Wednesday 18 May 2022

How It's Going . . . Part Whatever of Infinity

I've tried to write about this several times but it never seemed to come out just right. But I need to say it, because it's always in the background no matter what else I post here, so today I'll just put it out there, imperfections and all.

I thought I was coping with grief quite well as the one-year anniversary of my husband's death passed in January. But as March turned into April and then into May, I noticed I was spending more and more time on YouTube (my version of TV or movies), trying to distract myself from increasing sadness, and as soon as I'd stop, I'd get weepy and exhausted and unable to do anything I didn't absolutely have to do, including work I had pending for my employer.

It took me a couple of months to notice the pattern -- a couple of months of hearing my inner voice tell me I was lazy and weak and useless -- but eventually a comment from my son made me realize maybe I am still coping with a lot of stress, what with my mom's dementia and a number of other things including my own health that I have been dealing with.

After that conversation, I knew I needed to somehow reduce the stress and start dealing with my feelings.

I decided to try the often-repeated advice to write about my feelings every day, and surprise! (or maybe not), that has helped a great deal. Never underestimate the power of getting stuff out, even if no one else will ever see or hear it. I also take note, in writing, of what I accomplish every day, so I can see I'm not being a total slacker.

I also follow a writer on grief on Facebook. He posts daily and writes from his own experiences with grief. His writings have been very helpful to me by putting into words what I am feeling, and, in doing so, validating that the things I'm feeling are natural. It is easy to question that, believe it or not.

Less helpful was a different Facebook group for those who have lost spouses. Most of the folks on it are nearly incapacitated by their grief, whether it's new or from decades ago, and I found it made me feel worse, so I stopped reading. For some folks, it would work, but not for me.

So, the bottom line is that I am learning that I can't let up on processing the sadness or it will overwhelm me again. By processing, I mean acknowledging it and feeling it so I can move forward until the next time it hits. Which it will. I am learning, too, that mending from grief doesn't mean striving to never have grief or sadness about my loss again; instead, it means being able to feel both joy and sadness, sometimes one after the other, separated by days or weeks or just minutes, and sometimes at the very same time. Maybe this is obvious to other people, but it was something I had to learn.

Another thing I am noticing is that, although it may sound odd after so long, the finality of my husband's death is still capable of knocking me down. You'd think I'd be used to the thought by now, but I'm still finding it hard to fully believe that I will never see, hear, or hold him ever again. It just doesn't seem possible that someone who was such a part of me and my life for so long simply no longer exists except in memory. This is a time when it is hard to be an atheist. It would be comforting to believe in life after death, but I do not. And that's okay. But it's still hard.


I don't want this to be a sad post, because I do feel better now than I was feeling the last couple of months.

Everyone on the planet has been stressed by the pandemic and by world events, so if you notice your own energy level has been lower than usual, or it's been harder to get stuff done, show yourself some grace and understanding that this is a frigging weird and often hard time to be alive.





 Now, let's have some smiles.







In case it's hard to read, the letter A is a penguin, B is a lion, C is a zebra, D is a goat, E is a raccoon, and F is a squirrel ...... someone didn't learn their alphabet and now they're passing on their "knowledge" to a new generation of children. lol




Wishing you all a good week :)


gz said...

Wishing you a good week too ((0))
Thanks for the chuckles xx

Yorkshire Pudding said...

The "funnies" that followed the main text did not drive away what you said in all sincerity earlier on. Grief might be easier to bear if it was just a valley that you climb out of after a period of time but it's not like that. We keep slipping back so that it may seem we will never entirely leave the valley at all.

Elephant's Child said...

Grief is a tricky beast. With sharp teeth and claws. Which stay sharp despite people telling you that they will dull. I am so glad that you have found a way that helps you. So very glad.
A tsunami of good feelings are flowing your way.
And thanks for the funnies.

Joan (Devon) said...

