I’ve recently taken a hiatus from writing here. It wasn’t intentional, and there were many times that I wished I had the inspiration to write when I didn’t.
I imagine that this second phase of grieving (post-numbness) is to blame for much of the reason I haven’t written.
During this hiatus, I’ve come to learn another truth about grieving – grief isn’t linear. In the two and a half months since Francis passed away, I honestly can say that I have experienced each of the five stages of grief.
But, experiencing each of them does not mean my grief journey is even close to being complete. I have jumped from stage to stage, circled back, tried a few over, then moved on, only to find myself right back where I started.
Just a week ago I was sitting on the couch, after the children had gone to bed for the night, wondering if my life was what it seemed. Was Francis really gone? Has this new normal truly become my normal? Was I really back to denial again?
My thoughts tumbled around in my head until I found myself grappling with the concept of loss. I have told many, many people, “I recently lost my husband.” Lost? Really?
I began to get angry. I didn’t lose my husband. I haven’t misplaced him. He’s not missing. He isn’t coming home. My children won’t really know their father.
My husband died. He is dead.
This looks so stark (it sounds that way too), and remains painful. Perhaps I wasn’t able to say those words – died and dead – shortly after Francis passed away because it was just too painful on top of all the other things I was feeling at the time. But now, I need to begin to deal with that painful reality even when I can’t say it out loud.
I need to recognize that sometimes it will be hard for me to face exactly what happened in this grief process, and I’ll need to resort to the safe territory of “loss.” I can candy coat my existence just the same way I can candy coat the language. That’s ok, but I can’t allow myself to get too comfortable there.
By continuing to think of this as a loss, I feel as though I’m minimizing the situation and failing to realize the permanence of death and the void that has been left in my life because Francis is now gone.
Only if I willingly admit my painful reality will I be able to face it and move forward on my own without being crippled by the pain of Francis’s illness and death. After all, I have no choice but to take up the responsibilities of leading my family forward from this horrible valley.
My children and I will be better off if I am willing to face those things that are painful and work through them. It is hard work, and I’m not saying that everyone is ready to chuck the word “loss” from their grief process, but it’s the work that I have to do right now. Work I must face as willingly as possible in the days, weeks, and months ahead.
I know we’ll be alright. I’ve learned a lot about myself over the last 16 months, and I am confident that I can and will fight for what is most important in my world. This helps me know that I will emerge from this year and this intense pain.
I may emerge with many a battle scar, but one day I will look at those scars as beautiful reminders of the love that filled my life. Love that dreamed and hoped for the future. Love that created two amazing little children. A legacy of love that will live on in me and our children.
I had every intention to write weekly. I promise I won’t stop writing, but I may take a break here or there while I wait for something to inspire me or for my thoughts to come together into a coherent post.
Again, I thank you for continuing to read these posts and for your continued support and prayers.
Sometimes you get a glimpse of a semicolon coming, a few lines farther on, and it is like climbing a steep path through the woods and seeing a wooden bench just at a bend in the road ahead, a place where you can expect to sit for a moment, catching your breath. ~Lewis Thomas, physician, educator. Dictionary.com Columbia World of Quotations. Columbia University Press, 1996.
I hate semicolons. Don’t know how to properly use them. You won’t see many, if any, here in this blog.
I feel as though I’ve just experienced a semicolon in my life. I hate them there too.
We started this blog as a way to be frank and honest about what has been going on in our lives after Francis’s cancer diagnosis. I didn’t realize just how fitting the name of this blog would be to my life.
I have said good-bye to and buried my best friend and love of my life. I now begin to figure out where to go after this hated punctuation mark.
If I’m honest, I’m struggling to catch my breath and see the start of the path ahead.
The chaplain from Big Bend Hospice came for a visit a few weeks ago. Francis was able to join us briefly before heading to bed and leaving us to chat further. The chaplain asked me what inspired my honesty. I told him that I have nothing pretty in my life behind which to hide. I also told him I was worried about losing that honesty in the midst of my grief.
This blog has been a way for me to share what’s happening to us. It’s also been an avenue for me to steal a few moments and process my own thoughts. I hope to be inspired to continue to do this. I also hope that through the blog I can hold on desperately to the honesty that was helpful to me and to others.
I’ve spoken to people who have been grateful for the words I’ve written, and I’d love to be able to continue to be a help to those who read this. As I grapple with processing my own loss, I plan to use the blog to write about what my life “post-semicolon” is like. It will be my own, and without a doubt unique in the path along which it takes me.
To kick it off, I can only reflect briefly on what the first week of grief has been like.
Once Francis passed away and in the days that followed, the house was a flurry of activity. The drugs, medical equipment, and removal of his body all had to be addressed.
I had gone to the funeral home a few weeks earlier to make preliminary arrangements, so those decisions were already completed. There were still hundreds of decisions, if not thousands of decisions, to be made.
There were emails, phone calls, texts, Facebook posts, and visitors that had to be faced. There was a trip to Jacksonville and a service and celebration that had to be planned.
In all of this activity, I didn’t have time to face the fact that Francis was really gone. I went to bed exhausted and my mind was racing the moment I awoke with all the items I needed to check off my to do list for the day. The next day was just a repeat of the previous.
Then, the day of the funeral arrived and I couldn’t get motivated to get out of bed. I felt like throwing up all the way to the cemetery, and felt crushed by my grief at the service with Francis’s coffin sitting before me – a painful reminder that our lives had gone so terribly off track. I was exhausted by the time the public celebration of Francis’s life was set to begin that afternoon.
Somehow, I was buoyed by the hugs and well-wishes at the celebration of Francis’s life. That continued into the evening, spent with family and friends.
Since that time, I’ve struggled to really understand this new stage of grieving for a lost spouse. I move from a sense of denial that Francis is gone to an intense awareness of my aloneness. I often feel that I should be a crying, broken mess because that’s how I have pictured grief.
Perhaps though, my perception of grieving is a bit off. More often I feel as if I’m just lost. I wander through my day without a real clear direction or motivation to do much of anything.
I’m sure the tears will come, perhaps often. I’m sure there will be tear-free days as well. There will also be days filled with laughter with Couper an Riley. All of these things are okay. I just need to understand that the grief I feel today is all part of the process.
After all, the rest of the path follows this semicolon, and I don’t know what the rest of the journey holds.