Tuesday, January 29, 2013

In the Ring with Grief

Amanda is starting school this week with her new class, and asked me to fill in for her today, she will be back next week!

I wrote the following blog about three years ago. I have been thinking a lot since Janine's last post about the difference between those of us who are further along the path, and the those who have just started traveling this widowed road. If I read the words I have shared with you below six months after Phil died, I wonder if I would have been repulsed? Would I have kept reading to the end? Would I have needed to review that very first line more than once to be sure I read the words correctly? Probably. 

But there is one thing that I know would have kept me reading with a fairly open mind...trust. If I trusted the person writing the blog, I would have at least been willing to consider the ideas presented. Today I want to thank you for trusting us. We blog here because we care about you, even though we have likely never met. This space was created to provide YOU with a large variety of points of view and many ways of looking at the challenges widowed people face. We each write from our hearts, hoping to encourage you, and assure you that you are not alone, especially when you feel you must be the ONLY crazy widowed person in the world. You aren't.

As the editor of this blog, I know that you won't connect with every post written, but I do hope that every blog shared reminds you that this space is here for you day after day, month after month, year after year to prove that people survive widowhood...even when they don't believe they can or will. We are surviving, and you are, too. Step by reluctant step we make our way forward into a future that we didn't plan for, but one that belongs to us nonetheless. Together our blog team paints a picture of what has been; what is; and what can be...we believe in love that never dies and in joy that returns again and again. Here is my post. I won't be offended at all if you think I have lost my mind ;)


Over the past four years grief and I have reluctantly become friends. Grief is not the kind of friend I can call in the middle of the night when I am sad, but rather the kind of friend who sits quietly at the end of my bed while I cry myself to sleep. Grief may be away for weeks or even months at a time, but the knock of this friend is now as familiar to me as my own voice. There is no need to explain my sorrow to grief; she understands my process better than I do. Grief knows I will get up again no matter how hard I have been hit by her power, and patiently stands as a witness to my ability to regain my balance time and time again. When grief calls, I stop what I am doing because I have learned that she must be answered. When I quit trying to escape her, I found an unexpected comfort by her side. She calls me and repels me; guides me and confuses me; moves me forward and throws me back.

Some days I hate grief, and other days I miss her. I have discovered a safe place in her arms, though her twisting, turning path won't allow me to be still for long. Her presence has added a soft cadence to my day-to-day life that I have come to rely on as confirmation that I am, indeed, alive. The irony of this does not escape me. I have realized that in my mind grief has replaced Phil, and that my fear of letting him go has created a relationship with grief I could never have anticipated. I am beginning to believe that this is why grief comes in waves.

If grief was linear and we could walk from one stage into the next, there would likely be large numbers of grieving people with severe stage fright. I would be terrified if someone were able to provide me with a grief graduation date. Instead, grief throws us from one phase to the next, with no predictable pattern or discernible course. Like a boxer who learns to fight on their feet, our tortured, grieving selves wheel from one moment to the next watching for the inevitable gut punch. And slowly, painfully we become stronger, faster, and more confident each time we are forced into the ring. That doesn't mean we won't hit the mat  or that we won't be tempted to stay down for the count...but somehow our spirits find the will to fight one more time.

Grief holds the towel as we come out of the ring. Grief bandages our wounds and then sends us to face the opponent called death, again and again. Grief stands behind the stool in our corner and insists we go another round. There is a saying that speaks to the concept that some friends come into our lives for a purpose, but do not stay long. I am beginning to think of grief as a friend who will come and go from my life. She will show me how to survive in the ring of sorrow, and then leave me with these hard earned knocks hoping they teach me something about living courageously. Grief will also point out that she is not Phil and that he is not her. He exists in a separate, and timeless, place that she does not inhabit. Grief is wise. And eventually I must let her go, knowing that when she resurfaces, sometime down the road, I will know the sound of her step and turn to greet her as a friend.


  1. Wow.....so true. I go a coupe of days without crying and wonder what happened. or how come, where is the grief. I'm done,,,good. But she comes back and with a vengence. Great, great post. Thank you.

  2. Thank you for this. I am nearly two years in, and have generally been doing well - my bouts with grief less frequent and less intense. That was until last week when she reminded me of the 2 year anniversary of his diagnosis. I've spent a week in the very dark place trying to remember and review every conversation, every thought, every bit of horror that makes me question our decisions, my decisions - all the unanswerables that torment us in the darkness.

    Your re-post comes just as I have reminded myself that this will pass and I just have to ride the wave until I get safely back on shore, one day, one night at a time.

    Friends? Maybe some day. I do know that I cannot survive with grief as my enemy.

