Self Care: the One Year Mark

The anniversary of Don’s passing is coming up in a few days and I’ve been deeply affected by it.  Don wasn’t only my husband; he was my best friend and the best person I’ve ever known.  Certainly the most solid.  I spent almost half my life with him.  Watching the struggle and rapid decline of someone who was my rock was the worst experience of my entire life.  I am only now beginning the healing process.

Some of these photos I’ve never seen before because they were recently sent to me.

Photo: Fred To
Photo: Fred To

People say it will get better but so far I don’t know what they’re talking about.  As of today, I can say that I’m managing my grief.  I say managing because I’m living with it, not overcoming it.  I don’t have a time frame for when it will affect me less; maybe never.

Grief feels very solitary. Even if we’re not alone we’re still alone in our grief because it’s all individual.  No one can tell me otherwise.  But there are a few similarities with others living with loss.  We work through it.

Working through grief is painful and tough.  It’s about finding ways to live alongside your loss; building a life around the edges of what will always be a vacancy. Making sense of something senseless.  We live in a culture that doesn’t understand.  It’s not really our fault that we’re ignorant. We’ve grown up with what we’ve learned; trying to fix things and make everything better.  Most people mean well.  But knowing that you had a good life with a partner doesn’t cancel out the fact that they’re no longer here to continue with the life you had.  Certainly doesn’t make one feel any better.

Photo: Fred To.  Our mutual friend Colleen Kohse was sitting on the other side of Don (but she would not have approved the photo of her in this shot).  RIP dearest Colleen.

It’s even more difficult if someone looks for the flaws in how someone got to where they were.  Hearing things like he/she didn’t really take care of themselves, didn’t exercise enough, or exercised too much, didn’t take proper vitamins or took too many.  They should never have taken that turn; things like that. As if that would have changed the outcome.  It’s hard for some people to accept the cold hard fate of what is.

Photo by Willy. I was surprised to see this up on the screen at Beth’s recent Celebration of Life. At former Heaventree Gallery from our Ambience of Africa photo exhibit.  RIP beautiful Beth.

So you try to heal as best you can.  Your continue to go out with friends but there’s a huge void.  And there are moments where you lose yourself in laughter which feels great, but then you may feel guilty because your partner is not here to laugh alongside you.

Don with his mom Jean. She was lovely.
Don with another love.

Transforming  grief into a work of art that touches someone has been and continues to be a way of healing.  The best songs, poetry, movies and art are created out of loss.  Expressions of great pain were reflected by the images of Picasso’s Guernica or in the words of writers like C.S. Lewis.  Or Eric Clapton’s song Heaven written about the loss of his little boy.  Creating art out of loss is certainly not a fair trade for the loss, but sharing an expression of grief with others can help tell the story and stay connected to who you’ve lost.  Many people find that journaling helps.

*There is something to be said about our biology being affected by grief.  Losing someone close to us changes our biochemistry.   Respiration, heart rate, and nervous system responses are all partially regulated by close contact with familiar people and animals: these brain functions are all deeply affected when we’ve lost someone close.  I’m not a neurobiologist (surprise, surprise) however it is a factor of neurobiology.  Losing someone close changes us is ways we never could forsee.

Activist Don with friend Ruth

Then there’s the emotional rollercoaster just when you think you’ve got it all under control. And so you cannot expect everyone to understand your being overly sensitive or acting a little irritable at times.  Your real friends of course will understand some occasional out of character behaviour as being related to a deep sadness.  Someone said “those who support your shifting needs are the ones to keep in your life.  The others?  They can be set free.” Well meaning people can sometimes be very unkind; even cruel.

So missing someone who you’ll never get to see again in this lifetime is like finishing a great book that you like so much you don’t ever want it to end.  You turn the last chapter but the storyline will resonate with you for the rest of your life.  

And that my friends is what true love is all about.

*Source: Megan Devine, therapist + author

 

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