It’s been a really, really rough several weeks. My brother-in-law passed away unexpectedly at the end of March and it ripped the scab off the wound of my husband’s death 4 years (1460 days) ago.
Grief: keen mental suffering or distress over affliction or loss; sharp sorrow. Dictionary.com
Grief is such a tricky thing. In those 1460 days, I have moved from brutal mental suffering and distress (it was always both) over the loss of Bo to sorrow that sits immediately below the surface of my life at all times.
Just when I think I have a handle on the grief, some random item or action triggers a spasm of grief – like eating a piece of chocolate cake. We had a running joke about wanting a piece of chocolate cake, Bo was always up for chocolate cake. Fittingly, chocolate cake was the last thing he ate.
Then there are the times when one of the kids (all adults now) says something that sounds so much like him that I choke up.
But none of that compares to watching someone you love going through the same thing – particularly when that someone is your baby sister. I cannot even write this without crying. I find myself feeling as if I’m in lock step with her, even though we’re not talking every day.
I don’t want to understand.
Understanding what she’s going through is a mixed blessing because I DO understand. And, it’s painful, unbearable. It’s doubly tragic: that I’ve been through it and that she has to go through it.
And yet I also know there are and will be moments of blinding joy superglued to the horrid pain. In our Next Chapter Meetup this week, Geri, my co-leader, reminded us that we can find moments of joy in the pain.
I have found those moments when I allow myself to be vulnerable in front of others. When I open up, I experience the unwavering support and love of close friends and acquaintances.
The Women of the Club
I’ve written before about the importance of my Book Club to my sanity and my survival. So, after a “come to Jesus” conversation with my coach about not sharing this latest lost with them, I found myself telling these amazing, supportive women about it. And they immediately stepped up, reminding me that they love and care for me. Offering solace in the form of hugs and phone calls and the prayers and thoughts that I feel surrounding me constantly.
Then there are the moments of joy when I come across a photo of Bo or a birthday card and I remember, as if it were 30 minutes ago, the feelings of that moment. I’ve learned to stay still and marinate in those moments, covering myself in the love and support of those memories, using them to support me as I keep moving forward.
You’ll notice that I mentioned the support of acquaintances, too. I’ve found, and others have, too, that one of the most important ways to get through periods of abject grief is to keep moving forward – sometimes with intention, and sometimes like a zombie. For me, that involves lots of networking as I continue to build my coaching business.
The act of getting out of the bed, putting cold compresses on my puffy eyes, taking a walk, getting dressed, and heading out the door, lets my psyche know that I’m determined to move past this.
Ok. I deleted “move past this” 3 times. Then I decided to leave it, because, as harsh as it might sound, that’s exactly what I’m doing. I’m moving past the paralyzing pain and going onto the next thing.
I am not moving through it, I am moving past it. It’s like a gigantic boulder in the road. I can’t get through it, so I just go past it, driving myself through the dust and rocks on the side of the road. Because sometimes that’s what it takes to survive.
Here’s what I’ve found. The act of going out and meeting new people, sharing our stories, figuring out how we can help each other brings me joy. Sometimes, in the middle of a tech networking event, I’ll experience a moment of exhilaration that happens when I realize that an insight I’ve just shared came directly from my life and work with Bo (we worked together, too). I love it; it keeps me going.
And every day, every time I talk to one of our kids, or read an article about what’s coming in technology, or talk to a client about their struggles, or realize that so much of the knowledge and experience that I use to build this new life comes from our life together, I am thankful that I had 10,950 days with him. I know with every fiber of my being that he’s lurking around the corner, watching, observing, and lifting me up.
So, amidst the torrent of tears running down my face, I feel the joy that comes from having had the great, huge, gigantic blessing of a partner in life. I will be here for my sister as she moves into her new life. I’ll gladly (ok, that’s an overstatement) go through building new scar tissue over the wound that is Bo’s death because I can.