Discoveries Helping Me Move Through Grief
Robert died three months ago today. Although this post has nothing directly to do with sex, so many of you have sent me compassionate emails that I’d like to share what I wrote to my online grief support group today:
I’ve been working hard at finding ways to create some semblance of balance and — dare I say it? — moments of joy in my life amidst the powerful grief that comes in waves and knocks me to the ground. I’d like to share some things that have worked for me, just in case any of them might be useful to some of you. Feel free to add to the list if you have something to share that has worked for you.
Problem: Out of control crying had reduced me to a crazy, quivering mess and sometimes lasted days without a break, intensified by not being able to sleep for more than 2 hours at a time. I felt physically and mentally ill from the ravages of grief.
Solution: Doctor prescribed an antidepressant (for “situational depression” for six months), a sleeping pill, and a counselor. The combination has brought me indescribable relief. I still grieve and sometimes feel like I’m pedaling through peanut butter, but at least the elephant has stopped kicking me in the chest and stomach.
Problem: I knew journaling would help, but my writing fingers felt paralyzed for the first two months — did I write memories of Robert and talk to him in my journal, or did I write about ways I was trying to move on? The two seemed to cancel each other out.
Solution: I started TWO journals. In one, I write to Robert and remember the special things he/we did and said. In the other, I write about my steps towards creating a new life: making new friends, insights from counselor and friends, little things that make me happy, if only for a minute. This has worked splendidly — I write in one journal, then switch to the other.
Problem: Morning ritual was so special. After wonderful snuggling, Robert would say, “I’m going to make you coffee.” He would get up, bring me the morning newspaper and coffee in bed. I would share something from the paper that might interest him, and sometimes he would just sit and watch me lovingly as I read, or he would go out to tend his garden. He painted a special bell (he was an artist ) for me to ring when I wanted a coffee refill. It was a glorious and loving start to the day, and without him, mornings felt so empty.
Solution: Replace missing ritual with new one. I cancelled the newspaper subscription (don’t even miss it). Now I get out of bed, make my coffee the way he used to, but I bring it to my favorite chair that looks out on the yard and I write in my journal while I sip.
Problem: My world was Robert. I did much independently, don’t get me wrong, but he was the one with whom I walked , danced, went out to dinner and films, talked about everything.
Solution: I reached out to old friends and made new ones. I thought about people whom I liked and would like to know better. Several had extended invitations to me, but I wasn’t ready. I contacted them and made walking dates and coffee or dinner dates. Now I have people I can do things with, and they understand when I get tearful.
I’m so sorry for your loss. This sounds really hard. This post is an inspiration to embrace grief and love and life, all at the same time. I’m crying as I write this. Love, Jennifer
Joan, it’s so like you to be willing to share your hard-earned wisdom with others. This post is a valuable learners’ guide to grief management. What an ingenious idea to write two journals–in essence, to separate your two impulses: holding on to Robert and, of necessity, moving on with your new life.
All of us face loss and grief during our lives. I’m saving your survival ideas in my memory bank as an insurance policy for the future!
Wishing you continued healing and happiness,
I was thinking of you recently. I think grieving takes it’s own time. Continued good thoughts and blessings.
Thank you, readers. I’ve received an outpouring of appreciation for this post via email, people who did not want to make a public comment, but wanted me to know how they felt. Here are excerpts from some of their emails:
* That’s a great blog, Joan. You, when you’re ready, could write a piece for a magazine about dealing with grief and really, really help a lot of people.
* I appreciated what you wrote about your grieving process. Grief is part of life. I think that the more one understands and handles loss, the better one can live. Your topics of sexuality and aging are part of life, too — not always the ones that people like to talk about. I think that grief fits in there perfectly.
* The entry on replacing one ritual with another (morning coffee) was especially poignant for me.
* Joan, this was a wonderful piece to read. I love that you acknowledge that this process is still happening and that you’re changing through, despite, or because of it.
I definitely agree with you, that when it comes that sort of grief, establishing new patterns and reaching out to people to help you fill those gaps do so much to change things for you. You cannot escape the sadness or the difficulties but sometimes a distraction is just what is needed to help you pass the time between.
This is a beautiful post and I celebrate your strength and courage. As a widow of five years I clearly remember the early days. I wish you the best on your journey. elaine
Joan, documenting your journey through grief is so valuable, and such an integral part of love, loss and even sexuality. Anyone who takes the breathtaking risk of loving is, at the same time, embracing loss. That’s what makes it so precious, and so terrifying at the same time. Your emotional strength and resilience are wonderful, and I rejoice in your creative working through this difficult passage. Robert is always with you, you’ll never be the person you were before you met him, because his love changed you utterly. So, you cannot lose his love, it’s in your sinews and synapses. Whenever you’re feeling your loss, remember to allow him to wrap his love around you. He’s the one with the angel’s wings now. I love you, and am proud to call you my friend.
Joan, thank you for inviting me in. As always, you found the words, that balance between heartrending honesty and warm rays of healing.