Nine months ago, the one true love of my life, my Barbara, passed away. The pain is only slightly less intense than it was in the first weeks. I was so busy then. There were two memorial services to plan, creditors (mostly medical) to notify, family obligations to be met. Friends we had not seen in months came out of the woodwork.
What’s happened since then?
Those friends have mostly vanished back into the woodwork. Her children from her first marriage, so nobly supportive in the first weeks, are moving on with their lives, and I am not a part of that life. I was a step-parent, and now I am just someone they once knew.
My grief got the better of me for a while. I had been on low-dose anti-depressants almost two years for my fibromyalgia. I tried increasing the anti-depressants to help with the diagnosed “depression”, and learned that I am susceptible to “medicine induced mania”. Yes, I became clinically manic for a while. During that time, I was hyper-irritable, combative, suicidal.
I even planned my suicide. Right before executing that plan, I snapped out of it, and I sought help. I called the prescribing physician’s office, and was told to go cold turkey from that drug. Things got interesting at that point. But that’s a side story, which you can read another time, if you are inclined.
Around that same time, my employer cut my income by roughly 30%. Like so many others my age, though, I simply accepted it, glad to still have any job. I am 52, and my skills are out-dated and in low demand, thanks primarily to that very job. He also gave me a deadline as to when I should “be better”. After all, we can schedule grief, and recovery, can’t we? </sarcasm> His deadline came and went, and I wasn’t “better”.
But now I am starting to be better. The pain hasn’t gone away. I’ve simply learned how to avoid thinking about it. When I do think about the loss, like now, the tears well up, and I cannot avoid letting them flow. I schedule my tears now, so that the outside world doesn’t see how much pain I am in. It seems somehow better that way. What friends I still have don’t want to deal with my loss.
It’s an axiom that the loss of a spouse will result in the loss of most, if not all, of the friends you had in common. I think I understand why that is. As a society, we have come to believe that grief can be scheduled, like my employer made so clear. But the profound grief that results from a loss this great cannot be scheduled, cannot be simply turned off when “the time has come to move on”. So those of us who would grieve on our own schedule, who don’t simply stop hurting because we should, remind those around us of their own mortality.
And if they too loved the one you lost in their own way, then seeing you still grieving is like tearing open that wound for them every time they see you. It’s easier, then, for them to stop seeing you. Besides, they are all still couples, and you are a bit of a fifth wheel. So, you start to make new friends, go to different gatherings, and find other things to do. You drift away from those friends, and they from you.
I’ve found the strength to go on, at least for now, and I feel the reason I am still here is to make a difference. I’m not sure just how yet. I’m still exploring the ways I can make my life matter again. It’s what Barbara would want.