I was talking with a friend recently. She’s been struggling with herself lately. Our situations were very different, but the result was the same. We both lost our husbands. Every now and then, my friend sends me a text message. It’s usually a cry for help. She doesn’t need soup, or a ride to the store. She’s not looking for someone to go to lunch with. She’s looking for some sense of normalcy; she’s looking for understanding in a life of confusion and frustration; she’s looking for hope.
Our latest chat occurred after she responded curiously to a seemingly normal event. A family birthday party, going to the grocery store, fixing dinner… normal events can send us reeling and spinning out of control like a Mustang on a rainy day.
I’ve been thinking a lot about mourning lately. It’s one of the many things no one tells us about when we find ourselves in the middle of tragedy and chaos. It’s been 2 years, 3 months since I lost my split apart. And while I am certainly no expert, I have learned some things about this strange process.
There are so many things about mourning that, unless one has experienced it, comes as a big surprise. I do not mean the sudden uncontrollable tears at cartoons, music on commercials, or the sight of an escalator. We expect people to be sad. We also expect them to “get over it”, “move on”, “cheer up”. We come up with all kinds of things like, “well, at least he had a good life”, or “at least he’s no longer suffering”, “She’s in a better place…” (quick word of advice – never, under any circumstances say ANY of those things. They are not helpful. At best they’re ignorant, and at worst they’re condescending and selfish. The only person that has the right to say those things is the person in mourning.)
So, I want to share some things that I have learned about mourning, and more particularly, mourning loss of a most important person. Keep in mind that this is from my own personal experience. It is going to be different for everyone. But for those of you who love someone who is suffering, I hope this helps you understand the outbursts, isolation, and sadness you are sensing from your friend. For those of you experiencing the process of mourning yourself, I understand. And I’m sorry I can’t help ease your burden. I hope this relieves a bit of the isolation and craziness you feel when you fear spiraling out of control.
There is no set time. You will mourn as long as it takes. The more regrets, the longer the healing process. Some people take months. Some people take years. It’s different for every person and it’s very personal.
You don’t “get over it”. You may learn to live with the hole in your heart. You will eventually stop crying at puppies, stuck zippers, or keys that won’t fit in doors. And you will eventually have good, dare I say, even GREAT days. We don’t move on. We move through. And with time, we carry the love in front, shielding us from the sadness. That’s when we truly learn to celebrate the lives of our beloveds. That’s when we begin to honor them by not just surviving, but by living.
There will be triggers. The most benign situations can cause us to spill over like a fat lady in tight jeans. We won’t know they’re coming. We won’t understand why a gum wrapper or a guy in a uniform, or driving past McDonald’s will instantly produce tears, panic attacks or anger. And we’ll feel ridiculous for falling apart or feeling overwhelmed over the normal daily tasks, like breathing, and getting up. It’s ok. Just get through today. For today, that’s enough.
But here’s my biggest epiphany; in my case, I wasn’t just mourning the loss of my husband. It was so much more than that.
I mourn the loss of the life we built together.
I mourn the loss of knowing what to expect every day; the routines that gave me comfort.
I mourn the huge changes that were thrust upon me without my consent.
I mourn the changes that I cannot control. Paperwork, inability to focus at work, I swear…tears on call.
I mourn being in mourning. It’s a natural state, but it isn’t MY natural state.
I mourn the loss of myself because these types of life lessons change us from the inside out. I don’t know myself. I don’t recognize the person looking back at me in the mirror. I am surprised by the way this person reacts to situations and daily events that before would have prompted a completely different response. We lose ourselves. We miss ourselves. We mourn ourselves.
We don’t just mourn our beloved. We mourn the loss of ourselves and the life we had together, that died with them.
I have realized something else. The person I was, that I had worked on all my life, is not coming back. Remnants of her remain. I still laugh at my own bad jokes. I still hyper focus on things I’m passionate about. But the changes in me have sent who I was far away.
However, in the midst of all this loss, birth and renewal is revealing itself. While I miss myself, and I’m mourning the loss of who I was with my split apart, I’m beginning to feel the satisfaction of a new person emerging. This new person is familiar but different. She loves like I love, but she’s stronger. She’s fearful and uncertain of the unknown like me, but rather than paralyzing her, her fear is propelling her. She occasionally struggles, and has to be satisfied with just getting through the day, but dissatisfied with just surviving, she’s living some days too. She’s taking on new challenges because doing ok isn’t good enough for her. She’s feisty and sassy and determined. She surprises me everyday with new revelations of who I am to become.
Sometimes she scares me, but I’m proud of her. I’m not certain about this journey that I’m on, or where I’ll be in a week, much less a year from now. But I do know one thing for certain. I ain’t built for backin’ down. I’m going to be ok. And so are you. (((hugs)))