Monday, May 19, 2014

Much to Lose

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In less than 3 weeks, it will have been 3 years since Dave died on a heart-breakingly beautiful June day. It has been the most terrifying, wrenching, altering event of my life so far and I will spend the rest of my life dealing with it to some extent.

I'm beginning to understand just how much we learn to carry our grief rather than get over it. It's not that it never fades in intensity. It does. It's just that it's not something I can finally set aside. It colors my every moment. It won't always be in the forefront of my mind. It won't always cripple me. It's impact on me is permanent though. Like scar tissue.

I'm not sure how I'll be able to handle my new partner getting sick, especially. I can imagine the fear being almost too much to bear.

The other day, I didn't hear from him all day which is very rare. We usually text throughout the day and talk on the phone occasionally, too. Between my last text to him at 8:30 in the morning and 3:00 pm I didn't hear from him. In that time I went a little insane. There is no other way to describe it. Someone with full access to sanity would have just called him. They might have said Are you okay? You're usually so prompt with your communication. I got worried!. They might have not even noticed that they hadn't heard from their person. When Dave was alive, I'd go all day at work not hearing from him and never once feel fearful.

But as I carried on with the activities of the day, I worried more and more. The rational voice inside me got harder and harder to hear. I knew what it was saying, but the roar of potential loss in my chest and stomach and inside my skull drowned it all out.

It was an act of will and strung-out stubborn neurotic-ness that kept me from calling. I wanted to react to a normal situation with a proportional reaction.  I wanted to see if I could ride out the fear.

My body stored all the fear and panic, though, and by 3:00 I felt sick to my stomach and lightheaded with the beginnings of a throbbing headache. After finally hearing from him, finding out that he was fine and just got very busy, I collapsed at home with an epic migraine. Too sick to answer my phone, he called and called.

Finally, he came over, let himself in and found me on the floor of the bathroom in the dark. All I could do was whisper "migraine" and "can you bring me water?". For the next several hours, he tended to me, bringing me the microwaveable heating pad over and over again, setting glasses of ginger ale and tea near my head, stroking my hair and staying near by for comfort. He stayed. He cared for me. I felt safe and loved.  His dog curled up next to me and stayed there.

Later, when I felt better, I tried to explain how the fear manifests itself, but I struggled. He doesn't think his people are dead if he doesn't hear from them regularly. He just doesn't. I do. I might always jump to that conclusion.

I could avoid that kind of fear by avoiding love. And then I'd miss out on love. It's as simple as that. I could've avoided going through Dave's death and then I'd have avoided having him in my life.
Unacceptable.

Just as unacceptable as missing out on having my current love in my life. I'm right back at having so much to lose. It's a delicate and precarious place to be. I want to keep my grip loose. Too tight and I strangle that which I desire. I can't hold anything tightly enough to keep it from leaving me. I have to let what happens happen. I have to live. Reach for it, but don't cling to it as though survival depends on it.

It doesn't, but my happiness depends on risking loss. I step into every moment of every day, risking loss. I want a life for myself and I don't want to miss out on a second of it for fear of losing it all.

So, maybe I'll get sick if I don't hear from my love for several hours. Maybe I learn to carry that kind of fear. Adjust to it and welcome it as a sign that I've found myself back in a life that is brimming with love and possibility. Maybe, just maybe, there's a way to carry it all and continue to risk.






26 comments:

  1. Thanks for your post Cassie. At 2.5 years I am now entering into what seems to be a serious relationship. I find that as I make an effort to open my heart, and as I feel more connected to this new, wonderful and understanding person, there is a whisper in the back of my head that says "are you crazy? Remember what happened last time you went down this road." Of course I do remember, but that also means remembering the er feelings that come with discovering a new person and having that wonderful feeling of connection. Remembering means remembering it all, not just the painful end and the excruciating grief and widowed parenthood. Thanks for giving it words. My crazy brain salutes yours!

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  2. June 21st will mark the third year that I've existed without the love of my life; the other half of me. Rich was and is my everything. July 1st will mark the 14th anniversary of our marriage beside the beautiful Pacific Ocean in Carmel. Ours was a second marriage for each of us. We became two halves of one whole. I still feel married and I'm still in love with my husband. Sadness and grief wake up with me in the morning and it goes to bed with me in the evening. Thus is my new normal. Karen

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    1. I am so sorry for the grief you have to carry every moment of every day. Getting "used to" the new normal is so wrenching. Take good care of yourself.

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  3. Thank you Cassie for your post. January was three years for me, and I have been in a relationship for six months now. Those who haven't suffered such a loss have absolutely no idea how it affects us moving forward. I love her to death, but there are some things which she will never understand. Dawn Marie and I were married for nearly 15 years, I was 39 when she unexpectedly died. To have someone one day, and then suddenly not, is something that I will always carry with me.

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  4. Thank you!! Your words resonated with me today!I feel so vulnerable but I don't want to be alone the rest of my life…without love and possibility!

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  5. I love you love you love you love you love you love you.

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  6. I have lived this type of fear a few times since my loss. Different physical reaction, but still—I GET this. It's sooo true, sooo normal, and sooo sucky.

    But I see what you are saying about: if you want to live (not just exist), you have to risk. It occurs to me that even if we DID hold people "tightly enough to keep [them] from leaving" us, that still wouldn't guarantee that they wouldn't leave us. Because we don't have control over that. To be alive, to care for anyone...IS to risk.

