Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Rose-scented Conversations~

Language has changed for me in this time since Chuck died.

I'm certain I'm not the only one who has heard people say "Your fillintheblank would want you to be happy".

Happy is one of the words that has changed for me.  Happiness is a fleeting thing and I'm not concerned about being happy.  Life is deeper than that for me now.  I hope someday I feel peaceful again.  Serene.  Joyful.  Content.  I'd like to feel passionate about a man again.  But happiness no longer seems to fit what my future might be.  I'll always miss my husband and that will always tinge whatever else is going on.

But maybe all of those words add up to happy.  I don't know.  And I don't really care.

Anyways, how the hell do they know what Chuck would want for me?  Though, yes, I know, because I had conversations with him before he died and his intent while living was to add to my happiness in whatever way he could and that didn't die with him.

BUT.  Given my emotional state these days, he wouldn't tell me something inane like that.  He wouldn't say a damn thing because he was educated about grief.  So he'd say nothing.  He'd hug me, though.  Just hug me with his strong arms and I'd relax into him.  When I responded with that answer to someone a few months ago who had just told me about Chuck wanting me to be happy, it kind of threw him for a loop and he really didn't know how to then respond to me.  So he just, well, walked away, mumbling something.

In chipper tones, I've also been told that, if nothing else, I must be grateful to be alive.  Once again, they are taken aback when I say actually, no I'm not grateful to be alive.  I'd rather be with Chuck but a broken heart hasn't killed me and so I'm still alive and therefore I must create a life for myself.  But I don't like any part of it and I miss him unbearably and would rather not be here.  That throws people off big-time.

As I travel the roads Chuck and I traveled in our first year out on the road, I've met so many people (and we're just one month into it) and my daughter and I both have gotten so many hugs and it's been so beautiful and I wish I could tell you that it takes away the pain but it doesn't.  It's beautiful and I'm so very glad to give and receive hugs and I'm so fortunate to have such a strong support community and thank goodness for it.  But underneath it all, I'm still struggling not to throw up constantly and my chest still feels as if a meat slicer is chopping away at my insides.

I met one of my daughter's extended in-laws recently on our travels and heard the most bodacious words come out of her mouth when we sat down to talk.  She said (can you believe this?) I don't know the language of grief.  I haven't been where you are.  I want to support you but I don't know what to say.  Tell me.  Teach me the language of grief.  

It was one of the most powerful conversations I've had since my husband died.


  1. Thank you Alison for your post. People do not know what my husband wished for me. I always said that when he died he wanted me to jump into the coffin with him. He always laughted, but he really meant it. I have more peace now after three years. Happiness sometimes comes. I really want the peace and want to be even.

    I like the response from your friend. That ws thoughtful and kind.

    Maria O.

  2. Alison, I so identify with all that you wrote today. Thank you for putting it into words. When I'm told that my husband would want me to be happy and to find someone to love, I know that's not true. I was recently looking over photos of my husband and myself and I realized that he has his arm around me in the majority of our photos. My husband was protective of me; I was his. I know that he wouldn't want another man in my life nor would I have wanted a woman in his life had I passed away first. We were soul mates; two halves of one whole.

  3. For anyone who wants to learn what I and others have been going through I usually recommend that they buy "It's not raining daddy, its happy." The book is by Ben Brooks-Dutton and relates the first year of his grief journey. He, his wife, and two year old son were going home when an out of control car jumped the curb and struck his wife, Ben was able to get himself and his son out of the way. A very different experience than my own, I was married for 28 years and we had no children, but Ben's honesty about the pain of grief is clearly caught in his writing.

  4. Alison, so much of what you wrote today truly reflects how I feel, but this line especially resonated: "I'll always miss my husband and that will always tinge whatever else is going on."

    I struggle mightily with this idea and all it implies for how to move forward, not to wait for the pain to pass because it never will. So then what? No, Steve didn't leave me a road map for my life after him. He died suddenly; we didn't even have a chance to talk about what happens, although he used to say sometimes that we should make a pact to "go together." He knew how bad being the one left behind would be.

    I have, however, coming up on 4 years of being a widow, recently realized a couple of things that I think Steve would be glad about: One is that I have a relationship with his children from his first marriage that is now my own, not mediated by simply being their father's second wife. All three of them - plus spouses and grandchild - came into town to visit me over the July 4th weekend, and when they left, I experienced a pain in parting that I imagine Steve felt after such visits - and that I did not share at the time. The kids matter to me in a way they never did before he died, and I know he'd be glad we all get along and continue to be part of each others' lives in some way.

    Second is my love of music. Steve was an amateur singer and an excellent musician who expanded my musical horizons a hundred-fold. We went to concerts, vocal recitals, the opera... and I enjoyed them. But now that he's gone, I find that music is major source of joy for me, a much greater joy now that I'm "(re)discovering" it on my own. Steve would be glad to know this, too.

    I'm struggling to find the words to say why I think all this is significant. Perhaps it's because these discoveries took time to develop; they didn't arise from heeding those perfunctory sorts of things people say upon a death, like your spouse wanting this or that for you. I had to wade through grief to discover these elements of joy and satisfaction.

    If I'm lucky, there will be more such discoveries. They don't end the pain - nothing does - but they're a good part of this new life I've been forced to craft for myself.

    1. Allison your words so resonate with me, even at this point, over three years since I lost my soul-mate. I too agree that happiness is not something I can identify with. I struggled so often with how to respond when someone asked 'how are you. I have moved to a place where i can see and feel some peace, which i am thankful for after years of feeling like an elephant was sitting on my chest or that I was just being knocked down daily by wave after wave. I also agree with the writer above that there have been some positive experiences. I am blessed to be with a warm and loving grief support group. We have walked many miles together and still spend time with each other. Blessings to you as you continue this journey. Wishing you lots of hugs and new experiences.
      love you

  5. The thing that has always bugged me the most about "He would want you to be happy" is: *That doesn't take away the reason I am sad*. It didn't even when he [my Ron] was alive. Yes, it's true; he'd want me to be happy. He HATED to see me cry...even when they were happy tears. So—the person saying that would not be telling me something I don't already know. It's just sadness MUST be processed. That's it. Otherwise it'll fester beneath the surface and probably "blow up" someday, undoubtedly making things way worse than they'd have been if I'd allowed myself to experience it all along.

    I think it comes from our society's obsession with suppressing, hiding, or if possible eliminating emotions it sees as negative. I grew up having to suppress A LOT, so I can say from experience: it is sooo damaging.

    But what an enlightend soul: "I don't know the language of grief. I haven't been where you are. I want to support you but I don't know what to say. Tell me. Teach me the language of grief." The fact that this person is willing to recognize and say out loud that they don't 'get it'...means in my mind that they already 'get it' so much more than most. I'm so glad you and that person had the chance to meet and have that powerful conversation.

  6. THis is so amazing and 100% how I feel. I shared it on my Facebook page. LOVE THIS POST. Thanks Allison.

  7. All I can say is ditto. It caught my breath just how spot on this was. I too am not thankful to be alive. I wish every night that I wouldn't wake up in the morning, that instead I'd be with him picking mangoes from a tree in the Brazilian rainforest somewhere. Most people do not understand that and may call it selfish or ungrateful. But I know those of you who follow this blog get it.

    Thanks for being so open and pure with your emotions.