I’m sure this is the longest I have gone without blogging since the day we started writing about this fun fest called cancer. With a small ‘c’. I’ve thought about writing lately, but when the mood has hit I have looked warily at my computer and have ultimately decided that I would rather bury my head under the covers and try to find some solace in sleep. I wonder if I am “over” blogging. I’m not sure. I suspect it is more about the blanket of grief hanging over our lives that seems to get heavier as we approach Christmas. As we approach the anniversary of Ben’s death. As we approach a time where every first without Ben has passed.
I believe I mentioned that I recently joined a Grief Group. I hate that name, by the way. I find myself embarrassed to say “Just heading off to Grief Group now.” In any case, I did join a Grief Group because that is what I’m doing right now. I’m grieving. And it takes a shit load of energy, believe me. Grieving is not for the faint of heart, and I recommend trying to avoid it at all costs. Make sure your loved ones wear their seat belts, look both ways before crossing the road, eat their vegetables, and ask them to try to not get old.
Anyway, I joined the Grief Group and I quite like the ladies I have met, although I find myself wanting to throw my arms around them and say “I’m so sorry” about a dozen times a night. None of them are whiners, but their stories are just so sad. I suppose mine is sad too. (Fucking cancer. Fucking bad hearts.) We get handouts at the end of each night … and one of them was an article published in the Globe and Mail in 2014. The article resonated with me, and I will share some of the author’s words here in this blog post. But before I do, I would like to state for the record that we here in the west do grieving WRONG. In fact, we do it terribly. I now understand why, back in the day, people wore all black for a year or wore black bands around their arms to signify their grief. We should revert back to those days. (Perhaps just the arm bands rather then the all black clothing. All black clothing in 2016 simply means Goth. So that would be confusing.)
Do you know why people once wore black arm bands? Because they were fucking grieving and the world needed to know it. Wearing black arm bands probably prevented people from directing questions to the bereaved like “Hey chick! How ya doin’?!” Or comments like “Er Mah Gawd I cannot wait for Christmas!!!! Aren’t you so excited for the holidays?!” Yes, I am aware that people mean well and that it is easy for them to forget that I probably don’t give a flying shit that Christmas is coming. And I know that asking someone how they’re doing is just something we say out of habit as we pass by each other in the hall at work or in the grocery store. But that is really my whole point about the arm bands. If we lived in a society where everyone around us could easily see when someone is grieving, we could better avoid comments that accidently make the bereaved want to punch a screwdriver through their own head.
I currently live about 70% of my time in a very sad world. Because I’m grieving. And while I’m grieving, I’m also still trying to be a parent. Not only am I trying to be a parent, I’m trying to be TWO parents. Think about that shit for a moment. I would prefer to spend my every moment watching video clips of Ben and I in better days. Failing that, I like to pass the time by researching how to cure Collecting Duct Carcinoma on the off chance I can also figure out how to time travel. Then I will be prepared with a cure before we even receive the diagnosis. Instead, I not only have to be the Mom but I also have to be the Dad. And not just any Dad … one of the best Dads. One of the most hands on Dads there could have ever been. That is some hard shit to do, let me tell you. And so I live 70% of my time in a sad world right now and that is quite alright, thankyouverymuch. Don’t you think it would be a bit odd if I didn’t? I’m moving through it though, but slowly.
Living in a sad world doesn’t mean I never again see the sun. It doesn’t mean I assume I’ll never be happy again. I will. I know I will. That’s kind of a given because that is who I am. I like to be happy. I prefer to be happy. But right now I’m grieving. I can still go from happy to sad in .05 seconds and you won’t have a clue how or why it happened. It could be a song, a smell, a word … it doesn’t matter. It just happens. Every single place I go on any given day, I have been there before with Ben. So it is easy for moments to hit where I have to remind myself to breathe.
I happen to appreciate the fact that I am allowing myself to grieve properly. I believe it will make it easier for me live however many years I have left in whatever form of happiness I am able to find. I believe that if I let myself grieve as I need to that I will ultimately be a better mom. A better daughter. A better sister and a better friend. Maybe one day a better partner to another man. Who knows. But I do know what I need to do right now, which is to just grieve without time limits being placed on me. I’m working through some heavy shit.
Here’s a few of my favourite lines out of the article in The Globe and Mail.
“With spousal bereavement, things don’t get better, just different. Everything feels wrong. A rift exists between us, as I go on and he doesn’t. Time comes between us. When sutures refuse to hold, the wound opens unpredictably. So it is for the widow or widower: The world assumes that time has done its proverbial work and “healed” us. No. We bleed still, our amputation aches. The wound never heals because our partner is gone, forever. Time heals nothing.”
“In the first fresh agonies of separation I howled like a distressed animal (which I was). Sanity receded. My centre gutted, mindless chores helped to ground me. I struggled against the desire to call out for help, not wanting to trouble others, sensing even early on that few would understand the depths in which I floundered.”
And finally, after making reference to the Victorians’ shield of mourning dress, she said “Today, many deny death’s reality by doling out advice (“keep busy” or “take a trip”) with more enthusiasm than logic, as if all the bereaved need is a distraction.”
I like those last words. “As if all the bereaved need is a distraction.” That is a common theme amongst those who love me and want me to hurt less. I get it. I don’t want to watch those I love suffer either. But it is for our own sake that we don’t want the people we love to hurt, because watching someone we love go through pain is unbearable. It hurts. So if we can just convince them that they are happy, then we too can be happy again. If only it were that simple.
I often think about how my parents must feel. They loved Ben as much as anyone could love a son, and they lost him. Oh, how that must hurt. But in addition to the pain they feel from having Ben ripped from their lives, they also have to watch their daughter suffer without any clear end date to the suffering. That has to hurt even more.
My husband died. I have to check the box that says ‘widow’ on government forms. I really resent that. I probably always will. Which means that five years from now, or ten years from now when I am forced to check off that box, I will be sad. Again. Do you know why? Because Ben is dead. That’s why. I think that’s a pretty acceptable reason.
I still want to talk to Ben every single day. I want to tell him that Chris got promoted and has transferred from Ottawa to Green Timbers. I want to tell him that Dennis retired. I want to tell him that Jeff will be coming back this summer. The other day I wanted to tell him about the guy who came into my office perturbed about something that I thought was ridiculously insignificant. I wanted to text Ben and tell him the story, and say “Can you believe that you are dead, and this guy wanted me to care about who should repair the cars?” I want to tell him that I miss him, and I love him, and I want him to come home.
The kids and I finished the design for the marker for Ben’s grave. For 12 years Ben and I regularly walked through the graveyard and I often wondered if one of us would actually end up there. I guess now I know the answer to that question. Ben’s picture will be placed where the white oval is in the drawing: