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.


At 8:21 AM , Blogger Yankee T said...

Dear Dorcasina,
You put into words so eloquently what most of us strain to hear: how you really are, not how we want you to be. I know you don't know me from a hole in the wall, but I want you to know that there are countless of us faceless people out there who are thinking of you and your sweet little girl constantly. I wish I had something tangible to offer. Instead, I send my kind and loving thoughts. I am so, so sorry.

At 8:53 AM , Anonymous Philoillogica said...

Dorcasina -

Yankee Transplant manages to put it perfectly: even in grief, your eloquence renders me breathless.

Every time you post, you teach me something. I know that you do it for yourself, but I still want to thank you for your gift of your writing, for your beautiful voice.

I pray for peace for you and your daughter, wherever you seek it.

At 9:19 AM , Blogger blog, the magnificent ferret said...

Thanks for posting. My inclination would be to collapse into a pitiful ball, and what you're doing seems so much braver and healthier. Don't listen to the vacuous idiots who try to talk you out of your grief - your love for your husband is palpable, and you shouldn't have to pretend that this doesn't suck. My dad died 13 years ago, and even though my mom has remarried and the grief has stopped being overwhelming, she still misses him. He was the love of her life.

I hope it helps a bit to know that you have some internet people who are thinking about you and praying for you. Wish I could come over with a pot of soup or stew or something, depending on your food preferences and commitments. Consider yourself the recipient of a virtual Jell-O, my people's way of saying "We're with you in this."

At 9:20 AM , Blogger Christine said...

Dorcasina --

So glad to read your post. Don't know if that was cathartic or more difficult to put that all down, but I would vote for the former. Your loss is beyond words, yet you put it beautifully. I don't know you, but my heart aches for you. Yes, your husband's family is ignorant, but sometimes platitudes ("you'll get through this," "it's God's will," etc.) are what people cling to when they feel emotionally adrift and have no real words. The only words that really convey what everyone feels for you in this horrendous time: I'm sorry. I'm sorry your beloved husband is gone. I'm sorry you are in so much pain now. I wish it didn't happen. Keep letting us know how you are, only as much as you are able.

At 9:31 AM , Blogger ABDmom said...

Dorcasina, Yankee Transplant said it so well. You are very self-aware--incredibly so. This will help you as you grieve. Believe me when I say it will. You are so strong and have so many wonderful qualities to offer to your daughter and to the world, and that is what will help you get through this horrible, horrible time. Note that I said 'get through," not get over, because honestly, you will never get over his loss. Ever. But you will--if you give yourself the room to grieve and mourn, which you are doing--learn how to cope. That's the best any of us can do after we lose someone we love.

Sending you good thoughts and virtual hugs that will soon turn into real ones.

At 10:46 AM , Blogger PowerProf said...

You're amazingly strong. I'm glad that you've posted as my thoughts have been with you. You have every right to feel anger, grief -- feel it as it's beyond healthy. I can only imagine how painful this is for you but I'm impressed with your strength, eloquence, and grace. We're all thinking of you and your little girl

At 11:22 AM , Anonymous leslie said...

Dear Dorcasina-

I've been thinking of you, wondering how you were doing. Even well-meaning people can say the most tactless, hurtful things imaginable when they're trying to help and the clueless ones are far worse. I wish you strength to set their words aside.

You are so eloquent and so strong. Like the ferret I wish I could make you soup or offer you some tangible comfort. All I can say is that I wish you peace, comfort and a local friend who can talk sternly to your computer.

At 3:52 PM , Blogger Songbird said...

What sort of fucking nonsense is that?

The complete and total sort.

The Divinity I could recognize does not impose such particular and meaningless tragedy.

Hold onto that, Dorcasina, whatever others may say. It's not part of a plan, there is no reason or, worse, fault, involved. It's a terrible, terrible thing, and anyone who tries to minimize that is doing you a disservice. His death deserves and requires your grief, wherever it takes you. Stick with the friends who can keep the bottom from dropping out altogether. I think that's where we find the Divine amongst us, in the loving and caring of others.

At 4:25 PM , Blogger Ancrene Wiseass said...

It's good to hear from you, even though it's painful to hear what you're going through. Like many others, I wish I could help more directly.

Those of us out here in the blogosphere will be happy to hear from you whenever you want to post, and we'll be keeping you in our thoughts when you don't, too.

At 9:16 PM , Blogger Jodi said...

Like another blogger wrote, I know you don't know me, but my thoughts and prayers are with you in this time of pain.

I have experienced personal tragedy and the death of my only sister at at an unexpected time in my life (I was 38, she was 33 y.o.) and I recall living on a mechanical, going-through-the-motions type-existence for a long, long time. I felt very sad and lonely, and angry.

On a sunny day in the spring following her death, as I spoke quite frankly with a very kind man who had come into my home to again tune a piano (that no longer produced joyfu), this wise and simple man said to me, "Don't let the bad guys win".

I've not forgotten the amazing person and friend, my sister, however eventually I resigned myself to try to carry on each day and "celebrate" in any way I could find - her life through carrying on with my life. I'm terribly sorry for your pain and sorrow.

At 5:24 AM , Blogger Bad Alice said...

I'm so sorry you're encountering people who want to rush you through the grief. Sometimes I think other cultures are much saner about this: they wail and tear their clothes and hair. I'm so glad you do have friends to listen to you with love and gentleness.

At 8:58 AM , Blogger Badger said...

Embrace your grief, Dorcasina, even when it knocks you down with the shock and the pain and the emptiness and the breathlessness. Cry cry cry. (I do.)

Thinking of you constantly.

At 10:30 AM , Blogger Phantom Scribbler said...

Yankee Transplant said it better than I ever could. Thank you for letting us listen to you. I wish there was more I could do.

At 3:10 PM , Blogger m&b said...

I'm happy that you have written about these very difficult days. Keep hanging in there. We don't know each other, but please know that I (and lots of others) are thinking of you and hoping to support you in whatever small ways we can.

At 4:21 PM , Anonymous a said...

Dear Dorcasina,

I'm so sorry to hear of this awful loss and all the extra painful parts you've told of. I mostly lurk here, and thought maybe words from a stranger wouldn't be appropriate, but have decided to add my voice to the others. I want to wish you comfort, and hope that you will find lots of people who can listen without being afraid of whatever you need to bring.

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