I cannot say, and I will not say
that she is dead. – She is just away!
With a cheery smile, and a wave of the hand,
she has wandered into an unknown land,
and left us dreaming of how very fair
it needs must be, since she lingers there....
Think of her still as the same, I say:
She is not dead – she is just away.
~ Away, by James Whitcomb Riley
I have a book I keep meaning to read. It is called Denial of Death. I am mainly interested in the title. Because I live in Denial. (Doug often said "D'Nile is not just a river in D'Africa.)
It seems impossible to me that Doug is dead.
On a daily basis, I often act as if he is gone. I have eventually - after much emotional and psychological kicking and screaming - done some of the practical things like probate and changing beneficiaries on accounts. I dealt with his ashes. And I am in a serious relationship with a widower, PS (which I often feel guilty about, because it seems like cheating on Doug.)
On Sunday I went to my second Tree of Life Ceremony with PS. People can purchase a colored light in memory of a loved one. The proceeds benefit hospice and bereavement support programs. Then, during the ceremony, a Christmas tree is lit (simultaneously in multiple places throughout Connecticut). Since I bought some lights in Doug's memory, his name appeared in the program. When I saw it there, it seemed surreal. I had the familiar sensation of "Why is HIS name on the list of people who have died? He can't be gone!"
Disbelief and denial is typically the first stage in the grieving process, but I seem to be stuck in it.
For the first few months, I was unable to say "Doug is dead." Eighteen months later, denial continues pretty much unabated. The grief counselor says that my unwillingness to accept what is so is the cause of much of my suffering. She says if I can do this, I will feel more at peace. She says I need to let go of wanting Doug to be alive. She says that this does not mean letting go of the love - I will always have that.
I simply don't know how to do this. To let go of wanting him to be alive seems akin to wanting him to be gone. Or like closing the lid on his coffin. I know that holding onto grief will not bring Doug back. I understand - on an intellectual level - that I can no longer connect with and live with Doug in the physical world. But I simply refuse to believe he is really, truly gone.
Maybe I think that doing so will keep it from being true.
"I had seen her die, had gone to the memorial service, had wept over her death, had spread her ashes far and wide. And yet I continue d to argue with the impossibility and unfairness, to argue with the fact that she was gone and was not coming back. I couldn’t accept it because I didn’t know how to accept it. To accept is to believe, to live as if it were true. I couldn’t live as if it were true. I didn’t know how."
~ Patrick McKenna Lynch Smith, Leaving the Life: A true story of love, loss and gratitude
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