Monday, September 10, 2012

Fire

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My heart is heavy today.
I want to turn my thoughts around and let positivity lift me up and out of this dark place I'm in, but the positive thoughts are breathy whispers that get lost among the louder voices of sadness and fear.

I am physically alone a lot while everyone I know is at work.

This hasn't been easy for me. Before Dave died, I would crave alone time. Now, though, being alone in this new place feels...lonely.

There's nothing I really want to do, and yet doing something would help the seconds tick by faster.

I found myself looking at the time yesterday, hoping it was late enough to warrant the end of the day,
and drinking the last of the wine in the bottle, hoping I'd have a few hours of fuzzy brain from the alcohol. I was fervently hoping someone would show up at my door, take me in their arms and hold me while I cried, but I'm too terrified to ask for help in case my neediness would drive my friends away when I need them most. I was greedily staring at the phone, hoping someone would text me and ask me to spend time with them.

I am jumping at the chance to be with someone else. Anyone else but me. The thoughts and fears and pain inside of me are too much to bear alone and I worry that they're too much to expect anyone else to help me bear as well.

I am not able to read and absorb information right now. The grief is a loud, monotonous buzzing and the words slide in and out without catching on anything. Reading has been my major escape and now even it's not working. I'm not able to access feelings of excitement or hope or truly look forward to any plans I have. Everything has been dulled by the grief.

I am reaching desperately for something to distract me and lift me out of this spiral into hopelessness. I joined a women's choir, signed up for a baking class and a re-entry to life after a death class but I feel no relief for the distractions they'll provide or anticipation for any of it.

Everything I see right now is a reminder of what I've lost. The couples holding hands while they walk by me. The families with strollers and daddies carrying toddlers on their shoulders. The mothers and daughters and fathers. The people I see who seem motivated, purposeful and on their way somewhere. All of it makes me wistful and sorrowful for what I've had to say goodbye to.

I need to take time to be sad and to let myself feel it. I need to have empathy for myself and what I've been through. I've spent so much of my energy on being strong, doing the right thing, being positive, proactive, resourceful, resilient. Now, suddenly, the energy is waning dramatically and I have only enough reserves to plod through the next moment. I can't be strong anymore. I need to be weak and needy for a while. I want to be held and cared for.

While talking to a friend who also had a difficult childhood, it occurred to me again (I need to hear this over and over and over again, apparently) that I spent so much of my young life not getting nurturing or loving care and instead cared for my caregiver. If I think of my soul or heart as a bank, I didn't have a lot of deposits of TLC early on. Lots of withdrawals and not a lot of deposits. My life with Dave filled up my tank again, but once he was gone, the tank just dried up. I've hurt so much and lost so much that I just don't have it in me to give. I need to take for a while. I just don't have anyone (alive) who loves me in that way. That's a mom or dad's job or a spouse's job. I'm 0 for 3.

I have a lot. I can focus on that which I have and not that which I've lost. I know this. I write down at least three things I'm grateful for (or mentally note them) every day. I let them fill me up with gratitude. I let them sink into my mind and heart. I plan to do one thing every day that brings me joy and then do it.  

After I typed this I wondered why it is that I feel as though I need to defend myself on this point? Why am I so afraid that anyone reading this might think I'm not trying to be positive? I suppose, like everything, I want to be perfect at everything. I want to be perceived as the perfect griever. A gold-medal-winning widow. God forbid I do anything badly. As if there's a way to do grief badly. What the hell? Well, there it is. A look at the inside of my brains. I don't get it either!

Unfortunately, the gratitude and the joy aren't very accessible right now. There is a wall of pain between me and those feelings. I can see through the wall, though the images I see on that other side are faded. I can remember what it feels like to be grateful. I can sort of recall joy. I know how it feels when my heart is full.

I just can't get AT those feelings right now. They are locked away. I will claw at that wall and I will smash at it with every tool known to mankind. I'll tear it down, chip by chip. If need be, I'll remove it molecule by molecule if that's all I have the energy for. But, oh how daunting that wall can be. How hard it can be to see the light at the end of the tunnel when the light is around a long, long corner and currently out of reach. I have no way of knowing for sure how long it will be until I can see that light again. I don't know when I'll round the bend.

Maybe this particular variety of pain, so flaying and wounding, will break my heart open for some new growth. Maybe I will finally truly access the well of pain so deep within that even I don't know the depths. If it weren't for this pain opening me, maybe I'd never access those feelings and finally deal with them.

Maybe this is the trial I have to survive to get to the next step in this new life of mine.