Hallo Jenny, I don't know how long you were married and I can't speak from experience of losing my husband, but I am thinking of when my Dad passed on. He was only 46 and I was 15 in 1963, but up until about ten years ago I thought about him every day more often than not with tears. It is very hard to come to terms with the loss of a loved one, especially at birthdays, anniversaries and those special moments which they will miss ie my wedding, birth of my daughter, her partner and their two daughters, his Grand-daughters. Just typing this has made my eyes wet, so the sadness is still there. It must be doubly difficult for a husband or wife to carry on with mundane routine events that can't be shared when their other halves are gone. Grief isn't a case of being able to carry on as normal once the initial tears have dried, grief is ongoing and is always in the background. Don't try to hide your grief Jenny and take care dear friend.

dinthebeast said...

My retired friend JT suggested to me that I start writing a few short sentences at the end of the day that just sort of list what I did that day. He said that for good or ill it would give me something to look at if I was feeling dissatisfied about things to help guide any changes I might want to make, and also serve as evidence that I was, in fact, mostly doing the best I could do under the circumstances.
That was in the early nineties, and sort of grew into the habit of keeping journals that I found very helpful to my mental state, especially when I was depressed.
Some days it helped, others not so much, but overall I found it very useful.
Grief seems to have its own timetable that doesn't really answer to what seems reasonable or healthy, so keeping an eye on your own health gets more important when you're grieving.
I'm glad you are doing a bit better. It seemed like your posts were getting a bit more frequent for a while, and I sort of took that to mean you were feeling somewhat more like writing, which I would call better from this distance and not really knowing how your actual day is.
Here's to it improving more still in the days ahead.

-Doug in Sugar Pine

jenny_o said...

gz: Thanks, and glad to provide smiles :)

Yorkshire Pudding: Precisely. I don't think we ever do leave the valley.

Elephant's Child: Thank you, my dear friend. You are right that people say the hurt will go but it doesn't necessarily oblige. I understood that before but I understand it better now. And it grinds me down.

Joan: We were married for over forty years and together for over forty-one. You were at a hard age to lose a beloved parent; it's no wonder the grief and loss has been ever-present. Your world was pulled out from under you. You described it as "always in the background" and that is so true. Thank you for your kind words.

Doug: It was a comment you made in reply to one of my posts that made me realize it was okay to be having difficulty getting much done and that it was enough to focus on one thing a day. That was helpful to me, so thank you. And I am glad to hear that, similarly, keeping track each day of your accomplishments has helped overall, because I hope it will help me too. Posting the last while was more of a distraction than anything else. It was when I couldn't even post I realized I was stuck and needed to try something different. For now, I'm doing better than I was and I feel better having posted about it. Hang in there, yourself. I hope Briana is healing and life is getting closer to normal there, or what you've come to define as normal anyway.

Boud said...

This was a brave and valuable post. Those of us who have been widowed know that rollercoaster and how long it takes to integrate the loss into our lives. It's always wise to write or talk about it.

A friend of mine used to run a support group for newly widowed women, and she advised people to wait a year to join. Talking in the group was simply too hard before that, when just getting through all the first year of anniversaries and holidays was enough to handle. So I'd say you are doing very wisely.

Marie Smith said...

Small steps each day sound like a good way to deal with the waves of grief. I hope this is a good week, Jenny!

LL Cool Joe said...

This was a very brave post, and I can feel your pain. I can only hope that time does help to lesson how much you miss your husband. I do believe in the afterlife, but as you don't I can understand how final his death must feel to you. Don't be hard on yourself it will take time.

Mike said...

I've always ignored the voices in my head. I've got more interesting ideas than them. My ideas start with "watch this!"

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't underestimate the role Covid has played with the state of your mind. It will have made everything just so much harder.

Good funnies. I enjoyed the dragon one especially.

Terra said...

