Last week I shared about feeling like some new layers of my grief are beginning to thaw as we shifted the calendar into what is my 5th year on this journey. I was pretty teary the week before, but it wasn’t until this past week that the breakdown came. Quite honestly, I’m glad for it. It was such a release.
I don’t even know why it came when it did. Nothing particular triggered it. I think I was just exhausted. A combination of underlying emotions and residual holiday stress and unexpected school cancellations for Mike’s daughter… somewhere halfway through the week, as I was driving home from dropping her off to school, I just broke. I think it was a song that started things off… “The Sound of Silence” it was called. Suddenly, I am screaming and crying with all of my might with the music cranked as loud as it can go.
It totally took me by surprise. I can’t even remember the last time I had a breakdown like this. And here comes year five, with it’s ugly reminders shoved in my face. Reminders that FIVE entire years of my life have gone by since he died… what in the hell? How is that possible? Did I really just spend five years trying to learn how to stand up again? Five years of picking up pieces and then breaking again and picking up and breaking and picking up? Five years of trying to find solid ground and find my confidence again. Surely it’s only been three years at most, right? Right???
I am angry right now. I am angry that I’ve had to spend five years doing this. I’m angry that it’s still so hard and complicated and confusing sometimes. I’m angry that I’m being reminded of just HOW dead he is… that he did NOT get to live these past five years. Not a day of them. I am angry because I have had to keep going and - at the same time - I am angry that he did not get that privilege.
I’m angry that this milestone confuses a part of me. I’m remembering that part of me that used to irrationally think “If I can just make it one year… maybe he will be back”. It is the part of my brain that never did understand what happened, because it all happened so fast. Because he was away on a trip. That childlike part of my brain must still think he is away on that work trip. I imagine for the rest of my life it will be asking me innocently… “What happened? Why isn’t he back yet?”
None of this has much to do with my current life really. The fact that I dearly love someone new and that I cherish being a family with him and his daughter doesn't really connect to this part of my pain. Nor do all the beautiful, incredible friendships and experiences that have happened to me in these past five years. Because I am grateful for every bit of that. But none of that is there when you’re in the breakdown. No, it’s just the pain, and the sadness, and the anger of it all.
Sometimes that’s what it needs to be though. All-consuming, heart bleeding, screaming out the feeling. I have felt a bitterness leaving in me since I broke down. Maybe it needed my full attention. Maybe it needed to be seen completely. Maybe, with the business of my new life, I needed some room to be felt. Actually, I know it did. If there is one thing I’ve learned about grieving, it’s how important it is to BE ANGRY when you are angry. And to do it outwardly, expressively, and unapologetically - so long as you aren't taking it out on anyone else. Since doing so, I’ve felt lighter for sure. I’ve felt more social, kinder, and more appreciative of everything and everyone around me. Even five years later, I’m discovering that sometimes we still need to rip off the bandages and let ourselves just bleed.