Grief Compounds Over Time


I finally finished the book by Joan Didion, “The Year of Magical Thinking.”  It took me longer than I expected but, quite simply, my ability to focus is severely reduced.  It was, is, a good book for someone who has lost a partner.  I experienced no ‘aha’ moments while reading the book, only because I am not capable of ‘aha’ at this point.  That type of a response suggests vibrancy, energy and capacity that I don’t have.  Everything has a lack of lustre, no shine or gloss to keep me interested.  Of course it’s me, not anything or anyone but me.  That I felt the book offers something is evidenced by the fact that I completed it and that I shared some of its contents with my family and friends – and on this blog.

As an example, Chapter 17 captured some of the emotions I have experienced.  I read the first two paragraphs aloud to both my daughter and my sister-in-law.  A few choice statements from it follow:

“Grief turns out to be a place none of us knows until we reach it.  We anticipate (we know) that someone close to us could die, but we do not look beyond the few days or weeks that immediately follow such an imagined death.  … We do not expect this shock to be obliterative, dislocating to both body and mind. … In the version of grief we imagine, the model will be “healing.”  A certain forward movement will prevail.  The worst days will be the earliest days.  … We have no way of knowing that this will not be the issue.  We have no way of knowing that the funeral itself will be anodyne, a kind of narcotic regression in which we are wrapped in the care of others and the gravity and meaning of the occasion. Nor can we know ahead of the fact (and here lies the heart of the difference between grief as we imagine it and grief as it is) the unending absence that follows, the void, the very opposite of meaning, the relentless succession of moments during which we confront the experience of meaninglessness itself.”  (Didion, 188-189)

Over and over again I have to face the fact that the ‘now’ that I experience has an emptiness that surrounds it, fills it and fills me.  This ‘now’ has no context or parameters because those were taken away when my husband died.  Our life together, our values, our persons were a shared experience in which we created a shared response to life events and moments.  Life and living is still occurring but my response system has been crippled and consequently I don’t want to participate, I don’t just have the emotional fortitude or mental capacity to be part of it.   My family is all hurting and I know this.  I worry that I should be stronger for my kids – but I also know that they were aware of how incredibly bound as a couple Kevin and I were.  They expect me to go off kilter, understand that I have and will continue to be, and I know that they are too.  We are a bunch of misfits right now, just getting by, and according to what I’ve read so far these feelings aren’t going anywhere fast.

The next book on my reading list is “Talking to Heaven” by James Van Praagh.  This book has a completely different approach to death in contrast to “The Year of Magical Thinking” – the book by Didion, who chronicled her thoughts and experiences after losing her husband suddenly and her daughter’s issues in the same year. Didion’s book gave me some insight and awareness of the journey. The new book’s full title is “Talking to Heaven, A Medium’s Message of Life After Death.”  I go into this book open minded, after all, who knows where my comfort will come from.

Any thoughts or experiences to share? Leave them here.

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