Yesterday one of my widowed friends told me that her counselor said you can expect to grieve one year for every five years that you were married. She wondered what I thought of this idea. The first thing that came to mind was that since I was married to Phil for five years and two months, then I should have been done grieving his loss three and a half years ago. There have been so many times over the past nearly five years I have wished someone could tell me how long this whole healing process would take. I do understand the desire to calculate the effects of the death of a loved one on our lives, and even the desire to create some kind of measuring stick for healing. But if someone had provided me with a grief end date, I am sure I would have focused on nothing but getting to that day. If graduating from widowhood were possible, I would have taken whatever extra courses were needed to meet the early graduation deadline. And I think that I would have missed the whole point.
The brutal nature of grief forced me to live one day at a time. As a person who tends to jump ahead to the next thing, or tries to figure out how extra effort on my part can bring about a desired goal sooner than expected, the unpredictability of grief made living outside of the moment impossible. No other life experience has so firmly placed me in the present. When my babies were born I wasted precious time thinking about their next milestone, instead of reveling in the current one. When Phil and I were happily married I wouldn't take the time to sit on the couch and watch a TV show with him if the laundry wasn't finished. Accomplishments tended to be put aside as I reached for the next goal, because living in the moment was not enough. I was always focused on taking the next step.