Surviving the first year

CalendarAlso see: Progress, month by bloody month | Surviving the second year | More on processing grief

"I wish I could tell you it gets better.
It doesn't get better.
YOU get better."

~ Joan Rivers

I did survive the first year without my husband Doug. But it wasn't pretty.

On June 8, 2011, one year to the hour after I got the call, I finally took Doug's ashes off the shelf (literally) and put them outdoors. The ritual marked the end of the longest year of my life so far. After doing this, I feel like some of the chains of pain dropped away.

Some people go into free fall after losing a loved one. I splatted. Hard. Doug's end was sudden and totally unexpected. He kissed me goodbye one morning, just like he did every weekday morning. By lunchtime he was dead.

At times, the first year was incredibly painful. Lonely. Full of yearning for what was forever lost. Suffering in darkness. I checked out of life.

But I did endure. I did survive, despite the lack of desire to do so in the early stages. The main reason is because I was not alone. I had friends and family. I also met someone- PS, a widower - who pulled me from the wreckage. He was uniquely situated to understand and help me across the bridge.

And I worked hard at recovering from grief. The main things that helped me heal:

That's pretty much how I made it through twelve months - four seasons.

As one special friend said "You did what you didn't think was possible. You were pushed up to the edge, looked down, and then chose to take a step back."

A year has passed, but the sadness has not. The bereavement counselor reminded me that grief comes in waves. In the beginning, they are like tsunamis, and you fear you will drown. She swears that gradually the waves get farther apart and become more bearable. But there will always be sadness attached to losing someone you love that much. I am not the same person I was before.

I still cannot look at a photo of him, or see his handwriting, without heartache. But the open wound is turning into a scar. There is a hole inside me that I believe will never be filled. But I was surprised to find that my heart has grown, and there is still room inside it for joy and love. There are times when I am filled with both. For my family, my friends, PS, and life.

I know Doug would not have wanted me to suffer for long. People tell me he lived to make me happy. (Maybe he knew that if I wasn't happy, I would make darn sure he wasn't either!) I would not have wished suffering for him either, had he been the one left behind. But apparently it is something we must experience during the grieving process, in order to heal.

Supposedly the last stage of grief is acceptance. Maybe acceptance for me means when I stop wanting something I can never have.

Although I "know" that Doug is dead - that he is not going to walk in that door - I still don't believe it. It does not seem possible that someone who was so alive is not. I continue to live in denial (which Doug said was a river in d' Africa.) It is hard though, because I wake up, live and go to sleep in the house where we lived and he is not here anymore.

I miss him. So many of us do. He was really something.





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