This year I almost forgot and that is a good thing! It is ten years this month since that horrible and tragic day my first husband suddenly left this world in his sleep. I did think of it before and after the 22nd but not on the day itself. It’s the first year this happens and that tells me something. It tells me that finally I may be too busy living life again that my mind and heart may have other priorities.
Ten years ago I would have never imagined it would be so. Ten years ago I felt I had died with him, that my life had ended. Time had stopped and the world had become a cruel and vicious place. I was frozen in unbearable pain, could hardly talk, couldn’t imagine how to keep on living without him. I went through the motions like a zombie. Looked normal on the outside while screaming inside.
I couldn’t eat, felt a constant stabbing pain in my heart with each breath, was shifting from feeling wired and hyper to crashing on my bed from exhaustion. I felt heart broken, abandoned, terribly sad, angry, confused, lost. My identity vanished, didn’t know who I was anymore or who I was supposed to be. Didn’t know how to behave solo in this world, what to look out for, how to protect myself.
Felt like a five year old at times having to learn everything from the very beginning. So much to take in being violently forced and pushed by ugly circumstances. Twenty six years is a lifetime, especially when it starts in early adulthood. You grow up with your partner, share all these different milestones together, cherished moments and challenging memories.
Then came the thought: if he could die so suddenly in his sleep, then so could I. All of a sudden nothing could be taken for granted anymore. I awoke from my long deep sleep of routine and familiarity to a sharp and crystal clear, all encompassing desire to live. I was almost manic, desperate to have the time to do all the things I wanted to do and enjoy.
Grief can feel disturbingly similar to a temporary state of insanity at times. One may go through states of altered consciousness without any drugs. The unbearable pain may dull or sharpen the senses. The energy the mind and soul needs to go through bereavement may render one absent minded, feel like they’ve been hit with a hammer on the head.
We rarely talk about all these things. We casually find out when a friend goes through a similar experience. “ I locked myself three times outside the house after X died you know”. “Oh! My! So did I!” The stories and experiences even though different for each person hit a string in our hearts. We know, we recognize the pain, the symptoms, the weird feelings and sensations, the crazy thoughts, the awkwardness of state of mind.
I used to take to M’s tomb three pink lilies with a bunch of pink roses. Every single time I visited the cemetery and I visited quite often. I don’t even know why I chose the specific choice of flowers and colors. I suppose it became a ritual and rituals give us a sense of stability and certainty, they are soothing and comforting.
After I left the country I asked a friend to do so for me every year on the anniversary of M’s death. This year even though I did think about it beforehand I finally forgot to ask. My mind was elsewhere that day, it was busy living in the present. The present that I created for myself ten years later. Been through hell and back since that awful October day. Created new milestones, built a new relationship, moved across the Atlantic and to another beautiful country. Created a new life.
No, I do not feel bad about the fact I forgot because I know I just forgot one day. Our whole life together is woven in my heart and will always be alive there. Our beloved never get forgotten, they live on forever with us, even though we move on to new chapters in our lives. They may not be part of our present lives anymore but they are part of our soul, our memories, our growth, our learning.
It is ten years now and I am OK. Moments of sadness may come every now and then but they touch me lightly, gently, softly. They are not those horrid tsunami waves of grief in which I used to drown. So much has happened since, so many changes, so much new learning and experiencing. I feel grateful for everything and everyone life has given me and put on my path.
At the end of the day what matters is how much love, joy and laughter we shared in our lives. How brave we’ve been opening our hearts to another. How much work we put in our relationships with others. How generous we’ve been, how compassionate, how kind.
Having said that, a note of caution. Grief does make one vulnerable and fragile, easy prey to human predators. This is why keep that in mind, protect yourself, care for yourself first before you give too generously to another. Set clear boundaries, respect yourself and your needs, be mindful. As a wounded animal in a jungle of predators, one is more at risk during the difficult times of bereavement and not only. Be aware but don’t let it stop you from being and doing the best you can.
Death and loss can be great teachers. Suffering can make you more compassionate and understanding, resilient and strong. Shock can shred illusions and misconceptions, clear out the waters for us to see more clearly into ourselves, our identities, dreams and desires. Death and loss is part of life, don’t let it rob everything from you. Keep, cherish and protect the beauty, the love, the pleasure, the joy. Most of all, share it with others!