Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Crabby Widow

Note to many well meaning folks: Yes, this is wretched. But I am in no hurry to "get over it," to "get on with my life," to "get back to my routine," or to "move ahead."

Okay, those things will happen. I accept that I will someday probably find things that bring me joy, a renewed purpose and enthusiasm for my life, a healing and a moving on. I do and will take pleasure and strength from our daughter.

Just not yet. The man I lost was indescribably special to me. For the years that we were together, and still today, he was the center of my life--the glue that held it all in place, the pole around which I orbited, the middle piece of a puzzle we were assembling together. He was my sounding-board, my mirror, my cheerleader, my comfort, my inspiration, my other half. Losing him, I lost the whole life we had planned for, dreamed of, worked toward together.

It is essential that I indulge myself in every fact of his loss, especially in these first raw weeks. My pain is one small measure of the incomparable person he was. Attempting to short circuit, bypass, or speed up that pain, to emerge out of its other side, feels at this point like a denial of who he was and what he meant to me.

I don't want to be "back in the swing of things." I want to take time to hurt, to remember, to be angry at what was taken from him, from me, from us. I want to ride the roller coaster all the way to the bottom, and maybe even pause there for a while.

Please don't rush me. Let me savor the pain and the loss, and to honor him through them.

Besides, there is no "normal life" to go back to.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Expect the unexpected

Today was my official first day back in the classroom. My students were lovely, as they have been throughout the ordeal. My colleagues were kind, and warm.

I am not sad right now so much as empty, stalled, stopped. I have the vague sense that something awful has happened, but I can't remember what. My stomach feels vaguely uneasy; my thinking is unclear. I'm tired of being told that whatever I am feeling is "normal"; the word is even more meaningless than it usually is.

I expected grief to be sharper than this; with a loss so great, I almost welcomed the onslaught of despair. Instead, I feel almost sedated.

There are many indignities associated with the loss of a spouse, partner, lover, friend. The chipper voice saying, "Have a great day!" at the end of yet another official call I have to make about his death.

The fact that the my health care renewal form has only two options: "Single," and "Married." "I'm still married," I want to shout; "I will remain married for a long, long time--if not forever. Just because he has died doesn't make me single." What an ugly word that is, now. It's nearly as bad as "alone"; I am that, too. Profoundly.

Friday, November 25, 2005

What helps?

Delicious, nourishing, comforting food, cooked by dear friends. Raising a glass of the wine my husband loved, among generous friends who loved him, too.

Tonight, I go to sleep in warmth and with some small measure of peace.
Thank you, with all my heart, Mme. X and M. Y.

Thursday, November 24, 2005


Real if composite phone conversation, repeated again and again:

Lovely caring friend/family member: Oh, Dorcasina, I am so, so sorry for your loss. Is there anything I can do?

Dorcasina (in complete sincerity and gratitude for having such amazing and brave friend/family member): Not really. It means so much that you called. Thank you.

This is what I don't say, can't say, won't say:

Isn't that the bitch of this whole thing? That I have so many wonderful people who want so much to help, and yet there's not a fucking thing any one of them can do to make this better? My whole world has shifted off its axis, and no amount of love and concern does a goddam bit of good. I'm less than half a person now, and that makes me dangerous to myself and everyone else. I have nothing to lose. I'm a body without a soul.

I can't decide which is worse: succumbing to total wretchedness, where I cry until I give myself the dry heaves and feel the need to peel off my skin in sheets just to get the pain to stop? Or the moments where his loss is utterly unreal, when I forget and am driving along noticing a lovely tree, or a child playing, and then remember that the person who was my other half will never again catch my eye or remind me that we are thinking the same thing at the same time? I see "normal" people doing "normal" things and I want to shout at them, to hurt them. How can their lives go on? How can they do those everyday things? For that matter, how can I?

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

A Trick Question

Which is worse?

a) that first moment after waking when you are conscious that the bed you are in is forever empty but for your own aching self.

b) the endless minutes after lights out when you fear that sleep's merciful oblivion will forever elude you?

c) there is no right answer.

d) all of the above.

As if it weren't bad enough

I just got one of those automated calls...You know, the kind with a recorded sales or political pitch? I usually hang up if there is dead air space, but lately my lovely niece calls me, and it sometimes takes her a moment to collect her thoughts, so I've been less liable to slam the receiver down.

Dorcasina: "Hello?" (pause, pause). "HelLO?" (pause)
Recorded voice: "I'm sorry. Goodbye."

I've either received a sympathy call from Heaven, or, I suspect, been hung up on by an automated caller.

Can things get any worse?

Monday, November 21, 2005

The aftermath

Wow does this hurt. A lot of the time it is still unreal; my husband had been hospitalized extensively in past months, so most of the time I forget that this time his absence is forever. When it does hit me, it takes my breath from me in an abrupt rush, with a wave of grief that is physically tangible.

