Tuesday, May 6, 2014

"I'm Ok"

"Don't lie" shouted my step-dad from the other side of the room.

This exchange happened while my Mum was in ICU in April 2008.  My dad called to check up, and we had our auto-pilot introductory exchange.  My step-dad called it for what it was. 

My step-dad also said during this time, "Never get married.  Loosing a spouse sucks".

Well look what I up and did.

I've been feeling in the last week or so like I've not actually allowed my grief to do it's thing.

I'm not a crier; never really have been.  My personality sits on the stoic end of the spectrum.  At Ian's funeral, when I did cry over his coffin (and had the out of body experience of "I'm not really doing this, am I?  This just isn't 'me'"), my dad and step-mum told friends that I'd be fine, now that I'd had my breakdown.  Probably correct at the time; but too much of an expectation now.

Let's add to this mix: my family culture is you don't let someone dying stop you from living your life, which has often come from the person dying.  

The morning after my grand mother died, my step-mother and I headed interstate to a conference that Grandma had wanted us to attend.

Six months after Mum died, my step-father died from an aggressive cancer while I was at a conference in Mexico, after I'd travelled through Cuba (via London, from Australia). I'd offered not to go, but he'd insisted that I go on this trip which I'd been planning for 3 years.  He apparently loved getting the emails I could send from Cuba. 

He'd also told my sister that he and mum wouldn't come back and haunt us as long as we didn't stop living just because they'd died.

So when Ian died, I just kept going. 


Picked up university study...

Adjusted to being a single mum... 

Kept on keeping on.

I finally crashed in April last year 9 months after Ian died, as I've mentioned before.  I had a short course of visits to a psychologist, but although she got me through the immediate situation, she and I didn't really "click".  And had a bit of a rough time in March/April this year, but I felt ok enough to manage on my own.  But emotionally/psychologically, that's about all I've had rear it's head since Ian died.

The big thing I've had is illness; recurrent sinus infections hitting each month that I wound up having surgery for last September.  That seemed to fix that problem.

Since the start of the year I've been getting this nasty recurrent cough and at my widow's group this week, after it hit yet again, someone mentioned it sounds asthmatic.  Someone else had ventolin on them, so I had a couple of puffs and thankfully the cough went.  Off to the doctor's the next day, and she said that I responded to the ventolin, that's pretty much diagnostic since I get shocking hay fever which sits on the same gene.  Yeah, hello adult onset asthma.

With that in the background, in the past few days I've been feeling like I've not done this widow & grief thing in the most healthy of manners, even if it's the way I'd 'naturally' process it, and my body is telling me this.  I'm sure some around me will go 'finally, she's got it'; others won't understand why I'm struggling now since there's been the passage of time. 

One of the mantras at our group is your mind only lets you deal with what you're able to at any given time. 

As I approach 2 years, now I have all the practicalities in place, maybe I'm ready to look into other therapy and/or counselling options and intentionally look at my grief head on for the first time.


  1. Kerryl, my experience mirrors your really closely. I did finally find the right therapist, that is it's own gift. And it does help - setting aside a safe place to talk about the grief, with someone who understands grief and understands kids grief, and who can help me sort out the single parenting challenges as well. It feels like we have to get to the place where the rest of life is stable enough to make time/space for our own grief work. Good luck on your search, I asked people around me until I found the right person.

  2. In June, I will have reached the third anniversary of my husband's unexpected death. I am not okay; I still cry almost daily as I'm still grieving the death of the love of my life. I've grown weary of being asked "how are you" with the expectation of my responding, "I'm fine." Truthfully, I am not fine nor will I ever be fine again without my husband. I've found that no one asking, "how are you" wants to hear the truth. So, with a smile on my face, I lie and say "I'm okay."

  3. Oh, Kerryl. I think you have been doing just what you needed to do. We are a stoic bunch for the most part. And now, it's looking like it's time to "do it" a little differently You and I have done the same thing only opposite!
    I faced my grief head on. I remember at one month telling my sister, "I'm going to make friends with my grief." Yea, what the hell did I know. Now at 2.5 years later, I'm lost and alone. My grief is an old friend who I'm afraid won't ever go away. I think you sound brave and determined. .

  4. I did address my grief head on. It took five months before I could go back to work. But even if you address it at the outset, it still takes a long time. As to a grief counselor, if you don't feel comfortable on that first visit, don't press it, find another one. You need to feel comfortable enough to share what you haven't shared and to cry whenever you need to.

    As to the "Never get married. Losing a spouse sucks." Yes, it does, but I'm glad I had the years I did with my wife. And maybe some day I'll do it again. I think a shared life is much more enjoyable than a single one.

  5. Kerryl,
    We all go about grief however we need to at the time, don't we? And we can think we're doing okay but our bodies won't let us lie. Having hit the one year mark, I'm just now giving passing glances to my health, which has been good so far in spite of this grief, but I'm back to biting my nails after a 5 year hiatus. And I'm eating crap continually. I've been very vocal about my grief, but it still runs more deeply than I can imagine; hence the biting nails and horrible food. We're all just getting through this however we can, sister~