Grieving: How We Survived the First Year+.

From sex to sadness. Sorry for making readers relive my rollercoaster. Here's how we got through the first year after our loss:
  • I stayed at my job, even though I was in a bad situation and bored to tears. (They gave me benefits at 30 hours, I could walk to work.)
  • I sent my daughter to day care for the first time, two blocks away, even though there were "issues."
  • We didn’t see people as much as we should have. Little kids need other little kids (dogs like to be with other dogs), and extroverts need company.
  • We went to church every single week. All kinds of strangers expressed all kinds of sympathy and empathy and other things I never heard of.
  • We participated in almost every structured event we were invited to unless it involved preparation (potlucks) or dressing up (art openings) or being out after 7 p.m. or politesse. I guess this means we stayed in a lot.
  • I wanted as much sleep as possible. I tried to get the kid to nap. We spent many, many days lying on the couch watching hand-me-down kids' videos. (I was pretty sure Short Stack would grow up thinking Barney was her Dad.) Nothing makes you feel more used-up than nursing a kid in the late afternoon and then she still doesn't sleep.
  • Trader Joe’s. Every evening I took something out of the freezer, put it in the ‘wave or the Swiss Diamond, and we ate it between tantrums. My cholesterol went through the roof.
  • I ignored finances. I kept it at the back of my mind that I could always sell the house (how “gift of the Magi.”). Gavin had minimal life insurance, but we lived off that, art sales, gifts (MBA classmates) and savings (already depleted during his illness). I knew my job would not support me, but could not imagine having a 40-hr-plus-commute job or taking on any more responsibility.
  • I complained a lot, about everything. This predilection took care of reorganizing my rolodex.
  • I said that anyone whining about George W. Bush was very lucky to not have any real problems. I canceled the paper.
  • I wrote a bunch of thank you notes. I neglected most phone calls. I cursed a lot.
  • I wondered why the hell no one was calling. I checked the mailbox like a freshman, but looking out only for condolence notes and gifts, preferably money.
  • After dark, I worshipped in the church of Buffy (all seven seasons in full).
  • I forgot the words “dentist” and “salon.” I got fatter and still lost weight.
  • I went for massages at least once a month, more when I was on leave.
  • I attended support group as my truest religion. I cried and laughed with new friends.
  • I made wonderful plans and lists, and lost them.
  • I was heavily preoccupied with Gavin’s 91-year-old mother, who could no longer conceal her growing dementia.
  • I believed Gavin would care what I did about some matters but often ended up cursing him.
  • I took care of a few important matters and coasted on everything else.
  • I cherished my child but did the very least in almost every department.
  • I started a blog with a strong sense of mission and humor. I abandoned it with many other "projects."
  • I took one three-month unpaid leave from work and began a second one.
  • We started dinner each night with a moment of silence, holding hands. I've always imagined one is "saying a personal prayer" or trying to feel lucky. Mostly I was cursing inside, or thought of something tiny ("Today I am so, so grateful for my dumb job"). How I would have thanked the holy one, blessed be he, for a shred of true silence during one of these moments.
You can see why that turning point was such welcome relief. I was ambitious, futile, desperate, unproductive, litigious, angry, and blinded. I was weary, a shell. But somehow I knew it wouldn't last forever.

Even a spent sigh somehow turns into a breath.

* * * Comments * * *


J-in-Wales said...

"But somehow I knew it wouldn't last forever."
It is hard to believe sometimes, but you have to hope it is true. Thanks for the reminder.

Roads said...

That's excellently put.

It's hard to explain just how extraordinarily isolating it is to be stuck in for a year or more of evenings at a time, with nothing but Thomas the Tank Engine books and the washing machine for company -- but you've done an excellent job.

Supa Dupa Fresh said...

OMG. Roads, I can't believe I didn't talk about the washing machine, my favorite companion. And how long I delayed potty training. Well, that goes in the revised.

Kimberly Carolan said...

My mom, a young widow, did practically the same stuff. Waiting for calls and notes that never came; waiting for friends to care and no one came; waiting for church people to care and stop bossing her around and she eventually had to stop going. And also had anxiety attacks--maybe that was her added bonus for being a faithful wife (sarcastic tone added for emphasis) :)

All that to say is that you're definitely not alone--thank you for sharing the explicit reality of the widowed.

It's been almost seven years and she still cooks primarily by the 'wave with Amy's Organics TV Dinners and Soups.

Kim Carolan

Charissa, BRICKS for Young Adults said...

reading through that list i could have checked off all of the same things ive done, and continue to do, at 7 months after my husbands death. thank you for your posts!


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