This fog called grief

For those of you interested in getting a better understanding of the depths of grief, I will do my best to describe the state of my mind over the last few weeks.  I’d also encourage everyone to read A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis.  I’ll warn that it isn’t light reading, and within it he plumbs not only the depths of grief, but the depths of his own faith.  C.S. Lewis writes the following in this book:

I thought I could describe a state; make a map of sorrow.  Sorrow, however, turns out to be not a state but a process.  It needs not a map but a history…There is something new to be chronicled every day.  Grief is like a long valley, a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape.  As I’ve already noted, not every bend does.  Sometimes the surprise is the opposite one; you are presented with exactly the same sort of country you thought you had left behind miles ago.  That is when you wonder whether the valley isn’t a circular trench.

If I’m honest, I had MANY misconceptions about grief.  I may still have some.  To me it feels as much like I got off one terrifying roller coaster called Cancer just to be forced onto another unexpected and very different one called Grief.

I have missed Francis more deeply today than I have for a couple days.  There’s no rhyme or reason as to why I feel that way, I just do.  I also have no idea what I will feel when I wake up tomorrow morning.  Will it be another day like today or will it be like the last two?  This pain of loss isn’t a straight line, it’s more like a zigzag across the page of my days and weeks.

I also had anticipated that, coming from a family of criers, I would cry a lot daily.  I expected that I would be an emotional basket-case who wouldn’t be able to get out of bed every morning for a number of days, weeks, or (Heaven forbid) months.

What I wasn’t expecting has been just the opposite.  Getting out of bed isn’t a problem most days.  I just seem to move slower than usual, and have to work hard to motivate myself to throw back the covers and move.

It’s what I can only assume C.S. Lewis refers to as the “laziness of grief.”  He even went so far as to say, “I loathe the slightest effort.”  There are some mornings, though, that I do loathe getting out of bed.  I do so because alone with my grief in bed is terribly depressing, and seeing Couper’s and Riley’s little faces makes me feel closer to Francis than I do alone in bed.

This morning also was the first time I’ve cried since the funeral service.  It’s as if I had cried out all the tears I had in me on that morning two weeks ago.  I was all dried up.  Even today didn’t seem to be as much crying as I would have expected after the drought.  It was no more than I’d cry during the Publix Mother’s Day commercial.

My experience of grief has been typical from the literature I’ve read.  I probably should have read about it before I was in the midst of it if I was hoping to be better prepared.

C.S. Lewis explains his experience with grief this way, “At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed.  There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me.  I find it hard to take in what anyone says.  Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in.  It is so uninteresting.”

I can identify with his sentiment completely.  It’s as if the energy I must exert to stay alert enough to carry on normal everyday conversation is so taxing to my body that the easier thing to do is to allow the veil of fog to descend and just nod and smile.  For the first time in my life, I feel as if I have difficulty processing simple conversation.

I find that I actually have to stop someone saying something important and ask them to start over so that I can really focus.  My mom is probably tired of telling me things twice before I actually comprehend her question about things like Couper’s or Riley’s lunch or nap.  It seems so easy a thing to answer, but it feels so difficult for my grief-stricken brain to process.

Everyone says, “Take it easy.  Relax.  Give yourself a break.”  This is great advice.  It’s also frustrating because it is such difficult advice to follow.

For the last 14 months, I was what Francis referred to as the CEO of the family.  I knew or learned the answers to all of the questions about the kids, our routine, Francis, his medical needs, etc.  I made sure we didn’t miss any instructions, medications, or appointments.  I was a cheerleader, instructor, nurse, and advocate in addition to being a wife and mother.

I was a professional woman who found great joy in my job before we moved to Tallahassee.  I then transitioned to being a stay-at-home-mom to Couper first and then caregiver to Francis before welcoming Riley to our family.  It wasn’t my first choice, but it was what was right for our family and me at the time.

I miss working.  It is no secret, and Francis and I discussed it with each other a lot.  If things had been different, I would have gone back to work well before I was pregnant with Riley and Francis was diagnosed with cancer.

Because it wasn’t the right decision for our family, I didn’t go back to work.  Instead, I poured my skills into caring for our children and Francis, and managing all things Gibbs.  I turned that role into my job for more than a year.  Now it’s as if I’ve been let go from that job.

