Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Not Everything is Black & White ....

.... nor all black or all white.

In fact, I'm going to step out on a limb here and say .... that nothing is just black and/or white.
Well, except for grief.
Parts of grief.

In the beginning (and actually longer) my grief was black.
Solid black.
Cold, inky black.

I've been in caves before.  You know, under ground, deep and cold caves.
And there have been times when I've been on a tour of a cave and the guide turned all of the lights off, so that we could experience the solid, black darkness.
That darkness doesn't hold a candle to the cold, lonely, smothering, black grief that enveloped me, that seemed to seep into and out of every pore of my body.
That blackness blinded me to anything in front of me, any thought of what might lie ahead .... or of any notion of a future.  Not even a future of one minute.
But I guess I don't have to tell you that, right?
And anyway, I digress.

The older I get, and I suppose the more "experienced" I become with life (I think that's a very kind way of putting "the more suckiness I encounter in my life"), the more I realize that nothing really is black & white.
And I am also learning that I guess that's a mostly good, though not very comfortable, thing.
People are not all black nor all white (no matter what they might tell you).
Situations are not all black or all white.
Rules are not always black and white.
And grieving .... wow, grieving is anything but all black and white.
No matter what people may tell you.

If you ever hear anything like that coming out of someone's mouth .... I'd bet they have never, ever grieved.
There are no rules.
There is no magical "one year" mourning period.
I don't know anyone who woke up on day 366, took off their mourning clothes to put on some color and were miraculously "all better".
Part of me wishes that it were like that.
As easy as that ..... put in 365 days of hard grieving .... and then be done, walk out .... like walking out of prison.
One day you're in .... the next day you're out.
Although I would imagine that ex-cons have a lot of baggage to deal with once they're out, too.
See?  Nothing is black and white.

One would think that the longer "out" one gets from the date of being widowed, the easier everything becomes.
Wouldn't one?
Well, if one were not widowed, one would.
We, however, know that it's not quite that simple.
Not that quite ..... black and white.

Yes, some things get "easier".
I actually think that we get stronger and so our grief is easier to carry.
But then something happens .... for whatever reason, or .... for no reason at all.
Like .... July the 4th.
When I was driving to a friend's house and it occurred to me that in 5 months I will be 4 years "out".
And I almost had to pull over to stop and regain some sort of control of my mind ... and body.

The moment that thought .... that number .... went through my head, it was like a bolt of lightening had searingly jolted my brain.
My heart started beating way too rapidly and I could feel my blood pressure going up.
I could also feel my stomach lurching as fast as my heart was racing.

Four years.
Those two words sound .... obscene to me.
Truly, horrifically obscene.
Like .... that should not be allowed.
It should not be four years since I last held Jim's hand.
Since I last kissed him good bye .... not knowing, or even suspecting, that it really was good bye.
It should not be four years since any of his children have seen his smile, have heard his encouragement.

Four years.

Not so much.

I wouldn't have guessed that.
But then .... I've learned not to "guess" too much anymore .... about anything.
Or anyone.

Because nothing ..... is black and white.


  1. You are so right! People do not get how this effects your whole life for the rest of your life. I like to tell people that it is not something you get over. It is something you learn to live with. What other choice do you have?

  2. So very true, there is no magical "cured" date. I just passed the one year anniversary, can't believe it has been a year, he has missed so much, it doesn't feel like a year, it still feels like just days to me, and really, that is all it has been, just days.
    I have had many times that I am doing ok and many times that I am not. I am now dealing with my first bought of anger. I am so very pissed! Mad at everyone, mad at the friends who don't come around and mad at the one's who do and still don't get it. Mad at the family who don't call or make any effort to help, or atleast pay attention to my children. There is no male role model in their lives and my brothers could easily do SOMETHING! But they don't.
    I am still pissed at the life guard last week at the waterpark who yelled at my three year old to husband would have ripped that little teenage punk a new you-know-what for talking to his baby that way.
    I am pissed that I am on my own with four children, everywhere I go, I have to bring them out with me, everything we do costs way too much. Pissed off to watch my bank account go down, down, down. Pissed off that my house is always a mess and despite the money, I had to hire help for the yard cause the outside looks awful, cause I can't keep up with it. I can't do it!!! I am sick of this! So very very pissed!!! Definitely not doing well after one year. I want my husband back, my kids father back! I want to hear my three year old say "Daddy!" and watch her run into his arms, or show him the firefly she caught.
    I guess this is the way it is, can't change it, I know, but find myself wishing anyway, wishing to see him again, wishing it never happened. Imagining seeing him again and running into his arms.
    Yup, not cured yet...just pissed off, but I too am learning not to guess too much anymore, about anything or anyone. Thank you for your post Janine, your words always ring so true with me. xoxo

  3. It is never easier, you just get used to it.
    Thanks for writing such a wonderful piece that explains it exactly.

  4. @Anonymous
    I still get angry easily even though it has been three and a half years. I also hate the way our family is treated by others in our neighborhood and the way my own family treats us. I won't even get into HIS family, but I don't miss them very much at all.
    I feel very stuck living in a house that doesn't seem to be mine (it was ours together) in an area of the country I hate. Every day I get up and hope that something will happen to make it all change. Everything I've tried hasn't yielded anything.
    So much for "a chance at a new life." There was nothing wrong with the old one.

  5. so, so true. tears come to me easily while reading your last few is obscene. I'm six + years out and am still in a very gray area...I know healing has occurred, but still can't believe that this is my life...thank you for writing this.

