Sing for the joy that's found in setting up the pins and knocking them down

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Stage of Sad

I don't spend much time thinking about the stages of grief.  I just googled them to even see what they were and the list which was provided sounded familiar to the emotions that cycle through my head on almost an hourly basis.  Overall, I've never been much of a fan of someone telling me how I will feel on a given topic at a given time.  Grief has made me feel even more strongly about that. 

A couple of days after Eric died, Bea came to me and said "They say I should be angry.  I'm not angry.  Do I need to be angry?"  I told her there weren't any rules to how she should feel.  I certainly knew that my head wasn't holding to any.  For the record, I'm not angry either--weary and frustrated some days, but not angry.

The stage where I'm stuck lately is just sad.  Going forward I'm going to refer to a lot of "they"s in this blog and when I say "they" I don't mean the experts or those who study these topics around grief and loss.  I mean a sweet and select cabinet of people close to me who have lost spouses and/or children.  I rely upon them tremendously on my journey through this maze that follows the loss of someone.

I can recall conversations with almost all of them that ended with a shrug of the shoulders, a sigh and this comment, "I'm just tired of being the person that's sad."  That's where I am lately.  Because you don't see me collapsed on the floor in a pile of tears, most people are pleased to see that I'm doing pretty well--and for the most part, I am. 

I'm going to steal a section from a well read blog of a newer widow than me because she says it better than me and why reinvent the wheel. (

People know I’m grieving, they just don’t know what it looks like. Or how long it takes. Or that it’s an actual, time-consuming act that can’t be compartmentalized and scheduled for convenient times like, perhaps from 6-8 on Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

If it could have been, I’d have done it, because at my heart I am just an overachiever looking for a gold star.

I fear sometimes that by being positive and not collapsing into a pile on the floor, I’m making it look easier than it is. And that doesn’t do any favors to the world, because it isn’t easy.

Survivable? Absolutely. 
Okay? Sometimes!
Doable? Yes.
Easy? No. Not easy.
There is no quiet.

And to all of that I say, Amen!

Recently, a new member of my grief cabinet told me that it's a constant reel playing in her head.  I wanted to hug her for saying that because I could finally visualize what was going on in my own head.  A looping video that plays constantly those moments and days around the loss.

This is what it's like. I'm blow drying my hair and I'm thinking about walking down the aisle with my kids at his funeral.  I'm choosing what spaghetti sauce to buy and in my head I can hear the ambulance sirens screaming while I told him it was all going to be okay.  I'm setting up meetings at work and he's short of breath and frantically asking me to pray for him.  I'm loading the dishwasher and I'm thinking about wrapping my arms around Henry on the couch as some kind-faced ambulance attendant told us Eric was gone.  All those sad, but meaningful moments  that are stuck on repeat in my head.  Do I want them to stop--no, because it would mean that I would lose those last pieces of him.  Do I want them to quiet down and be less of a distraction--yes, absolutely. I assume that over time the volume and clarity of all those scenes will soften and then become less and less.  But never be completely gone. 

Some days I lay on my bed and try to think back to what was in my head before Eric died.  What did I even think about?  How did it feel?  What made me happy?  What made me sad?  It's almost impossible to imagine what that was like. I can't remember the before because of the enormity of the after.  And that's the rub.  To want to purge my mind of that sad movie that keeps playing is to get rid of parts of him from my memory.  I don't want that.  But to look away from the real world and keep my eyes glued to the video that runs in my head puts me in a sad place and probably dangersous place that isolates me from the good that remains in my real life--and there is so much good. 

So I'm working on figuring out how to make this sadness a part of the good and even beautiful landscape of my life.  There is a part of me that will always be sad for the loss that I've experienced.  But, I don't have to let that sadness and loss ruin the joy and abundance that's still all around me.  They can live beside one another in the same way that a harsh winter makes spring just that much sweeter.  Can I do that?  I don't know.  It sure sounds good, but it will take work.  I also have to remind myself--over and over--that I'm sad because of this amazing person that I lost.  He is worth being sad about.  That life we had together is worth the sadness I carry today.  I would gratefully do it all over again even knowing exactly how it would come to an end. 

Sad?  Unbelievably
Thankful? Absolutely
Happy? Honestly, yes
Hopeful?  By God's grace, always

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