Maybe I've held in this pain and anger and remorse and desperate fear for too long and this is the only way to finally release it. This is a fire burning through me. I can attempt to put out the flames by staying busy and surrounding myself with people so I won't feel so alone and drinking and reading and sleeping and buying things. But then I never get to be cleansed by the flames. I never get to the stage where everything has been turned to ash and my soul is razed of all the stored up hurt and fear. All I am is flames that get doused and reignite, only to be doused again. If I don't let the flames burn their way out, they'll always be there, ready to flicker to life again.

The scary thing is the visceral sensation of not knowing if I'll survive the fire. It feels as though I won't survive, which feels like a panicky breathlessness. It's as though I've been underwater for too long and I need to come up for air, but can't find a way up. It feels like suffocating. But it's probably like that time I had a facial and the steam being directed onto my face made me feel breathless. If I  thought about how it made me feel suffocated, I'd send myself into a panic attack, but if I breathed into the fear and let that initial thought come and go, the panic would recede and I'd relax. It was a panic I created with my mind alone.

Maybe if I let the pain come freely it will be less horrific. Maybe it's in the fighting that I get so exhausted. If I just let the pain come and go without pushing against it, maybe it won't kill me.

It's as possible as anything else, I suppose. I just wish I didn't have to plumb these depths alone. I wish I had someone to hold me while I did it.

But then, maybe I wouldn't be able to fully access the depths. Their arms would keep me from the worst of it, and the flames would get doused, not burned out. I'd never fully address that pain. I'd have a way out and I'd take it if offered. Anything to not feel like this.

It's best I face it alone. One day...one day, maybe, I'll have someone to wrap his arms around me and tell me that I'm not alone. But now? Now it's just me.

20 comments:

  1. Cassie, I am sorry for the pain you are experiencing, but thank you for sharing it so honestly. I believe that you WILL survive it, and i I'll pray thay if you let it, the fire will burn through quickly, leaving you tired and scorched, but stronger. HUGS.

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  2. Cassie, I so understand your pain and where you're at. I wake up every day and wonder if I'm going to make it, wonder how I'll make it, all alone. I think we will both make it, you have taken the first step in realizing you need to let it (pain and fear and hurt) burn down to ash so it can't rekindle again. It is exhausting work, this grief, and only you can work through it. But remember you are not the only one going through it, we are too.

    You will get past the grief stage where you can't read and absorb the words, I was there too. Frustrating, but just as the early fog lifted, that will change over time too. Try books on tape, have someone else read to you.

    The pain can't kill you, it can beat you down, but you are strong, you can and will face it, day by day. It will take awhile, as I have learned: each of us are different in our grief timeline/spiral/whatever you want to call it. It's not over in a year or two, it does abate somewhat, but you will learn to live more with it, not just in it. Take care of you.

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    1. Thank you, Cathy.
      Take care of YOU, too.

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  3. Cassie, you are having a very dark day. They are necessary in this grief process. I know you realize it, but it doesn't make it any easier. You have to feel every bit of the incredible emotional pain to finally be able to feel any joy in life at all. To get "through" to the other side of living is not a quick process. The old cliche that "time heal all wounds" is really true. To help me through this dark time in my grief, I sought out professional counseling and also took an antidepressant. I was so against doing these things because I thought it would make me not grieve enough, that it would sugar coat my husbands death. What I found when I finally decided I could not handle the pain on my own was I was so wrong about the counseling and meds. I needed that counselor to pour out all my thoughts to. No one in my life could really handle my grief. The meds helped me to be able to eat and function, and did not prohibit me in any way as to feeling my loss. I still cried, I still hurt, I still longed for my husband. I think I was fortunate to have found a good counselor. My ob/gyn recommended her and I still am so grateful I asked for the help. You might consider this option. Grief groups can only do so much. I found that the one on one was more helpful to me. You are such a wonderful person to be as honest as you are with your posts. There are no judgments here, you must always remember that. Peace to you and all who come here.

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    1. Thanks so much.
      I have been seeing a great therapist regularly and meds are and have been a part of my life. I have all that covered. :)

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    2. Glad to hear you're taking such good care of yourself, anon.

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  4. Cassie,

    The more of your writing I read, the more I realize we have in common. Through slightly different circumstances of course, but also ones that are sooo similar in their effect. When you have grief AND...a whole host of other things to work through, life is so very hard. I so get it. *HUGS* (Can't wait to hug you again for real!)

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    1. Thanks, Connie!
      Glad to know we can "lean" on each other.

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  5. Cassie, please accept my applause for such an honest "real" world post. I do not believe that "gold medal" widows exist. I do believe, however, that given our individual personalities and life experiences, we all handle grief in different ways. I find it sad that others have preached to me the importance of staying positive and focusing on the good things in my life. When all I really wanted (and still want at times) is the freedom to cry out and admit my gutwrenching pain. As the other responders posted, I think we have to let the fire take over and destroy those parts of us that have died. You will rebuild!

