Last week I wrote about the fact that no matter how much you think you are prepared for a loved one’s passing, you aren’t. The feelings are so strong and so different from what you thought you were going to experience. But now the question becomes: Is this all there is? And the answer is “No, there is indeed more, but different.”
The night when I drove myself home from the hospital where my second husband Sy had just died, I kept saying to myself, “Life is for the living! Life is for the living! Life is for the living!” I did it spontaneously and I think it was my effort to keep myself from just driving off the road so I could go with him. Whatever, it has turned out to be a profound statement in terms of my grief recovery because I have a strong need to live!
The second statement that has become a mantra for me is my older sister’s comment the next morning, “One step in front of the other, Little Sister, one step in front of the other.” Both of these statements imprint the fact that we don’t really have a choice about the grieving process—the life journey moves with or without us.
I quickly turned in those early months to another one of my escape mechanisms—to
find another lover. That brought some rocky, sad, and funny moments online but I didn’t find a rescuer. Guess what? I was going to have to pull myself out of this sad place pretty much by myself. The next thing I had to come to grips with is that up to that point in my life I’d had a horrible 13 year first marriage with emotional pain most of the way. Then I married Sy, and I had a great and wonderful 35 years. Yes, we got into some sticky-wickets at times but worked our way out. The point is that I then thought about life as this long corridor of mostly happiness. And then it was gone!!
People recovering from a great emotional loss, be it death or the rejection of a lover, believe that the happiness in life either will never come back or it will come in one long sweep of happiness. The truth that I have found is that my happiness comes now in snapshots not long running videos. For instance: the first crocus in the spring, the granddaughter who texts me with, “Do you have time for tea this week?” The long lost daughter that calls from Indiana and starts the conversation with, “You’ve missed me, I bet. Well, I’ve just been awfully busy with my new job.” Then there is the girlfriend that says come on over for supper, “I’m cooking salmon.” Or the gentleman at the Senior Social that did a lot of the formatting on my book, A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir who is walking through the cocktail hour press of people, while I assume looking for his wife, but stops for a moment, looks at me, and says, “And yes, you deserve a hug!” With that he proceeds to give me a heartfelt hug. Four days ago as I sat eating my lunch on the back deck where I can look out at
the semi-cultivated wooded area behind my house there was a cardinal on the ground standing guard while his dull-coated partner was at the neighbors feeding site. What a splendor of red against the brown-gray of the hillside rocks. I suppose we could call these moments, things that we should write in our gratitude journals but I’m writing them in my heart to help soothe the ache of a terrific lost marital relationship.
And of course writing my book about the happy times with Sy has helped me to move beyond the excruciating pain of losing a happy partnership to death.
So I’m suggesting that, if you are suffering a great loss, shift your focus from waiting for that video that will make life happy again to the little snapshots that contain happiness.
What are some of the things that you have found that help to ease the pain of a profound loss? I’d like to hear. I’m sure some of you have some very creative experiences. You can contact me on my website www.jessiemaykessler.com and click on the CONNECT button. That way we could talk.