Grief: A Tough Taskmaster

Leo is taking a nap -
so I will write for myself.

 Since Jim died in March nothing is the same and grief teaches me new lessons every day. Some lessons are tougher than others.

About memories: I love memories and in the past I have wandered through that space, relishing the remembering of happy times and  making stories out of them.
Now, I still do wander there - very carefully - but sometimes the memories, no matter how loving and lovely, cut right to the bone.  Its really a strange thing. For the time being I have to be careful where I walk.

About watching out for yourself: Every day is challenging because life is like a black icy road with invisible pot holes. You cannot predict what will bring up a memory - a longing - an aching feeling of loss - that will knock you flat.
Last week I went downtown to a meeting of reps from large women's organizations to market my Capital Fringe show, Pushing Boundaries. It was interesting and I learned a lot. It was also in a building where, 30 years ago, I regularly attended meetings during my days as ERA Campaign Director for the League of Women Voters. I parked in the same parking lot I used most days back then. Days I shared with Jim. I often rode to and from work with him and we talked over our days.

On the way home I was feeling pleased with how things had gone until I realized over again that he was not waiting at home. I could not tell him about the day. And, I drove up Connecticut Avenue weeping. I had not expected this. I had not protected myself by walking through it beforehand - - practicing walking that walk.

Some days, the simplest thing - like rolling the grocery cart into the familiar supermarket produce department where Jim and I shopped together regularly for 40 years  - are dangerous as it - brings on a wave of loss and wishing.

Going out into the world is tiring and dangerous. I bump into someone and they ask, "how's Jim?" because they do not know he has died. So I tell them and I hold onto my own feelings as I watch their eyes fill with tears. They are hearing this news for the first time.

Yesterday in a doctor's office I ran into a woman I once worked with. "Didn't your husband die?"

She asked it kindly, making the connection with reading Jim's obituary in the Washington Post. "Yes". After a moment, "How are you making out?"

"I have been better." is my usual answer.

Someone told me. "You are amazing. You are doing so well!"

Ah, good, my act is working.

I have learned one important thing - you have to tell your story to someone to start the healing.
Since March I have talked it out to a hospice bereavement councilor - over the phone - never seeing her face - being comforted by her mellow understanding voice.

This week I visited a therapist. We sat face to face in her comfortable office. I looked into her understanding eyes and began to tell my story.

I left feeling relieved.  And, grateful for her listening.

It clicked.
This is what Jim for his patients. I always knew it.
Now I Got it.


Kate Dudding said...

Dear Ellouise,

Thank you for sharing bits of your extremely painful journey.

When my father died, his priest told my mother, "Nothing will ever be the same." I found this sort of comforting. For example, when I mentallyl speculated about an upcoming holiday, I repeated to myself, "It wont' be the same."

I guess knowing that there was going to be a new normal for everything helped me move forward.

I don't know if this is making any sense to you. I'm not sure the grief is a "sensible" topic...

Hugs and more hugs.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ellouise, I am so sorry to hear of the passing of your beloved, Jim last March. Jim looks very handsome and introspective in the photo you posted of him. It takes shear guts to reveal a person's most intimate, personal thoughts and feelings on a public blog. Saw your video on storytelling. You had a Sister Joe. I had Sister Mary Vincent in St. Christopher's Catholic School in Clifornia. She ran a strict, tight ship, an excellent educator.I was, and still am, a library bookworm roaming in the library shelves since I was 7 years old. I have been married to John for 25 years now and sure don't look forward to the future days of widowhood. Thanks so much for your wise, thoughtful introspections to share with us babyboomer women out there in blogosphere. I'm following you on Blogger, so look forward to more of your inspirational life stories.
Kindest regards,
Tucson, Arizona