It’s now almost five months since my husband, Kevin, died. I’ve accomplished my return to work and have tried to create a new normal in my life, both things which were extremely hard to do. Since his death I haven’t had a lot of down time as I feel there is a collective conspiracy between my family and friends to make sure that they keep me “busy”. This weekend was one of the first ones that I’ve had almost all to myself (minus a little sister time yesterday morning). It’s allowed me some time to think.
Life is still rocky and I definitely have my moments. One of the key pieces to me getting back to work was I needed to have my own space, an office with a door – not a cubicle. Moments of sorrow hit out of the blue and there’s no stopping the tears. It is awkward for some coworkers, and for others, who have suffered a loss like me, it’s too painful a reminder. Just this week past I was talking to a woman I work with and the tears were trickling down her cheeks – we were talking about work, not about life and death. Finally I asked her what was up and she told me that it would be 15 years the next day since her husband had died. So, for a few minutes, we talked about her and her deceased husband. It was the right thing to do, she needed it; obviously the pain is carried in your heart forever. However, tears are contagious, and after that I went to my little office and sobbed away.
I decided to pick up the phone and call the funeral home that had held Kevin’s service. They routinely run grief counselling sessions. Right after Kevin had died the doctor had talked to me about these sessions. She encouraged me to wait at least four to six months before I joined. ‘There’s a process you need to work your way through’, she’d said, ‘you’ll know when the time is right.’ Shortly after Kevin’s funeral service I had spoken to the funeral director who had handled Kevin’s arrangements; she’d said the same thing, but had qualified it by adding, ‘unless you really need it sooner.’ So I’ve waited, and now at almost five months down the road, I called. The next session will start the end of September and I plan to be in it. In the interim I have received some copies of a publication called AfterLoss distributed as part of the AfterLoss Grief Recovery Program. It’s a generic, one-size-fits-all support that provides some generalizations about what to expect and how to cope; generic because everyone is so different in what they experience.
In years gone by I would have anticipated that the grief group would be dominated by older individuals, people in their 70s and 80s, or by adults grieving the loss of their aged parent, but now I am not so sure. Lately it seems that in my little community death has been unsparing, from the very young to the very old and everything in between. Needless to say, the service is offered by the funeral home to anyone who has had the need for their services, but that doesn’t mean that everyone will use it. Death, although such a public event, is an intensely private experience. It strips away our pretensions, erases our security, depletes our energy levels and physically hurts our hearts and minds. There are some individuals too private to ever air their grief in public.
For me, Kev’s death meant a full stop. I was transfixed, life was still coming at me but I couldn’t fire up the neurons necessary to get out of the way. The return to functionality has been slow despite my own relative good health. So was my response the same as most others? This is one of the things I hope to understand better through the grief group. I don’t anticipate it will be easy sharing a physical space with a bunch of strangers all self-absorbed in their own losses; a space clearly, if invisibly, labelled ‘heartache’. I wonder if any of them, like me, have tried to get some answers or insights through the books available on death and dying. I wonder how the session counsellor will manage the session. I wonder if I will even benefit from it. I don’t know and won’t know unless I put myself out there.