Saturday, August 30, 2014

My own worst enemy

The better past of last Sunday was spent laying in bed crying... while the cat persisted in trying to comfort me

I feel like I’ve been in a rut for more than a month now, since Dan’s first anniversary.  I’ve had days here and there where I’ve been able to smile and actually mean it, but in general, the pain has been very deep and the ache for him, overwhelming.

The grief has been so relentless that it’s started messing with my head and making me question if I was doing something wrong.  If I’d gotten stuck in it some how. Was I doing enough to keep moving forward? 

I mean, I know this dance well by now, the three-steps-forward, two-steps-back tango.  I know I need to keep my expectations realistic and that this is a marathon, not a sprint.  I know that I can’t project manage my way out of this, yet in the dark of the night when the tears won’t slow and my heart feels like it’s going to stop beating from the sheer agony, I forget that this moment will pass and I’ll take steps forward again.

I just don’t understand why I’m this hard on myself.  Losing your spouse in such tragic circumstances, so young and early into our lives together, would have to be up there with the one of the most terrible experiences anyone could be forced to endure.  Yet I can’t seem to give myself permission to stumble. 

As the weeks pass and I continue to put this pressure and expectation on myself, it has started to mount into feelings of guilt and inadequacy.  I worry that I’m bringing everyone around me down and taking up so much of their energy with my constant state of fragile melancholy.

So this week I spent a lot of time contemplating how and why I’m so hard on myself.   I think that sometimes I have trouble understanding the difference between accepting that there are going to be bad days where I don’t want to face the world; and just wallowing in my sorrow to the point where it becomes an excuse not to try anymore.  I know I have to be gentle with myself – but where is that line between acceptable self-care; and just using my grief as a shield against anything unpleasant or moderately challenging.  Does that make sense?

Don't get me wrong, I know there's no set answer. This pondering is more rhetorical than actually looking for a response. When I think about my grief and whether I'm 'doing it right' - there is no fair bench mark to asses myself against. Because everyone's grief is different. 

I can't look at what seems to be working for a friend and try to apply it to my situation because we're not fighting the same battle. No one can actually tell me if I'm grieving appropriately because it's MY grief, I'm the only one who knows it and feels it, so I'm the only person who can truly answer that question. That's the crux of my conundrum ... I don't seem to trust myself to make that call!

On Thursday, the psychologist who runs a local suicide bereavement counselling program and support group that I became involved in a couple of months after Dan died, called me to check in.  I told her that I’m doing ok, but was struggling with this concept of ‘am I grieving appropriately’.

I confessed to her that some days I just don’t know what to do with myself.  I just sit in the loneliness and cry for hours and think ‘I’m so sick of this sadness, I don’t want this life for me.  I hate this pain.  Despite the fact that I’ve been carrying it around with me for 13 months, I still have such a long road ahead of me and it’s just not fair. 

She replied that of course I’m sick of it, of course it’s not fair.   My husband died and how else am I supposed to feel? It doesn’t mean that I’m broken or there’s something wrong with me.  I’m grieving and it’s horrible.  She pointed out that everyone around me is giving me more acceptance and understanding that I’m granting myself. 

She reminded me of the progress I’ve made since those first few months.  I don’t cry at work as much; I’ve travelled; I’ve taken up new hobbies and made new friends. 

She pointed out that while I have bad days, I also have good days.  And on those good days, while I might take steps to keep life simple, I don’t use Dan’s death as an excuse for a free pass. 

Being reminded of that really helped.   I actually think I’m going to print it off and stick it to my fridge.  Widowhood is such hard work.  So many life lessons all being shoved in my face at the same time, it’s exhausting and overwhelming trying to take it all in. 

Plus, my memory isn’t the best right now so I forget a lot of things… like the fact that it’s ok to be this dreadfully sad and that there will be more good days. 

If only I could have that breakthrough and learn to trust myself. Like my counsellor said, if only I saw what others saw - and if only I gave myself the grace and compassion that was being shown to me by the people around me.


