Holding on Tightly~

In my heart, I’m carrying all the trauma from those 3 weeks when I went into auto pilot, (as we all do at such a time). Those 3 weeks where I was as present as could be to the best of my abilities as he and I said our goodbyes and my heart broke into pieces that were so huge and so small that they became invisible shards, but 3 weeks where I wasn’t really present at all to myself because I couldn’t bear what was happening.


I’ve put off writing this blog as long as I possibly can this evening. Fiddled around on face book, pinned some pins to pinterest. Organized some of the pictures cluttering my desktop...

This blog must be written. Not because it’s Tuesday night and I need to post by midnight but because the words are burning in me and need to be gotten out of my system and onto paper. The idea of zoning out to a stupid show on my computer, with my glasses off as I nod into sleep and wake a few minutes later only to nod off again, is tempting, rather than acknowledging in words where I am right now, emotionally.

Honestly? Emotions are roiling my insides and it feels like I’m swirling in the confusion of the days and months after Chuck’s death, dealing with memories and devastation anew. The reason for this is that today I underwent my first EMDR, which, for those of you who maybe unfamiliar with the therapy, has to do with the bilateral rhythms of the brain and reconstructing them. Or something. I can never remember the exact terminology but it has to do with reliving traumatic events while a trained therapist taps (in my case, on my knees) which somehow, (and even the trained brains don’t know exactly how or why it happens) causes a re-processing of said traumatic event, easing the level of distress and trauma.

All of which is to say this will hopefully help me break through the blockage that has me stuck in this godawful grief.

Isn’t it funny how conversations can start casually, and meander along for a few minutes, seemingly innocuously, and then suddenly BAM! you’re in the midst of this massive groundswell of emotional vomiting? All my therapist did was mention about moving boxes of books this past weekend so she could de-clutter, and I mentioned how I’m an artist at living small now, since I live in my T@b, and then about how Chuck and I sold everything in Jersey and went on the road, which is where he died, when we were in southern California, and BAM! all the stories and details of his final days in hospice and his death were spilling from me.

Which was good, insofar as I was suddenly talking about exactly what I needed to talk about, and she began her tapping.

Without fancy detail, here’s the gist of it:

Initially, before beginning tapping, the therapist wants to establish a safe place to which a client can return, if and when talking becomes too emotional. Mine was a fail; I couldn’t come up with a safe place because, pretty much, there is no safe place for me since Chuck died. So we’ll revisit that next week.

I spoke of washing him after he died, and turning him over and seeing a hole the size of a quarter on the base of his spine, which allowed me to see inside of his body. The bed sore in the tumor had eaten his skin away.

I spoke of the night his daughter laid on his bed sobbing, with him begging her to tell him what was wrong, what had happened to her, while, in the hall outside, I held my sons back as they fell apart because it was their last night with their dad but they couldn’t go in with her there and she wouldn’t leave (and we didn’t feel we could barge in on whatever was going on), and when she finally came out, they only had a few hours left with him, and he fell asleep and they left in the morning and never saw him again. Chuck told me the following morning what she’d told him and he was in tears (it was something pretty bad and he was in agony that he hadn’t been able to protect her).  When I remarked upon that information in the months after his death, she denied telling the story.  For the first 2 years after he died, I'd  wake from nightmares, my heart pounding and riddled with anxiety that she'd spoken to him of what she said had actually happened to her.  (I don’t mean to sound mysterious but that part is her story, not mine). It made me physically ill that he had to bear any of that on his death bed.

I spoke of the almost breakdown brought about by the horrific things said to me by her after he died, about how I’d agitated him, how he questioned my care and love of and for him.  And I spoke of the rage I felt at Chuck when I lifted the cover of his cardboard coffin prior to cremation. Rage because he’d never said to her what needed to be said, enabling her to feel free to behave as she did and say the things she did.  It horrified me to have that be my last feeling for him before his body disappeared, when I’d never felt that emotion towards him in my 24 years with him. I felt like I’d betrayed him.

