Grief Terrors

After my husband died, I spent a whole lot of time grieving. And existing. And just trying to breathe. In and out. Sometimes more in than out. Sometimes hyperventilating. Sometimes forgetting that oxygen is a thing.

Make it through that hour, that minute, that day. Whole lot of time spent sitting in his car that I was left with, in the university parking lot, wondering how the hell I was going to get out, walk into that building, and teach 4 classes. Dreading all the questions from the clueless but well-meaning people. Listening to the whispers in the hallways: "That's her. That's the professor whose husband dropped dead." Getting dizzy from all the tilted heads, showing their pity and their sorrys at me, as I tried to stare anywhere except directly into their eyes. 

I spent a whole lot of time in grief counseling offices, trying to find someone that made some sort of sense when they talked. Someone who wouldnt just throw cliches at me, tell me it was time to "move on", or try and "fix me" with a pile of pills and meds. I wasnt interested. I somehow knew that I needed to live and sit inside the darkness, in order to ever see some  light. I knew that pain was something that would be at the nucleus of my core for awhile. I knew that I had to process every nook and cranny, dissect every corner of his death, in order to gain any peace. I don't know how I knew these things, but I just knew. 

Here's what I didn't know ... 

I didn't know that it would take me four years to be able to even consider dating again. 

I didn't know that I would still "feel married", and that the very idea of being with someone else, felt like I was cheating and made me sick with guilt and pain. 

I didn't know that not only would I not date or kiss or be intimate with anyone for years, but that I wouldn't give a shit about any of it. That I would just shut it off, like a faucet, and pretend that Im a human who doesnt need another human to love her. 

I didn't know that "self-love" would be a failure over and over, because it would always result in me thinking about my husband, and that would result in me sobbing endlessly, and never being able to "finish". 

I didn't know that my first relationship and my first time sleeping with anyone again, 5 years after my husband's death, would be with a fellow widower, who would end up being a very sneaky and dishonest person. 

I didn't know that I would then fall in love with another widower, who knew my husband years and years ago, and that we would have a beautiful friendship that would eventually and unexplainably, dissolve into nothing. 

I didnt know how awful the heartbreaks would be. 

I didnt know that I would develop connections with several men, who held special places in my heart. 

I didnt know that I would be brave or courageous enough to have a really great "friends with benefits" situation, that was actually quite lovely, fun, and very respectful. 

I didnt know that I could be the type of woman who says: "I really want to kiss you right now", and then does. 

I didnt know that when I had my first kiss post-loss, I would literally hear my husband's voice cheering for me: 'YES!!! Go get some!!! Its about time!!!" 

I didnt know that men ending relationships or connections with me abruptly, and with little or no explanation, would hurt me so very deeply - or that it would take me right back to my husband getting up for work one morning, and never coming home. Or that it would also take me back to being raped in my apartment, in the middle of the night, and being told by my rapist: 'I would kill you, but you're not worth it." That men leaving me with no reason why, would make me feel so worthless and so filled with hurt and empty, just like I felt, sitting in a heap, clinging to the corner wall of my living room, 21 years ago. 

I didn't know that people could be so cruel. Or so beautiful. Or that you could meet and experience both, so close together.

I didn't know that living, would be so very much harder than existing. 

I didn't know that 'love at first sight" might actually be a real thing that could maybe happen to me. 

I didn't know it would terrify me this much, or bring up so many triggers in my heart. 


About a week ago, I met someone on a dating site. After meeting a lot of other someone's on a dating site. And after endless heartbreak and broken promises and casual abandonment of my heart. This man appeared. I made the first move and messaged him. I saw something deeper in his tough guy profile picture. His eyes looked sad and lovely and full of life and death. He looked like he knew pain. The thought in my head was "I need to know this person." 

Since then, we have been talking endlessly, every day. The talking never feels like enough. We always want more talking, more time with each other, more discovering of each other. We meet Sunday. It feels like something that is different than all the other things. It feels very real. It feels like that 'L' word thing, that I cant seem to say out loud or even in type. 

Im so happy. 

Im so terrified. 

Grief Terrors. 

The very real joy, followed by the very real thought, that this will all go away. That it will all disappear. That he will change his mind and realize he isnt really into me after all, or he will fall back in love with some ex, like all the others have. Or that he will just stop contacting me, and never tell me why. Or, the big one - the all-consuming fear - that he will die. That I will fall in love with him, and then wake up one morning on a perfectly ordinary Wednesday, and he will already be dead. And then I will have to figure out all over again, how to go from existing, to living, and figure out if I really even want to. 

I am terrified. The grief terrors follow me everywhere. 

But I can't let them win. 

I won't let them win. 

I will fight them with my heart. 

I will fight for my joy. 

I will fight for my time at the "L" word. 

Because love is King. 

Love is everything. 


And if it all falls apart,

well at least I had it for awhile. 


I won't turn my back on Love. 

Not when it finally showed up for me again. 

Not when this feels so good, so right, so real. 

I don't want to be in the dark, 

when it comes to Love. 

I don't want to turn away out of fear, 

not letting it in,

and being left with the emptiness of never feeling it. 

I never want to say of Love, 

that I didn't know. 



Grief Terrors. 

Night Sweats. 

Panic Attacks. 

Heart palpitations. 

Bring it on. 

It means Im living again, 

and Im so ready. 

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  • commented 2017-06-26 15:26:09 -0700
    I am so moved and inspired by your heart and your transparency. Rooting for you, Kelley, big time.
  • commented 2017-06-23 11:11:37 -0700
    Your description of the terrors of dating are exactly and precisely how i felt when I met a man 2 years after my husband died. Thank you…it is nice to know it wasn’t just me being weird. You are always very good about writing exactly and precisely how I feel. ❤