  1. I remember the 1st half of the 2nd year as being so horrible, and part of it was that I was just so tired of grieving. It is hard and painful and lonely and it just plain sucks! I will tell you that it does get better, just not as fast as we want. The distance between the aweful times gets longer and linger. For me, at almost 3 years, I am amazed to have found another love, who honors my grief and is far more patient with it than I am.... Hang in there, it will get better.

  2. Rebecca, we have so much in common with how we cope and handle our pain. (and we both have kitties that sit on our chest by our heads and try to comfort us lol). I cant even tell you how many times my counselor has said to me: "stop beating yourself up." When she first met me, it only took one session for her to ask me: "Are you always this hard on yourself?" I thought about it, because I never really had, and said "I guess so. I dunno. I just dont understand why I am STILL in so much pain and why I cant do better at coping and ......" I have to force myself not to constantly judge my own process. Its super hard for me. I never give myself any credit, and Im always having to remind myself of how far I HAVE come. I get it. Much love xoxo

  3. dear Rebecca,

    just a few months ago after entering the second year of Hugh's sudden and unexpected death, the grief I felt was so intensified - it was even worse than in the few weeks after he died. the pall of shock was somewhat lifted, and I could not stop crying, had so many flash backs, and felt so despondent. I, too, felt I must be doing something so wrong, and my therapist asked the same question - was I always so hard on myself? being just a few more months out, I am wrestling with allowing myself to just be; to sit in the darkness (we keep looking for light - but maybe it's not the time for light?), and mourn and feel whatever needs to be felt. but it's still sooooo hard. I keep having new thoughts about so many things I miss about him, about how horrible it is to lose the US-ness, and so many times each day I re-live memories I now realize are the IMPRINTS so deeply etched on my heart, mind, body, and soul of how much we shared and the measure of how much has been lost. it's like the first 12 months felt like swirling around in a mad, violent vortex. but now that I am able to come up for air, the flotsam and jetsam, all that wreckage wreaked by death and unspeakable loss, now magnifies the grief. it's a lot more elusive, harder to ID the triggers, and pieces of it are so sharp and gutting and breathtakingly painful - it makes me feel like I've made no progress. it is only by going back and reading my journal and being validated by my therapist that keeps me from just wanting to give up, to make the pain stop, to wanting to scream out loud that I DON'T WANT TO DO THIS. and even then, it all seems just too ridiculously futile.

    thank you, thank you, Rebecca, for your very raw candor about how defeated and discouraged you have felt, along with such disturbing self-doubt. i needed so badly to know i am not alone. and i know there will be legions of others who will read your words and feel themselves reflected in this part of your story. i wish for you what i wish for myself - to just be...

    much love,

    Karen xoxo

  4. Trying to just be too, amidst all the pain and memories. I keep hearing "you're doing so well", then why do I still feel so shitty and struggle day to day with even wanting to be here? I, too, am drawn to the dark. While canoeing with a friend one night, I kept looking into the dark cove, feeling drawn into the blackness, while she steered us into the path of the moonlight. I can't wait until I want to go there, into the light, but for now, I need the dark to hide and heal and remember what was. So wish that I had my kitty these days, she departed last week, my buddy these last 5 years. Yes, have faith, Rebecca, that there will be more good days ahead.

  5. I feel like you are living my nightmare. I keep thinking I am going to wake up from a bad dream, only to know it isn't. I keep saying if I would stop crying maybe I can get a clearer mind. It has been 2 months for me and will I now make it to your level. My heart feels so heavy the pain is real.

  6. I felt my thoughts being read out loud through your own fight. 16 months and I feel like every decision I have made has been wrong. Our only dream was a family and we got that. It was taken unexpectedly.
    I still have this tornado of emotions all within moments sometimes. Thoughts racing, blank stares and being frozen in my tracks while in the middle of things.
    It has taken me until now to actually search anything on widow....Thank you for your rawness. I needed to not feel alone. At least in that sense.