Tuesdays used to be only about writing my WV blog. Now they’re also about my EMDR sessions, so please bear with me as my brain and heart work overtime.
Who knew that guilt could beat so strongly in me? Me, who loved my husband Chuck dearly, me who showed that love to him continually? He knew I loved him and told me frequently how much that made him love me more, that I loved him so much.
And yet...here lies guilt, deeply embedded in me, for not loving him enough, or showing him that love enough, as he lay on his death bed.
I know it isn’t rational. Since the feeling first hit me, I’ve known it isn’t rational, but, well, get the heart involved when in grief, and there you go...
We worked on that guilt in therapy today. Where the fuck did guilt come from, for god’s sake?
When he went into hospice, it was my determination to create a space of love for him that was so huge, it would be bigger than his pain and his grief and all of our grief. Which I did. Which our kids did. Create that space, I mean.
In my head I know I must have spent time with him, but because I can recall so little of our hospice time, my heart questions itself. In part, what fed the questions early on is what was thrown at me after he died. Remarks about how I agitated him, cruel words of how he continually asked my whereabouts if I wasn’t in his room. And because I can recall so little of that time, those words, at that time, hit to the quick, along with anxiety that nobody reassured him otherwise. Including me, I might add, because nobody told me he was agitated and it wasn't apparent to me, or others, when I was in his room.
Guilt because, in the immediate days after he died, horrible things were said about him (in a seemingly innocent way, by an immediate family member) that made me question if I’d even really known him for 24 years, made me wonder if I’d deceived myself about him. I knew everything said to me couldn’t possibly be true, but I was completely vulnerable, in shock at his death, all my barriers down, and I allowed myself to question him and who he’d been to me, which, in turn, horrified me in a completely different way, realizing that I permitted even a moment of doubt about him to enter my mind but I did permit those thoughts and then felt immediately as if I was betraying him by listening to this person’s words.
Knowing it couldn’t be true, but wondering if it could be true created a dissonance in my mind and soul that, in that moment, almost made me catatonic. I remember finding a chair and just sitting in it for an entire day, unable to move while my brain and heart just kind of...seized.
This guilt has followed me in these months and years, keeping close company with the trauma of his hospice time. It has nothing to do with reason, and my kids have reminded me in pictures and videos of the truth of our hospice time. Pictures of he and I throughout our 24 years testify not only to our love story, but our being-in-love story. There isn’t one picture where we aren’t holding hands, touching, kissing; those pictures speak for themselves and they speak for him. I look at them to remind myself of what I always knew to be the truth, what was always the truth, and I have to forgive myself for those singular moments when I allowed the poison in.
Jesus. I know I’m not the only widow/er who carries guilt. We can do everything perfectly and know in our minds we did everything possible in an overwhelmingly impossible time and still find fucking guilt lurking beneath the veneer.
It’s no damn wonder I’ve struggled as I have in this grief. Possibly the biggest miracle of all is that I’m still standing at all.
We are, each and everyone of us widowed folk, a testament. To love, to grit, to strength, to humor in the midst of hell, to whatever it is that keeps us all going, and standing, and creating a life when we may not even want to live, and living the remainder of our lives without the one we love. We are a testament to the love we had with our dead lovers most especially when and if we are lucky enough to have another opportunity to love.
I raise a glass to all of us, for who we were, for who we are becoming, even as we stumble and fall, even as we cry and shake and hate life and yet make life. And I raise a glass to those who were with us in body and who are now with us only in spirit, and I say...thank you. Thank you to these spirits who loved us in life and whom, even now, we love in death.
My husband, with his love and through his love for me, made me the woman I am today. I’ve struggled mightily with the devastation of his death. I struggle still but even as I struggle, I know that Chuck knew me, probably better than I knew myself.
And he knew that, no matter what, I’d somehow get this shit storm figured out. Because that's just who I am.
I'm the woman he loved.