During the last week or so I have had some conversations, minor ones – basically asides, with colleagues at work, conversations that have stayed with me. I’ve thought about what was said over and over again; it has become a sort of validation for me. You see, it’s been 13 months since Kevin died and I still have awful days, days where I miss him so much I get that fullness in my chest and ache near my heart, where it’s hard to breathe and all I want to do is hide. When I get like this I feel like I must be weaker than most people, I feel ashamed, after all, shouldn’t I be holding it together better by now.
These conversations that I had recently, and I initiated them all, spoke to the hardship and ongoing adjustments death leaves in its wake. When I asked one co-worker how her sister was doing (her sister’s husband had died shortly after Kevin), she hesitated and I could hear the catch in her voice. She told me that it is still a struggle and that her sister’s journey continues to be painful, a pain she too was feeling judging by her tone and the sadness in her voice as she spoke. Another co-worker lost a sibling just before Kevin died, and again, when I inquired, the response spoke of turmoil and the waves of profound loss still resonating through the family.
I spoke with one of the members from my grief group that I happened to meet, by chance, at the bank. Our conversation was brief, but very connected. It’s hard to describe what I mean by a ‘connected’ conversation; to me it goes beyond language, a shared experience that creates a multilevel exchange of communication. There is the shared touch, we always touch each other, the intent gaze between us and then the conversation itself. Even the conversation is different. The question “how are you” is a meaningful one, a loaded one; we share loss, pain, confusion and loneliness. The answer to that question is very important.
For bystanders who might witness one of these exchanges, the conversation might seem disjointed, because there are no parameters around what is next said when you are speaking with a fellow traveler through bereavement. What is next said is usually “big” in the grief journey. For her, when I saw her last week, it was, “I wore his hat in the garden.” She always wore his hat before he died, it was a game they played; she couldn’t for the longest time, last week she did. My response back was, “I went to the cottage.” Our own code – plain, bald statements of small personal successes.
So yes, here I am 13 months later, and some days I feel like it is two steps forward, one step back. I want it to be all steps forward, even if they are baby steps, but it just isn’t happening yet. Life is still not normal for me. I haven’t fully developed or accepted my ‘new’ normal yet. When I hear that others are as messed up as me, it doesn’t make me feel better and it’s not comforting. It just is – statement of fact. Some cope well, some don’t. Some days I am in the former group, others the latter. That’s the hard part, not knowing what the day will bring.