These things I’ve carried with me and in me.  Rationally I know that he loved me and I loved him and I cared for him and made an impossible time as sacred and beautiful as I could for him and he knew it and loved me more for it.  In my heart, I’m carrying all the trauma from those 3 weeks when I went into auto pilot, (as we all do at such a time).  Those 3 weeks where I was as present as could be to the best of my abilities as he and I said our goodbyes and my heart broke into pieces that were so huge and so small that they became invisible shards, but 3 weeks where I wasn’t really present at all to myself because I couldn’t bear what was happening.

My favorite military term that I learned from Chuck is the word clusterfuck.  That’s what it was then, and that’s what it all feels like now. Truthfully, it has never yet stopped feeling like a clusterfuck, and that’s what I’ll be addressing in the next few weeks as I continue the EMDR. I need to deal with the trauma of it, and then we’ll get to the grief.

In some ways, as emotionally exhausting as today was, as done in as I am at this moment, it is also kind of freeing to just fucking openly say You know what, world? My husband’s death was traumatizing. The months afterwards were equally traumatizing and I don’t know how I didn’t end up in the looney bin. I don’t know how I’m even walking around. I don’t know how I’m upright. How on earth am I making any kind of sense when I speak?

But you know what, part 2? In spite of the trauma, I’ve still gone out and done shit and I’ll continue to do shit even while I deal with this and maybe, maybe, maybe, this will make a difference for me, but even if it does, I’ll still miss him and long for him and I’m not going to apologize to anyone for any of it. I’m not going to pressure myself to be better, or feel happiness or joy or any damn thing because for me, life isn’t about those words.  Life is only about letting love be stronger than grief.  I’m going to get to the other side of this trauma, at least in part, by admitting that, yeah, the word trauma pretty well fits what it was and what it is and it’s actually liberating to hear someone identify it as that and speak that word openly to me and then work with me on the trauma itself and not worry about trying to make me feel better or dose me with medications or label me as insert label here.

Work on the trauma and that will free up the grief.  It sounds simple and it kind of is simple to me.  I’m okay with going through it and reliving it because I know it has to be done. The way to it has been presented to me, so it’s time to saddle up, right?

Isn’t it strange, though, when my first thought in approaching this therapy is the entirely unrealistic thought that, hey if I go through this trauma and get through it, and prove that I can do it, that I’m strong enough to get to the other side, then maybe my prize on the other side of it will be....Chuck.  It’s not real to have that thought, I know, but somewhere deep inside of me....well, there you go.

Onwards and upwards.  Onwards and upwards.

Showing 4 reactions

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  • Rebecca Collins
    commented 2016-01-30 04:44:59 -0800
    EMDR really helped me process the trauma around my husband’s suicide. I am a huge advocate of the therapy. I hope it helps you x
  • Cathy
    commented 2016-01-21 06:42:06 -0800
    “Life is only about letting love be stronger than grief”. Yes yes yes. Anyone that has loved will some day experience loss and grief (unless they go first). I’m beginning to see that love and grief go hand in hand like salt and pepper or day and night. The challenge is to let love overcome the grief, so hard as we all know. “Clusterfuck”,,,how appropriate to describe it all. It’ll be 6 years soon for me, with 5 losses, I am trapped in this unending clusterfuck of loss and grief and life not being what it was. And yet trying like you to claw my way out to better days. As you say “onwards and upward.”
  • Patricia Wright
    commented 2016-01-20 09:49:14 -0800

    Thank you so much for your honesty and openness about your EMDR session. I had a couple of those earlier this month and they took me to my knees. I feel like I’m finally regaining my equilibrium, and will probably do some more sessions over the next months.

    My husband made his transition in June 2013, and we were married for 34 years, so I am relating alot to your posts. Like you, I also believe we will get through this and be stronger on the other side.

    Holding all of us in love and light,

  • Betty Gail Danielson
    commented 2016-01-20 07:58:27 -0800
    Chuck would be proud of you for your having the bravery it takes to do this. Hugs and prayers.