  3. WOW. This really resonates with me. I have struggled badly with the roller coaster of grief and you put my emotions to words with your description. Really, really good. You do a beautiful job of so eloquently describing how it is. I hadn't thought about "missing grief" because I abhor it and yet, I know it has served a huge purpose. I couldn't have survived the loss of my man without grief. However, now at almost 2 years, things ARE different. God and His transformation is occurring. For so, so long I have been angry at God for suddenly removing my 50 year old husband....he left for work and didn't come home, simple as that. And while I can say that glibly, the ache in my heart is forever. But lately, things are different, I am different. I don't know how it happened, when or why. But it did and I am. However, grief can be comfortable. And yes, I see it as my friend. I hadn't never thought of her in terms of being a "person" as you so well describe, but I like this. I can relate!!!
    As I now do the death march toward our 2nd Sadiversary, reliving our last days/weeks that I can remember to my best knowledge, my heart is heavy with grief. For I never wanted to be without the only man I ever loved. I never wanted to rebuild my life at 57. I never wanted new friends or to lose old friends. I never wanted extended family dysfunction become so so clear as a result of my loss. I never wanted my kids to have broken hearts because they don't have a Dad. I never wanted to be a widow. But this is my reality. It's been far better to face the truth than to deny it. And yes, grief is my friend, unbeknownst to me. Thank you.

  4. I can really relate to this post about grief. She shows up unexpectantly and the pain and crying starts. I've been widowed for 8 months and 10 days. Our 40th anniversary is coming up this Saturday, February 2nd so grief is visiting me a lot this week. It's good to hear from other people that is going through this journey of grief and know you are not alone.

  5. Oh how I still wish I lived an idyllic life where I didn’t have to understand the concept of embracing grief, or leaning into pain. I wish your words were nonsense to me.

    Because the only way I couldn’t understand what you’re saying here Michele, would be if Dave were alive and I never had to confront grief and pain and figure out how to survive it.

    Grief does not let me forget him. Even when I think I’m happy, it creeps in.
    If I learn to expect it, that it’s natural, then it’s not as frightening. Despite the fact that it still envelopes me in darkness occasionally, I remind myself that the sun will shine once again and warm my soul.
    Sometimes it’s simply telling me I need to do more grief work and quietly work on myself some more.

    I remind myself that since the dawn of time – loves have been lost. This is not new.

    And so, whether we wanted it or not, we are being transformed by loss and grief.
    I’m hoping it’s making me a better person.
    A little more compassion. A little less bitterness.

    1. I can hardly remember that other idyllic life anymore. So want it back, but not to be. In line at the store, I wonder how many others know the pain of grief I know, I can tear up just thinking about it. I often think if I let go of this grief, I'll be letting go of him and all that we had. Maybe that's why it's taking so long to move on?

      It's a fact, if you love, you will have loss someday. Can't get away from it, learn to live with it.

  6. Michele, so a well worded post regarding grief. I never thought of grief as a friend mainly because of the hard knocks "she" takes on us. But as other responders have mentioned, grief has hopefully molded me into a better person. Grief has equipped me with the knowledge and understanding of the depth of someone else's loss. If I can render a supporting smile, kind word and acknowleding head shake, then grief is working on me in a positive way.

    None of us ever expected to be here, this I am sure. But since we are, I greatly appreciate this blog as a place to come for support, understanding, and acceptance for my being as a "crazed" widow! Thank you!!!

  7. Powerful, transparent, and so very true! Thank you for sharing grief's reality--so others can be reassured of the hope that is also real!

    I'm going to link from my website to yours, so I can share your wonderful resource.

    Warm regards,

  8. No, my dear, I do not think you have lost your mind. Yes, I understand, Grief is our friend as much as Joy is. Thank you for this.

    Susan, Widowed 6/14/05

  9. Valerie - I loved when you said this since the dawn of time – loves have been lost. This is not new."
    I was just reading a new book like Post Secret only its love letters.
    It has very old ones, very new ones, straight, gay, adolescents, married people and lovers.
    When i was done I realized - Love has never changed. All of the same things we want, desires, hurts, longing. It's all there - since the dawn of time.
    It really helps to know - dying and grief are a part of the human condition and will always be. We have to learn how to do it but we can because others have done so before us. Thanks for the reminder.

  10. I lost my husbnd to suicide October 10th 4 months ago and I can bearly get through the days with all my grief, I have been on the internet for days since his passing spent a thousand hours trying to find help and answers, Answers I know now I may never get BUT thank you so very for writting such words of comfort to me in this blog that I stumbled on.
    My name is Sarah and I now live alone.

    1. Hi Sarah,

      I am so sorry you have any reason to visit our blog, but I am so very glad you found us. Nothing can take away the pain of the death of your husband, but knowing you are NOT alone can help you carry the burden of grief that has become a part of your every day life. We have a blogger here (she writes on Sundays) named Melinda whose husband also took his life. I would encourage you to read her blogs, you can go back and read any of our past blogs. I also would recommend our Widowed Village (www.widowedvillage.org) as a place to find others like you who are searching for help and answers. We don't have all the answers, but we definitely understand the questions. Please visit us. And come back here....we are here every day to assure you that you are not alone.