  6. Janine- I love your posts. I feel as though you must have interviewed me before writing this, but then, I could never express my feelings so perfectly.
    To all the others- I also hear you so well. Anger, anger, anger. I sometimes feel that it runs my life. I realize now that I am still so GRAY. It will be 2 years on July 30 for me. I want him back. I do not want a new life- I loved my old one and never wished for anything else. Thanks everyone for sharing all of your thoughts. It helps more than you will ever know. xxoo

  7. Love this post, and at almost three years out, I love the post by Anonymous....totally experience many of those feelings...and sick of all of the people who just don't get it, who disappear. I had all of this help in the beginning, and now people are just gone. I too, had to hire help to mow my 2 1/2 acre yard, because my brother-in-law, who is a teacher and is home all summer, decided he didn't have time to do it anymore. He has a huge fancy mower, and it took him all of 40 minutes. He now lays by the side of the pool and reads each day.... My sister was the one who told me he wouldn't be doing it anymore...shrugged her shoulders with pitiful, condescending look on her face, and said, "It's his decision...he's got the right to do whatever he wants." I just wrote out a check for last month's lawn care for $600.00. Of note, there is an older man across the street from them whose lawn he now mows...because you know..he's such a great guy....I can't take a vacation because all of my extra money goes to pay for lawn care...

    I realize that it's not all black and white...I've gotten to see really amazing displays of love and generosity, and also some really pathetic, thoughtless, selfish bad behavior...whew...that felt good. :)

  8. Someone posted this link on fb... I am 355 days out. I cried when I read the post and the comments - the one by "angry" anonymous resonated most... I am navigating pretty well overall, I'd hafta say, and I do thank God for that... but I am also so aggravated by those who don't get it on those days when I am struggling as if "well, gee, you were just fine all last week -- what's the problem?" A lot of people around me have "become" morons and idiots this past year. I know -- not the Christian way to view them. I know. But seriously??? I also relate to the frustration that the above anonymous person wrote about the lawn care, the family apathy, the "decisions" (or more often than not, the no-shows) by others. I, too, am seeing my little cash lump become more evaporated monthly. I am learning to be careful with whom I share what's really going on in the real concern that I might just haul off and erupt or hit someone. I know. Not something I want to model to my 11-year-old son, who also, by the way, now has very few male role models despite those who just "promised" to be there for us.
    Ladies & Gentlemen... let your voices be heard. I will join you. I am determined to focus my aggravations and my frustrations and express them to those whose ears I have hold of and speak the truth in love, call a spade a spade, so to speak -- I figure if I don't SAY something to CHANGE their selfish behavior, to EDUCATE them on the black-gray-white of what I'm going through, to EXPLAIN it again and patiently (aye, there's the rub!), then this ignorant moronic selfish attitudinal cycle will only continue... to effect the next person.
    Be BRAVE! Be BOLD! Live life on Purpose!
    And let's face it, WE were all just as ignorant... until it happened to us. Peace!

  9. The last paragraph is so great. Ignorance is really "not knowing". Yes we need empathy and help and consideration but there is absolutely no way the "others" can know something they have never experienced. I have had to learn to say exactly what I need which is something my husband told me I needed to do a long time ago. He said "you never ask for help". It is true. It is the amazon in me, I want to prove I can do it myself.
    But - no one can do it by themselves. We all need help.
    So now I say "I need a ride to pick up my car from service" ,
    "I would love if we could meet for lunch in the next couple of weeks. I am lonely". or recently after someone said something about my gardens, I responded "it would be great to have some help, it is too much for one person" - their response "I love gardening and would be happy to come over and spend an afternoon!",
    I am learning that people will respond if you tell them what you need. Not all people, not all of the time, not because they witness our struggle but because we tell them exactly what we need.

    It has been a good lesson for me to learn that some people are great at "doing" some are great at "being" and some don't know how to arrive at either. That is the grey. That is the place of compassion. Because someday they will find their own grief and in those moments they may remember the times they could have helped and didn't.
    When my husband died I committed to one thing - to live the rest of my life in love and Wow! It certainly is never black and white. It certainly is not an easy road, but I would rather travel this one.
    Yes - peace.
    May it come to all of us.

  10. Thank true and well put.

  11. Another post that just reaches in to the depths of my soul... why does it always have to be black or white? I appreciate all of the love and support my family has received over the past three years since my husband passed away yet I still encounter those who want to dictate my grief. As someone mentioned in an earlier post... I loved my life just the way it was and I have a tough time placing myself in this new life... a life I did not choose. It's not easy but I am trying to come to terms with it every second of every day... my way. Comments like "try not to dwell on it" or "you've got to be strong... that's what John would want" just cut me to the quick. I pray for peace... for grace in handling those who "know what is best for me and my family." The strength I display every day comes from the belief my husband showed me in countless ways... it comes from my devotion to my family. Not because some thoughtless person has imposed their thoughts on me. Thank you for your posts... they are fuel for the journey and I wish you all peace on your journies.

  12. I am almost a year into mine and feel I am getting worse instead of better. I find myself aggravated, angry, jealous of other elderly couples that still have their loved one with them. I am jealous when I talk to my siblings and all the plans they are making to do things together and all the plans and laughs they are able to still enjoy. I love them all and do not want to feel this way, but I do. I was lucky to have him for 45 yrs., more than some, but still have such a void in my life and heart and just still feel like so much left for me to decide and do and take care of and it just goes on and on!! As one lady said,about the 365 days, she is right though, it seems like yesterday to me and I just wish that it would all just go away. The void, the being alone, the loss of my best friend, my partner, my right arm. Now I have to get along with the rest of my life and I really do not even know me, have been married for so long and coming from a big family this is the only time I have ever been alone.When you are married so long and having a family I think you kind of lose yourself and now I have to find me and where I want to be and what I need to do with the rest of my life without my partner.