Today was ”okay”. My grief wasn’t especially heavy. But, this is not usual. Most of the time I feel completely empty inside. The landscape of my Soul is barren since Mike died. I wish it was different, but it's not. I feel empty. There is an awful hollowness that lives inside me that I can't lose.
However, most people in my proximity are unaware of my emptiness. They only see the vibrant life I have. At first glance, my life appears fairly enviable. With the exception of Mike's death, I have all the trappings of a good life. I have the kids, the house, the car, and the career. I have managed to achieve a lot of success in Suburbia. The boxes are checked. My life does not appear to be lacking, but it is...
Past the wealth of material things, I am largely bankrupt inside. Yet, to those around me, it is not comprehensible that I continue to feel empty. Mike has been gone for nearly 2.7 years and I have long passed the “acceptable” amount of time granted for grieving. If and when I admit to being less than happy I am asked if I need to “talk to *someone?” (*therapist/counsellor/psychologist). Then, I am asked if I am “taking *anything”(*meaning a pill for depression or anxiety). I’m not a doctor, but I know that I am not clinically depressed. My Soul is aching for a human being who died. Sure, I’m sad. I’m beyond sad, but that’s different than clinical depression. In my opinion, there is no pill that can help me because it’s my Heart and Soul that is broken by his death, not the transmitters in my brain.
*Note: I realize that many people take prescription drugs to deal with depression and anxiety and if it helps them then that's fantastic. I took anxiety medication for the first four months and it helped me function. I am not against medication, nor am I any authority on it. If it was medically necessary I would take whatever was required to get me "better". However, I have choosen not to medicate myself; and I am confident in my decision because I know that, in my case, it is not neurological. The chemicals in my brain are not off balance. It is my soul that is off kilter. My soul is aching and my heart is broken and there is no pill that can fix this.
All of this said, I understand that people outside of our community want grief to have an end date. They want it to be something like a fever that runs its course. They want me to be better. And, here is the thing, I want to be “better” too. I really do, but grief doesn’t behave like a fever. Grief doesn’t run hot and then go away. Initially, it burns wildly; then, it tempers down, but you can still feel it’s warmth. You know it’s there. Grief doesn’t break like a fever. It remains - always. In some capacity it is there, forever.
I’ve accepted the foreverness of my grief. I understand that it has become a part of me that I will never be wholly separated from. It sounds scary, but it doesn't feel that way to me. The truth does not scared me because it has freed me. In fact, I was way more anxious when I was wildly trying to shed my grief. Fighting grief is futile. It has more stamina than we ever will. We have to lean into it. That's best practice.
With time, my grief itself is changing - I can feel it. It is composed of less tears and sadness. Now, it is just more of a constant hollowness inside me. And, it is as terrible as it sounds. Worse in fact. The hollowness is vast and consuming. For me, this hollowness is largely born from the loss of our shared future. This is what I am grieving most lately. I am grieving the future I imagined more than I am grieving him which makes me feel guilty. In the beginning, it was Mike that I yearned for. And, now, at this point, I think I have finally come to accept that his deadness if forever. Now, I need to work on accepting that our future died with him.
I miss the woman I thought I'd be in this future he and I were supposed to have. I wonder who I am now, without him. And, further, I endlessly think about what I am going to make of my life. I think - a lot. I don't have the answers, but I do have endless questions about my uncertain future. All of this stuff swirls around in my head as sit alone and drink my coffee on Sunday mornings. These thoughts sit with me as I drive to work; and, later they find me and lay with me as I drift to sleep in my empty bed. Despite all this, most people on the periphery of my life, believe that everything is returning back to "normal". They think I am largely recovered from the trauma of Mike's death. People tell me they think I am "strong". They tell me that I am "the strongest person they know". They tell me that they "can't imagine" how I do it.
Their statements hurt my ears, but moreso, they hurt my heart. When I am told that I am "strong", I just kind of stare at the person and I look into the beyond as I watch their lips move. I don't say much in response because I know the truth. Yes, I am 'strong' because I do not have a f-ing choice. I have to stay the course for my kids, and for myself. And, in truth, I don’t know how I do it either. I just do.
To be clear, I do not feel bitter towards people who make these proclamations about me and my life. They simply do not understand the depth and breadth of my loss. I understand that they can not understand. And, further, I know that they are so very lucky that they "can't imagine" my situation.
I think that people need to believe that things return to normal after a person dies. They need to believe that I am okay now because if I am okay, that means - if and when this happens to them - they will recover and be okay too. But, as people who have outlived the person we love, we know differently. We are not “okay”, but we aren’t altogether not okay. We just are.
We are cognizant that there is nothing normal about our changed lives. We are painfully aware that there is no backing up. We are not able to return to days gone by no matter how desperately we want to. There simply is nothing to return to. Our lives can not be as they were before. That life is over. It's gone. It's done. It died with them. And, yes, we are 'strong' despite all of this.