I feel like I shouldn’t be so foggy.  I kept things together at work and at home.  I feel like I should be able to pull it together now and function like I would normally, grief notwithstanding.  I get frustrated and irritated with myself that I can’t do so.

But like C.S. Lewis, I’m feeling mildly drunk or concussed on a regular basis and there’s nothing I can do to change that.  And, just when I think I’m through that particular part of the journey, I walk right back into the fog.

I’m sure that the deep loss I feel today is not the last time I will feel this way.  I know I will feel the fog of grief for many more days, weeks, months, and possibly years.  It’s yet another stop on this roller coaster ride of grief.  It may be different than I expected, but it’s all part of the ride.

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14 responses

  1. This posting leaves me speechless! I just want to hug you and say I understand although I haven’t experienced this and certainly could not put it in writing as you have.Francis was a fortunate man to have you as his spouse and mother to his children. Love and hugs,Nancy

  2. Kathy Grant Murrell | Reply

    What a fine job you did, pouring your skills and attention to detail into caring for Francis and your beautiful family. I can say with some assurance that any R.N. would be proud of the job you did. Unfortunately it does not clear the fog. The fog will clear though. XOXO, your Aunt Kathy

  3. Leanne, it’s been almost 10 months since your Uncle Ron died. I can identify where you are and where you are going with your grief. It has been the hardest thing I have ever had to experience in my 50 years of marriage to Uncle Ron. I miss him evreyday. To you, I love you and pray for you. Hope to see you this summer. Love Aunt Bev

  4. Heather Strawn | Reply

    LeAnne, I’m so sorry I haven’t written yet. I was selfish and too sad for myself and unclear of what words to say. But I have to say how in awe of you I am. Just simply in awe. Your strength and courage are nothing short of profound. Your gift of words is healing us all along the way. They are so eloquent yet candid, honest and raw. Thank you for sharing with us and know how special you are.

  5. I can’t remember how I found your blog this evening. I have been so lost in reading about your tremendously painful journey that it seems like just a moment and an entire evening flew by simultaneously. Cancer has touched my life many times over the past several years, almost taking my fiancé, ripping my mom from my life, and almost defeating me as well. I don’t think I could have gone through what you have survived with my sanity intact. You are incredible, and I will remember you, your family and Francis’ story for the rest of my life.

  6. Dolores Strickland | Reply

    I am crying for you LeAnn. It feels unfair that such a person as yourself is having to experience this in your young life with your babies to care for. You’ve expressed what you are going through so well that all who read this live through some small part of it. I wish I could be there to hold you and give you comfort.

  7. Tears and hugs!

  8. Kathleen Maurer | Reply

    You are a very strong woman! Writing down what you feel is a good thing! I am a painter, so when I feel the worst, I paint! It helps both my mind and keeps my hands busy! Knowing that so many of us out here remain thinking of you and your family I hope will also be a comfort getting you through this, the worst journey. p.s. I’m a crier too and it feels great doesn’t it!

  9. I have said it many times before. You are simply amazing. With everything that you are going through, you have this perspective (for lack of a better word), about your experience with Francis being ill all those months and his death. Just remember, that everyone deals with it their own way and so will you. Handle whatever you feel you can and let GOD handle the rest. I think about him alot as i do all my family members that i have lost. Your family is always on my mind and in my prayers and that will never change.

  10. My prayers continue for your daily needs. I love you.

  11. DEAR LEANNE,
    THERE IS A HOUSE ON A STREET NEXT TO LAKE ELLA – “LEE’S HOUSE”. IT IS WHERE PEOPLE WHO SUFFER GRIEF MEET. MAYBE AFTER A WHILE YOU WILL BE AT THE POINT TO CONSIDER THIS…

    I AM ONLY MENTIONING THIS BECAUSE I FEEL THE NEED TO HELP, BUT I CANNOT, EXCEPT TO KEEP YOU IN MY THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS.

  12. Thank you for your honesty and transparency. Praying for you as you ride this horrible ride. xo

  13. Sheila Skinner | Reply

    Although you do not always feel it, you have great strength. Your ability to express your grief, your willingness to face it, ride it no matter what surprises it has in store for you shows great resolve. You are blessed with wonderful family support-so glad to see that you are allowing them to help you thru. Praying for you and your children.

  14. Kristy Simpson | Reply

    Thinking of you this evening, LeAnne, and praying for comfort for you and the kids!

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