My daughter can't completely comprehend our loss, but she knows something is dreadfully wrong, and has been wanting to look at pictures of her beloved Papa several times every day. I dread and treasure these moments; I so want her to have memories of him, but it hurts so much to go through those photos of happier timesl.

What hurts the most?

My husband's family, most of whom are self-righteous emotional idiots. They can't wait to "put this behind them" and feel compelled, already, to remind me that I'll "get through this." Yes, of course I will, in some deeply wounded fashion. But in the meantime, I want to mourn and honor the incredible loss of a gentle, loving man, whom I chose to be my partner for my whole life--and I want to be angry at the awful disease that robbed him of the life he loved. Being with his family reminds me how much he suffered at their hands; not because they are malicious, particularly, but because they are incapable of valuing what made him the beautiful soul he was. Because his "successes" in life were intangible, emotional, they are eager to make excuses for what they see as his "failure" to achieve external milestones. They are still trying to fit him into their shallow, empty ideals, and it's unbelievably painful to see firsthand what he suffered from them.

Technology. My computer files, email programs, etc. are a mess. He did all of it for me, knowing that I had a stereotypical girly aversion to learning about how things worked. He patiently organized, sorted, filed, and upgraded my systems. In fact, he was mid-upgrade when he finally became too ill to continue. So connections falter, messages are lost, professional materials gather ether-ial dust. I am furious with God for leaving me without my tecn support; every glitch makes my loss impossibly real.

People who can't bear grief or its idea. These are the ones whose "How are you?" really means "Tell me you are okay so I don't have to worry or feel bad for you." Also those who suggest to me that "It's all a part of God's will."
What sort of fucking nonsense is that? The Divinity I could recognize does not impose such particular and meaningless tragedy. The fact that bad things happen doesn't necessarily mean, to me, that there is no God; neither does it suggest some act of perverse benevolence on "His" part. The hyper-Christians are the worst: smug in their own platitudes, they scatter them willy-nilly on those of us whose faith doesn't reduce to meaningless and comfortless cliches.

The unpredictability. As everyone has told me, grief is intensely physical in its symptoms: nausea, heat or cold, breathlessness that comes like a cosmic tackle. I am overcome by the need to sit down, whereever I am, until the moment passes and I can cry anew.

What helps?

Most of the time, nothing. I have to ride it out.

My husband's childhood friends, who were always his emotional family, and who loved and treasured him during the years when his family tried to mold him in their empty image.

The people who don't fear my grief. The ones who call and sit silently at the other end of the line while I sob inarticulately.

This morning, writing this helps. I had thought I would never blog again. And I may take long breaks on those days when I lack the will to put words together. I won't say yes and I won't say never.

The overwhelming generosity of the blogosphere, which reminds me daily that there are so many good people in the world. My husband was not the only one.

The astounding gifts from Dr. B's readers. I am touched, deeply, by their generosity and love.

Another long, lonely, and empty day awaits.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Funny, I though I had Romantic Tragedy written all over me...

The Movie Of Your Life Is Film Noir

So what if you're a little nihilistic at times?
Life with meaning is highly over-rated.

Your best movie matches: Sin City, L. A. Confidential, Blade Runner
If Your Life Was a Movie, What Genre Would It Be?

Thanks, Badger.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

The song is over

For my beloved

born January, 1970
married July, 2002
at rest forever, November, 2005.

There is no poetry in my world tonight.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

What becomes of the broken hearted?

I signed the official hospice paperwork yesterday. It appears there will be no big miracle for us, although those who have endured such loss before me tell me that there will be small miracles in the days to come. I alternate between a preternatural calm and the inarticulate rage and pain of a wounded animal. They tell me these are "normal," whatever the hell that means.

I feel as though I have abruptly changed teams in the game of humanity. I've gone from those as yet basically untouched by real loss and sorrow to one of the walking and permanently wounded. It's a profound shift in how I approach life, and it makes me feel very old, very tired, very hopeless. Even in the bad times, I managed to dredge up some optimism, some energy for the daily work of living. It feels now as though I will never have them to draw upon again. I suspect there's some sort of truism here about encounters with mortality--one's own, of course, but also with the fragility of anything really good in life, and with the tenuousness of human happiness. And perhaps what I've done is grow up in some way, into a wiser and sadder version of myself.

I wanted only to raise my daughter with the one man I have ever really loved, with the one person I have encountered who made me feel completely unalone. I'm a basically fearful person, who spent her whole life afraid that something bad would happen--something bad enough that I couldn't cope with it. And now that bad thing is here.

Was it a premonition? I thought that the things we worried about were the things that didn't happen; in other words, that the bad things were the surprises. If so, I guess I didn't worry specifically enough.