What was, is, will be…working the process

Individuals face grief in unique ways.  Most hospice and end-of-life counselors impress on us that it is often helpful to express  our feelings.  This past week the light dawned, that I have to get more feelings out, whether by journaling, or talking (either to myself or others)..keeping it in my head just does not work for me.

I realize this may not be for everyone, but I’ve had enough clear direction from God that for me, this is the route I must follow.  Not to say that I will spend all my time talking about my feelings about loss, just that it needs to be processed so I finally reach the point where I can look back without so much pain.

So this week I wrote poem on the above title, which is actually taken from a few lines in Dante’s Paradise Lost.( some kind of irony there).  I’m so grateful for this small poetry group and their honoring my efforts, even when the results are self-focused. Perhaps with more work, I can share this poem here . Soon I will be attending a writers conference, and I have some concerns about how well I will manage the daily schedule of workshops and lectures and evening performances.  Thankfully, my friend Robyn will understand if I have to ‘bail out’ now and then.  Each step forward into new territory makes me feel vulnerable.  Just meeting alone with our tax accountant, after so many years of both of us using him, raised my anxiety level. ( all in all, it was  reassuring meeting).

The best answer to how I’m doing now is ‘plowing through’…I see that the row I’m hoeing will come to an end, but progress is slow and not so much under my control as I might hope.

Just now, in the rain, a hummingbird has stopped at the tree below my window. A sign, perhaps.  I have a feeder on my deck, I hope he finds it.

I close with a quote from Thomas Merton that was in my Lenten readings online:

” if we are completely open to the Holy Spirit, then the Spirit will lead us where God wants us to go.”

Overlapping Circles

Recently our grief support group talked about the overlapping lives of spouses as two overlapping circles.

When one spouse dies, the remaining spouse is left with ‘half a circle’ or less…depending on how deeply  their lives intertwined. It’s as if a big section of your life is gone, and usually there are ragged edges.

I’d never thought of myself and Roger as deeply intertwined; we each had our separate interests and activities. In fact one local church board used to joke,” it’s no problem having both Roger & Rosalie on the same committee because they each bring a separate view—it’s not like they vote the same on the issues!”

One of the things I appreciated about living in the seniors apartment complex is that when I got weary of stand-up social events I could simply leave and go upstairs to a good book.

But now I discover we had a complicated role system; certain things I counted on him to take care of , certain things I was responsible for, but sometimes asked his advice/input. And we had a lot of leisure time spent together; we enjoyed art museums, musical events, and many other things. In fact, we looked forward to a lot more leisure time together, which is one of the dreams we had to let die.

The task for the remaining spouse is how to deal with the vacant part of the circle left by her spouse’s absence, and eventually carve out a new life. (I’m a long way from that part, I’m still grappling with the empty space and the tasks that have now somehow become mine.)

Sometimes it feels overwhelming; most of the time it does not feel good. Early on, I would just flop into the soft cushy chair and cry, “it’s too hard”. It didn’t even seem worth living without Roger, and I wanted to die too, just so I could be with him.

I still feel intense grief and often dissolve into tears, but I’m committed to plowing through this time, unless God chooses otherwise. I’m reading lots of good books on handling grief when a spouse dies, I’m talking to counselors, I’m going to the widows/widowers group, I’m continuing with most of my weekly schedule.

I know God gave me courage beyond measure during Roger’s 6 months of illness and death; I pray for that same courage, from that same Source, as I travel much more uncertain days now. But it helps to know that one reason I’m so empty, is that I’m not a complete circle right now.