I relate to what you say in this post. The first year is so difficult, when my hubby of 47 years died five years ago I was in what they call the widow's fog for many months, where I felt half of my body, heart and mind was gone. I am healing and finding joy again. I find a FB group for Christian widows and widowers interesting and I leave helpful comments when appropriate. At about one year of being a widow I attended griefshare in person in an area church, very helpful. Be well my friend, you are on your own journey at your own pace.

Susan said...

I haven't gone into much detail about my own troubles this year because I can never decide if sharing with someone who is also having a tough time helps or just adds to the sadness. Anyway, I have decided to share-Exactly a year ago my dear 40yr old son in law died. He had bravely and with dignity fought MS for 20 years. He actually slipped in the shower and due to the MS couldn't react in time, sustaining a fatal head injury. Our twelve yr old grandson found him. It was all such chaos and shock, the police had to come and then the coroner. On top of that I became ill with a heart problem 15 months ago which impacted me severely and a solution not yet found. I am unable to garden, my passion and my solace just when I need it most. My husband is trying to hold it together but he is the poster boy for an absent minded professor. Yesterday I discovered he didn't know how to boil an egg! His lack of real life skills is an added stress. Soo all this is to say I know what having a bad year looks like. I grief cry, I frustration cry, I exhaustion cry, I angry cry at my useless specialist and cry at cute babies/kittens/puppies. I was never a crier so all these tears are unsettling. But I did, as a gardener, laugh at your last funny. I really enjoy your blog and your honesty as you go through this hard time has helped me immensely.

kylie said...

Does atheism mean you can't hope for an afterlife? Does an afterlife depend on the existence of God? I like to think that your energy will eventually find your husband's again.

I'm glad you have found a way to process everything. You really have a LOT to deal with so you need as many effective techniques in the tool box as you can get.

I really loved all the funnies but in Australian election week I especially appreciate the one about the dog sighing when he doesn't even know what a government is

Joanne Noragon said...

Aren't cats the best!
Have you wakened any morning and four first thought is not your late husband? That is the first day of getting better. It happens.

messymimi said...

Grief is a lifelong process. We find it easier to give others permission to go through it than to give ourselves that same permission.

Thanks for the funnies.

Red said...

It's good that you write in a very direct thoughtful way. Unfortunately few people have any idea of what you're going through. Keep on making the brave decisions for yourself.

Bonnie said...

It is good for you to write your feelings out, both here and privately. We have to find a way to face, accept and work through our grief. It sounds like you are wisely finding some helpful ways to do that. If you try to push it down it will come back to you even stronger than before. Keep sharing or writing your feelings and know you have many friends here that care very much.

Oh Jenny, those cat paws just melt my heart! I regularly hold "paws" with my cats and they will hold my hands or arm. Enjoy your cuddles with your sweet cats!

River said...

One foot in front of the other and keep writing things down, that's about all I have to offer. Thanks for the funnies though, I needed them.

Charlotte (MotherOwl) said...

Waves has always been my grief-metaphor. They come, they go, can be big, small, overwhelming even. With time we can learn to navigate the waves, but they'll ever go away. May you learn surfing and may the sun still shine for you.

Steve Reed said...

I think this is a very well-written post. It makes sense that coping with grief on this scale would be a sort of continuous process. I think even people whose spouses have been gone for many years often experience a recurring sense of loss. As you said, it's not a matter of the sadness "going away," but more learning to live with it. I'm glad you're writing about it as I'm sure that helps a lot.

I love the bear in the swimming pool! And yeah, the alphabet zoo is truly perplexing. Seems like firing seeds from a shotgun would destroy the seeds, doesn't it?

Martha said...

Grief comes in waves. I'm glad you are writing things down and I'm also glad you are sharing here, so we can offer support. It is a wonderful way to relieve some of the stress. Sending lots of hugs xo

Mary said...