    Not that I am the queen of bravely risking, but...I'm on my way. (I hope.) Sooo much wrapped up in that—and I know you understand that too.

    This post is a masterpiece.

    And I LOVE you!

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  7. Cassie - I lost my husband, without any warning, 4 years ago. I am in a new wonderful relationship and like you - when I've not heard from him or able to get ahold of him, in a reasonable amount of time - my emotions go to "that place" and the fear of "what if" starts to take hold. Loving someone does leave you vulnerable, however; as hard as grief is, I want to leave my kids with the knowledge that no matter the circumstance, there is life to be lived and shared and you must move forward, never forgetting or loving what was - but making each new day count. Thank you for expressing this "part" of widowhood and new love" so perfectly.

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    1. You're so welcome and I'm glad it was something you could relate to. Good luck with your new relationship.

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  8. Thanks for sharing this. ..I remember when my John died I said I would not allow myself to fall in love again because the fear and pain of losing to death yet again is too much. .yet never having someone to love and share life is so hard too....though I am not ready to date yet (it has been 2 years)...I guess if it happens, it happens. ..and whatever happens after that happens. ....we have no control. .so we may as well live life to the fullest.

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  9. Cassie, first I want to say I am so happy to hear you have a new love in your life. And I don't for one second judge your reaction, it is so "normal" for what a widowed person has been through. Sadly, one of my new widowed friends from my support group went through the same agonizing day and horrifically, her new love had died that day from an undiagnosed congenital heart anomaly.
    Your aspiration to carry opposing feelings at the same time is possible, you've done it already and you will continue because love, as you know, is so worth it. Take good care my friend.

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  10. Thank you for sharing with us. It has been three years and five months since I lost Bob. I had a boyfriend for nine months, everything was beautiful and all of the sudden he left. For the past six months I have been feeling like I am dealing with another lose. It is hard.... to start again, to trust, to love again....
    Maria

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    1. It is so hard to trust and love again. Maybe the hardest thing we have to face after what we initially faced. To fight the urge to close up shop and avoid more pain is a monumental task, but it's possible.

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  11. I sat here and thought about this for quite awhile after reading. It hits close to home and many of us will have to face this challenge as we attempt to move forward. Then the lyrics from that song by .38 Special started floating through my brain - hold on loosely, but don't let go...the song isn't completely relatable to this but some of the lyrics are. Hugs to you.

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  12. Oh how I can relate to much of what you wrote. Grief now colors everything a new shade for me too, and I now realize there is no such thing as setting it aside. I carry it with me. I also wonder if the ringing of my doorbell is a police officer with bad news. EVERY TIME. It's been almost 4 years since my oldest son was killed. And I still freak out if I don't get an immediate response from my husband or my youngest sign. I'm just positive they are dead. We tried to text our son who died at 8:05 am *that day*, and he had already been dead 35 minutes by then. I'm not sure that ever passes.

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    1. I'm guessing it doesn't. It just becomes something you adjust to a little more each time it happens, or you bounce back faster, or...something.

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  13. I lost my partner quite suddenly 2 years and 1 month ago. It is hard moving on and hard even thinking about a new relationship; however, love is meant to be shared and I am not a "loner" - so we'll see... The best advise given to me at the time of my loss was by a dear friend that had lost her mature son in an accident. She said that you will always have people that have not experienced such losses as ours "advising" that you will eventually get over it.... what she provided me with is a response that is both profound and comforting...she said "you will never ever get over it, but you will eventually learn to live with it".

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  14. Thank you for your post. You expressed this so eloquently expressed. It has helped me alot to know that I am not allow with these thoughts.

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  15. Thank you so much for your post! On August 28th it will be 4 years since my 48 year old husband died of a sudden massive heart attack. He died the night before our 23rd anniversary and I felt that I would never consider another relationship. In the years since, I have had many moments with my kids and other family members not returning my calls or texts "promptly" enough and right away I would jump to the "worst possible conclusion". In the past few months, much to my surprise, I have started a sweet relationship with an old friend...very cautiously though as I, like alot of your readers, fear the pain of loving and losing someone. Your post and the readers comments have been a sign to me that "it is better to have loved and lost, than to have never loved at all"...Thank you all!

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  16. I lost my wife 4 months ago and in that one day my whole world changed forever. I was married for 18 years, she was my free spirit, my good side to calm me down and relax and go with the flow. In the last 12 years I have had to bury 7 family members that were very close to my heart and 3 of those I held there had as they passed. I read an article today that talked about emotional care givers and it hit me that that is what I have been my whole life, even growing up. I was the rock that everybody turned to for support and to tell them everything is going to be ok, the soft shoulder to cry on, the ability to listen without comment. Now at age 48 I have nobody in my life anymore to turn to for support. No family, no loved ones, no one to take care of, I loved my wife so much that I don't feel complete anymore, she was my rock and never knew it. We had a 3 year battle with cancer so a lot of grieving was done with her still here, but the loss brought me to my knees Mothers day weekend when everything hit me all at once. The little things is what I miss the most, how was your day, soft kiss on the forehead, holding hands while shopping. I have always had a place in the back of my head for emotions, never had time for them to many other people needed me to be strong for them. Now I find myself dealing with a whole lot of emotions I am not use to dealing with and no support to help me get threw this. I know it takes time and I will learn to live with this but that does not mean I have to like it lol.

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