedative kicked in and telling me I’d wake up soon because I was in good hands.
The next morning I woke up in a private room. The nurse wasn’t there, but he came by my room that evening to tell me “I told ya so!” I also learned how lucky I was for them to have operated when they did. Had my appendix ruptured, because it was so close to my infected tube and ovary, it all would have done some sort of collective inner BOOM and likely would have resulted in Septic Shock, the same thing that killed Mark. Irony, right?
Because my reproductive system was feeling murderous, I was hospitalized for a week and out of work for three. I wasn’t about to let it try to kill me again, so I’ve made a lot of changes to improve my health. I’ve still got 60 pounds to lose and need to have a partial hysterectomy as soon as I can. That way, my womanly parts can’t exercise their rage again.
It was an eye-opening experience. In the days after my surgery, I realized my worth again and the very delicate nature of my life. My husband would not want me to “just exist,” which is what I was doing for the first several months after he died. In fact, he told me he wanted me to live hard and to love even harder: myself, my family, and one day another man. We had many blessings together before he died, including him having the mental capacity to tell me he wanted me to move forward after he was gone.
It’s still hard telling people I’ve been widowed. I still receive shocked glances and “but you’re so young!” responses. For some reason, young widowhood is an interesting phenomenon, which is odd because so many young people are dying from debilitating diseases. I’ve also started very casually dating again, and am learning to appreciate the crazy things and learning opportunities that come with it. I’ve been cat-fished, stood-up and lied to. Gotta laugh, right?
This time around in the romance department, I better understand the lack of control I have over the outcomes. They are either going to like me or they aren’t. They can either accept I’m a widow, or they can’t. I refuse to invest my time in men who cannot recognize my worth and that Mark’s death does not define me. I am a caring, attractive and independent gal with boatloads of awesome to offer. After the hell I’ve been through though, I plan to enjoy my dates and learn all the lessons I’m supposed to.
Life is unpredictable — as is every moment in it. Every choice we make has an outcome. So let it happen. Experience the pain. Dance in your kitchen. Take the help. Get angry. Walk in the rain. Smoke the joint (it’s legal in MA!) Learn lessons. Fall in love. Choose kindness. Forgive often. Sleep on the beach. Lose the weight. Laugh until your stomach hurts. Take the leap. Be brave. Enjoy the sex. Sing loudly. Appreciate new perspectives. Travel the world. Read that novel. Better yet, write your own novel. Don’t look back. Kiss your crush. Eat the ice cream. Believe in and challenge yourself. Climb the mountain. Take risks.
Just do it all… because we’re always a heartbeat away from having no heartbeat at all.