It is good to hear that you have found a coping mechanism at a time when finding one seems so very difficult. Grief's a b!tch. Hits out when your energy and emotions are at their very lowest. Blindsides you with a piece of music while you are driving, knocks you down when watching a favorite movie, rips you up when you riffle through photos. But acknowledging grief is the only way to move forward. Address it the best way you can--as writing seems to be doing it for you at the moment. It isn't a straight-forward path, as some would have you think. More like one of those treacherous mountain roads with lots of switchbacks and too few guard rails. Wishing you a steady hand at the wheel. Pull over when necessary and catch your breath. Mary xo

jenny_o said...

Boud: Interesting about the advice given to those who considered a support group ... I wonder how your friend envisioned people getting through the first year? Maybe there are different kinds of support groups and I'm thinking of something different from the one your friend ran.

Marie: The more I think about it, the more it makes sense. In everything else in my life I am a bit-at-a-time person, so why not this too?

Joey: Thank you for your understanding and kindness, my friend.

Mike: And I bet I can guess how a lot of them end up :)

Andrew: Without a doubt, Covid has affected my situation, as it has everyone else's. As a planet we are in strange territory.

Terra: Thank you; I appreciate you sharing your experience. A widow I know told me something similar; it took her five years to start to feel like herself again. I think this is something that's not really talked about, how it takes so long to adapt.

Susan: I'm glad you decided to share your experiences after all. What a very difficult year for you and your family, with numerous kinds of grief to attend to. I understand the different kinds of tears, too, even the last kind. The things that make me cry are many and unpredictable. I can't imagine how your daughter and grandson are coping. This is a tragedy that will change them both fundamentally, I believe. And I am sorry you have lost your best coping mechanism and hope you find others. I also hope your doctors can figure out your heart problem and you can start to return to better health. Wishing you good luck, and if reading here has helped, that makes me happier.

kylie: Ah, but what I want is not our energies to meet again; what I want is what we had in this life, which is, of course, impossible. And I can always rely on you to appreciate a good doggo meme :)

Joanne: Animals in general are pretty good, aren't they? :) And yes, I no longer constantly think about loss, but it's still nearly constant, unless I am heavily immersed in something else, which is why YouTube is such an escape. Work used to be that escape, but working from home as I am doing now makes it harder to concentrate and get to that immersed state.

jenny_o said...

Mimi: That is true. Why do we do that?

Red: Thank you; I'll keep trying.

Bonnie: Everything you've said is so true, I'm finding. And yes, my cats have helped me through. They've been a reason to get up and they've been a comfort. I can only hold one cat's paws; the other one would bite me. But that one snuggles up next to me now, which has taken years to happen!

River: It's good advice and very straightforward, which I always appreciate. And I'm glad if the funnies helped. Things are so crazy everywhere, we need all the smiles we can get.

Charlotte: Thank you and I agree with the waves metaphor. That's very much what it feels like.

Mary: A very, very apt description. It's hard to revisit the pain again and again but it's necessary; I can see that more clearly all the time. Thanks for the good wishes.

Mr. Shife said...

I don't know if my comment came through as anonymous or as Mr. Shife but that was me. Bye.

jenny_o said...

Mr. Shife said ...
Loved all of the memes especially the color blind one. Thanks for the chuckles, jenny_o. I am glad you are recognizing your feelings and taking the steps to heal. Everyone griefs differently and you just have to do what works best for you. Be kind to yourself and take it one day at a time. Take care.

jenny_o said...

Mr. Shife: Your first comment ended up on a different post so I copy/pasted it here.

Glad you liked the memes, and thank you for the encouragement. You take care, too.

kylie said...

Hi Jenny,
What I said would fall into the category of toxic positivity. I was thinking that surely atheism doesn't preclude the hope of an afterlife and in my brain, there's hope in that idea but I understand that there is no belief system which will allow you to have what you are now missing.
I'm sorry I imposed my ideas, please know that I wish you well xo

DB Stewart said...