    For today, you have made me less lonely! Thank you!

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  6. Hang in there Warrior Sister.
    On the darkest of days - we must hang on to our own lives.

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  7. Thank you so much for writing this post. I have been feeling so drained lately too. My soul also feels empty! I have had to be strong too. Alone I was strong when my mom died, but got so burnt out trying to manage going to school and working full time. Then I met my husband, who came into my life magically and took care of me in many ways. He was my very best friend. Someone who knew all of me! Someone who understood my struggles with my two teenage daughters and loved them anyway! God, I miss him.I too feel like I have tried to regain my joy in life- still working on it after 3 years. Coming to this blog really helps me to feel I am not alone and not crazy!

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  8. Thank you for your post, your honesty and sharing the deep emotions of pain that we too feel and share. Sorry for your pain, hugs to you and thank you it helps to me also, to know I am not crazy either or alone. As I do feel when those deep dark days of grief and pain are so overwhelming, it's hard for those that not have experienced this to understand these words and emotions.

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  9. beautiful post Cassie. I can relate to the issue of the past (of not being nurtured) catching up with you. I too have gotten and done better with support. At six years out, I am emerging stronger and with more self knowledge than before. Oh, and you are not 0 for 3 - you are 1 for 4 since you have your amazing self as well. And your husband (if what I believe is true) is a spirit who will always watch out for you. Wishing you peace always.

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    1. Good point. You're absolutely right. Thank you.

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  10. Cassie, your writing captures so descriptively (and beautifully, by the way) what I've been experiencing since my husband, on his way to work, was struck by a truck and killed almost exactly two years ago. I have found that I can give unstintingly to my three suffering kids but other than that, don't ask me for help, because I am tapped out. I think grief takes away our capacity to give to others, because we have all we can do to find the energy to help ourselves get through each moment of each day. This is a monumental task, and why would we have energy for anyone else? Why expect ourselves to? What I have been taught by others wiser than me is that the gift we can give is letting others help us. This sounds like a platitude, but it is not. When I asked my best friend, the one I called to drive me to the hospital to find my dead husband, why she was giving me so much of her time, she paused, and then said, "it makes our relationship authentic." In my experience, people want to help, they just don't know how. When I get desperate, when I feel that the pain is overwhelming me, I call a friend. I ask if they want to go for coffee, or walk their dog with me, or meet me for lunch. I dish it out to different people, not the same one all the time. And then I thank them for making me feel better, because it’s probably not so apparent to them that it’s helping. For those of us who gave to, rather than received from, our parents, not being the strong one – the giver - feels like an embarrassing failure. But as my therapist told me, “If there is any silver lining in this, which there is not, it is that you will learn how to get the nurturing you need from others.” When you feel the way you describe, when the flames are burning so intensely, this IS the moment when you need your friends the most. They certainly can’t quench the fire, but they may be able to shield you from the flames for a little while, and allow you to catch your breath. Thank them for it. They are learning from you. And that’s what friends are for.

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    1. Such a good point, and so beautifully said, yourself.

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  11. It is so hard to believe that there are so many of us lonely people. I feel a pit in my stomach every morning and just want to pull the blanket over my head. I do get up but with so much grief and sadness and I ask myself, why me. Why was I given such pain. I don't have the answer. It has been 15 months and I still miss Fritz so much. Some days I wonder if I should even go on. Do others feel this way too?

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    1. Anonymous, you are not alone. So many of us (including myself) have had moments of wondering why, how, and to what purpose we should go on in our lives without our spouse. The only thing I can tell you is this, slowly, slowly the pain ebbs. It never goes away completely, I still wish that my Phil wasn't dead seven years later...but I now realize that I am still here, and that I have a chance to live the best way I can for us both. Widows know better than most people that life is a gift. For myself, I decided that I had to do the best I could to make my life count. Because before we know it life is over and we only have one chance to make the most of it. But, there was a day when I didn't care if my life counted...the road to caring was traveled one small milestone at a time and in the company of other widowed people. So please come back here often, and know that we DO understand.

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    2. Anon...Yes, I still have those feelings, even after 2 1/2 yrs, of not wanting to go on. I wake up and it hits me, I force myself to move and find a purpose to the day. Not every day is like this, but it still happens, a lot. More so than I ever thought it would.
      I feel like I am just existing, not living fully, but it is the best I can do, with where I'm at. Take care of yourself, do something for you, whether it be a walk or a movie or lunch with a friend. You are amongst the living, and need to go on for you.

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