Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I Didn't See it Coming ....

... yet again.
A wave hit me yesterday.
And I never saw it coming .... although I should have.

I have found that there are 3 types of waves for me:
1.  the waves that come out of nowhere, for no rhyme or reason, but crash upon me anyway.
2.  the waves that I expect to come .... a certain date, experience or something that I know will bring on a lot of emotions.  It's easier to stand up under these waves because I know that they're coming and I can brace myself for them
3.  the waves that I didn't see coming ..... but should have.  These waves hit hard and then I get frustrated with myself for not anticipating them .... for not knowing that they would come.

I haven't had a wave in a while, even though Christmas week was one big teary week for me.
But yesterday .... I should have seen it coming.

C had to have a routine medical procedure done and needed help since he would be sedated and couldn't drive home afterward.
So I went .... no problem.
He went back into the procedure area and I waited in the waiting room for an hour or so, reading.
They called me back when he was in the recovery room.
He was still asleep when I walked in.
I took his hand and watched him sleep.
I looked at his iv and the monitor recording his blood pressure and heart rate.
And then .....
..... this part is always difficult to explain by those who've never experienced these "waves".....
it's like you're standing there, in the present, as I was .... and then something grabs you by the back of the neck and pulls you forcefully ..... fast and hard ..... backwards through a dark tunnel.  At the speed of light.
And then you're not there ..... in the present.  You find yourself in the past .... standing there.

I was standing at Jim's hospital beside, on what was to be the last day of his life, though we didn't know that.
I was looking at his IV and his monitor.
I was holding his hand.
And I think I stopped breathing for a few moments.

And blinked .... and was back at C's bedside.
My heart should have been monitored at that point.
I sat down .... I didn't trust my legs to hold me up for another second.
And while C slept, I thought about the last time that I was holding a man's hand, standing at his bedside.
And I was surprised.
Why in the hell did I NOT see that coming?!
I'd not been in this position since December 17th, 2007.  Why did my brain never clue in to the fact that this might bring up some emotions .... that it might be hard?
I never, ever saw it coming.

And so I wonder .... do these third type of waves come because I am now living less with my grief, and more with my "after"?
My grief is not with me 24 hours a day as it once was.  It's no longer the first thing I think of in the morning or the last thing I think of before I go to bed.
Oh, it's there ..... it will always be there ..... but I don't think I "wear" it full time, the way I once did.  I think it resides in a back pocket, or like a necklace, close to my heart.
But it no longer defines me.
I hope.

So yes, I still get hit by waves, but far less often than I used to.
And when they do hit, they do much less damage.
I'm able to lean into them and take them for what they are .... a temporary rush of emotions that I allow myself to feel (most of the time).

I got hit by a wave yesterday.
I never saw it coming.
But maybe .... just maybe .... that's a good thing.


  1. This happens to all of us, who have lost someone. It sucks when it does! Why? I think it is just the opposite side of a coin, because we also sometimes remember things that make us happy to think about them, yet a little sad too! Yet, we do not want to forget those. I just hope eventually the good memories eventually outweight the bad!

  2. Tough post.

    It's been just over 6 months now since my David died, and I wonder if the waves will ever stop catching me off guard.

    I've avoided being in hospital settings for the exact event you describe above. I held my husband's hand as he stopped breathing and I begged him to somehow keep breathing. I'm often 'transported' to that frozen point in time although it's becoming easier to 'not go there'.

    Last week was Dave's birthday - two days before Christmas. New Year's Eve is just a few days away, and our wedding anniversary is next week.

  3. Wow. What a dead-on description of what the "waves of grief" are like. I no longer blog about my grief -- at least I attempt not to -- I changed my blog name, topics, etc., but it is always there -- the grief. And, as you pointed out, there are time when you expect a wave, but it is the ones that come out of nowhere that literally can knock you off your feet. It will be 2 years on the 23rd of Jan. this year and the waves are less, but they are there -- I'm just doing my best to learn to live with them.

    I often try to explain this "wave phenomenon" to people who have suffered a recent loss. I say that the grief will be there forever, you just learn to live with it.

    Thank you for sharing this post.

  4. God bless you, Valerie. Hang in there. You're not alone. We understand.

  5. Valerie: I am right there with you. John died 5 months ago and I live near the beach, so I know alot about waves. My son surfs and I've loved the ocean all my life. These emotions are just like waves. I had them all day last Tuesday. I had gardners come to clean my yards up and it brought me to tears, as John always did all the gardening. Things he would do around the house, which was alot make me feel so helpless without him. John's birthday was December l7th, very difficult day for me. I think I need to seek a therapist in the near future. So So hard...

  6. Love this post. I hope you don't mind I linked your blog to mine in referring to this post. It is so true. It has been almost 2 years since I lost Chuck and some days seem so hopeless and then here comes that big wave.

  7. My Joe is gone 3 1/2 years and his oldest son had a routine surgery on his shoulder last May. Of course I was there with Joey the whole time, but when they put the IV in the top of his hand, just like they did to Joe so many times, I had to keep myself from throwing up. They took him to surgery and told me it would probably take an hour and a half. It took three hours and I was certain that something was wrong. I started crying and begging the attendant to check on Joey. I was sure they were going to let him die and I would lose him too. Am I ever going to stop waiting for the next blow?