This post is not trolling for sympathy. In fact, I hesitated quite a bit before posting it. In the end, I decided it was important to share my story in the hopes it might help someone else. Since we collectively fear grief, it’s hard to comprehend how consuming despair can be or what to do when someone we love is drowning in it.
Why is Grief so terrifying? Why do we turn away and shield our eyes and our hearts from the pain we see in the ones we love? Why do we push them to be more positive or delete a grief-related post just because it makes us feel uncomfortable? It’s a topic I think about often.
It was about four months after Dan died that I was sitting outside in the fall moonlight with a glass of wine and my besties when one of them looked at me and said, “I have to tell you that I’m mad at you.” I was a bit taken aback. Where the hell did that come from? How much wine did I drink? What did I do?
Let’s rewind a bit.
Losing Dan pulled the earth out from under my feet. In addition to the loss of my soul mate and love of my life, I had a front row seat to his agonizing battle and very gruesome end just months after losing my Dad to the ravages of another horrible disease. PTSD, Depression, and Anxiety are Grief’s annoying evil step-sisters who crash the party. To say I was struggling was an understatement. I suffered from nightmares every single night, reliving those horrible last few moments in every gory detail. Death like you see on TV and the movies would have been a blessing. Dan’s passing was not peaceful. I was later told that he didn’t suffer because he’d been in a coma for days. I call bull$%^t. How would anyone know whether or not he suffered? It’s not like you can verify this statement.
But I digress. I wasn’t sleeping without pharmaceutical help, and the sleep I did get was deeply troubled. I was miserable. I didn’t know who I was anymore. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t function. I withdrew from the family and friends (the ones that stuck around after the funeral) that were trying to be there for me. I dodged my grief counselor. And I went to a very dark place. VULNERABLE MOMENT ALERT (as if anything in this blog isn’t): I became suicidal. I went from questioning how I was supposed to live without Dan, to not wanting to live without Dan, to praying to die, to thinking about how I could take matters into my own hands. I had reached the point where suicide seemed the only logical escape from the unbearable pain I was suffering. I repeat, it seemed LOGICAL, not EMOTIONAL. So logical I was dead calm (haha, inappropriate humor is a coping mechanism) and convinced that, in death, I would be with Dan again. I was fortunate to wake up one morning with the clarity that these thoughts weren’t me and that I needed some help to pull myself out of the downward spiral. Only a handful of people knew how bad it had become. The besties were in that group and got me the hell out of Dodge hoping that a change of scenery would do me some good. Sweet Baby Jesus at Christmas-time I love them so much.
Fast Forward back to besties and wine and moonlight. She was mad at me for even considering taking my life. And she was scared. She said that if grief could shake ME to the core, one of the strongest people she knew, what would it do to the rest of them? How on earth could anyone else survive a catastrophic loss?
I loved her for trusting me enough to share how she truly felt and that she looked at this broken mess and saw strength at all. And I realized at that moment one of the reasons we fear looking at other people’s grief is that we don’t want to look in that mirror and envision that loss for ourselves. And that’s okay. We can’t live in the joy of all that life has to offer if we’re too focused on losing it. And at the other end of the spectrum, there is another truth-that in recognizing loss is inevitable, we can free ourselves to enjoy the time that we have.
So for my W’s who are in that dark place, it gets better. I promise. You will reach a point where the light breaks through and finds you. But we can’t always do it alone. When those who love you are throwing you a lifeline, reach out and grab it and hold on with all your might.
The Wandering Widow
Suicidal thoughts are a serious matter. If you have them or think someone does, please get help. Those closest to me had suspicions but were afraid to take action in case they were wrong. Old Lisa was “strong” and independent and apparently a scary bitch who would have freaked the F out on someone if they dared mention it. If I hadn’t woken up that morning with the epiphany that I was about to fall off the cliff, I probably wouldn’t be here today.