When you read this, it is two months after the death of my husband. Those of us in the “Over the Hill” group are likely experiencing increased losses of family and friends, and I thought it might be helpful to offer my experience of the grief process to date.
As I write this, I am in Estes Park, gaining insights from the Big Thompson River as it roars and tumbles toward Lake Estes. I sit, reflect, and think. Fortunately and unfortunately, I’ve been so busy with after-death responsibilities and details; I haven’t had time to or for myself. Nevertheless, the river’s majestic power allows me to leave my head and rest in my body, where my work awaits.
Before and since he died, I have certainly experienced the first four stages of bargaining, denial, anger, and depression. I know the final stage, release, is a long way off. Family and friends who have offered a listening ear, time, and support are invaluable. But my work of moving on is on my shoulders. Nobody else can do the work for me, and I can do it now or later, but if I don’t want to be feeling like this next year and the year after, I have work to do. Sitting by the river helps.
As I watch the white caps fly off the rocks and see the calm water that follows, I know I won’t always feel tossed around like a bobblehead. Even after two months, my mind is less chaotic, and I’m not so fearful of losing my ability to connect the dots.
At this moment, I realize my umbrella over the entire grief process is just plain missing him. We went and did so much, and everywhere I turn is a favorite restaurant, trip, activity, or routine—each memory is a punch in my chest. It happens dozens of times a day. Just his things around me makes me—miss him. That’s it; I just plain miss him.
I know, even when I enter the release stage of the cycle, I will still miss him. I missed him during the bargaining stage when we tried so hard to keep our spirits up, hoping for a cure. I missed him in the denial stage when I held his hand and watched him die. I’m not too fond of the anger and depression stages. So many people get stuck here, but it is not how I am hardwired.
The river shows me that it is okay to miss him forever and let the raging emotions flow into peace. It’s nature’s way.
If you have lost a spouse or someone close, missing your loved one is likely at the root of how you feel. I know I will miss my husband forever. It’s impossible not to miss the good people in your life once they’re gone. But, within balance, missing them is more than okay–it’s good–it’s normal–it’s inevitable.
Until the next time: Live while you live.
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