Before my Mom died, she told me she had been keeping a diary for years. When she died and I returned home, I was able to read her words and it was nothing like what I would define as a diary. She listed the temperature highs & lows, and a few phrases, often about her garden. As a writer myself, I was so confused. Yet, it really does make perfect sense: writing is meditation and it helps us heal. Insert fist bump here.

jenny_o said...

kylie: I think actually that I wasn't being very clear in what I was saying, but your comment got me thinking about it and I was able to then clarify it - so that was an improvement, a positive thing. Regarding the possibility of an afterlife, whatever form it might take, that has long been a construct of theism, but your question is very logical and it could indeed form a part of other belief systems as well. Once again, you made me think! So, no worries, please. I feel I know your character well enough from your writing to trust that you would never impose your ideas, as you put it, and I didn't see it that way at all. Don't stop questioning, my friend; the world needs people who do :)

DBS: Yes, there are all different ways of writing, aren't there? My husband's grandmother kept the same kind of diary as your mom. I think many people from older generations processed things inside their heads more of the time; writing about feelings was not encouraged the way it is now. I honestly don't know if that's better or worse. People just got on with things in the past, most of the time. Some days I wish I could be more like that.

jenny_o said...

Steve: Your comment didn't show up at the same time as the others on the same date. Everybody is having problems with comments in Blogger, it seems. Anyway, thank you for your thoughts on the post. Some of the things I am learning seem so obvious afterward. It feels like my brain isn't working all that well and the lessons are hard won. Re the gardening bullets - I should Google that to see how they work. I just accepted they were a real thing but now I'm questioning it :)

Martha: Your comment, like Steve's (above) didn't show up with the others of the same date! I don't know why things aren't working the way they used to but I'm sure it's supposed to be "new and improved" ... Thank you for your kindness; I feel lucky to have such support from the wonderful people who read here.

baili said...

like all other emotional issues grief also is something that must be faced because the more you try to avoid it the worse it will be ,just like a spoiled stubborn child who want you to pay attention at once and fulfill his demand and when you try to ignore it it restrains your way and still if you manage to pass it ,it keep coming back to you until you listen to him and sooth him properly .

i appreciate to leave the platform where women keep diving into the ocean of grief again and again by repeating the past memories . you cannot put off the fire by throwing patrol over it constantly . if you want to move ahead while taking your bundle of golden memories with you as tonic to your soul not knife to scratch the wound ,you must move ahead and it is possible when you do what you mentioned above by "acknowledging and feeling your grief " while keeping in mind the biggest reality that you cannot change the fact but only your perspective only .
i am glad you have started to figure out the right way dear Jenny .

in my thoughts and prayers you are always believe it or not !!!
hugs and lots and lots of healing energy to you my friend!

Diane Henders said...

With everything that's going on in your life, it's no wonder that some days lay you low. Like most things in life, grief isn't a straight line; and it's hard to be in one of the downward zigzags after you feel as though you've been "improving" for a while. You may also be getting a double whammy because you're grieving the loss of your mother (to dementia), even though some days it probably feels more like frustration.

I hope you'll be able to allow yourself to feel what you feel; and ignore the abusive inner voice that throws insults like "lazy" and "weak" and "useless". Nobody else believes or says those things about you; so trust that you don't have to believe any of those things about yourself. Wishing you peace and comfort...

jenny_o said...

baili: I do feel badly for the people who are having incredible difficulty moving forward at all. I have thought that maybe these are folks who have absolutely no one else to talk to, and need to get their feelings out somehow. But I'm not far enough along in the process to be of any help to them as a listening ear (which some people do on that Facebook page), which is why I chose to leave that one.
I always appreciate your caring and thoughtful comments, dear friend. Sending you my best wishes too :)

Diane: It sounds crazy, but I didn't realize how much those thoughts were running through my mind at first. It took a while to recognize them and then I could deal with them. I've always had pretty healthy self-esteem but I feel for those who have had theirs beaten and battered to the point where it's difficult or impossible to counteract the interior voices because they've had to deal with exterior ones. I'm doing better, much better, at the moment and every lesson learned helps the next time around. Interesting point about my mom - I'm pondering that one carefully. Thank you for your kind comments and wishes.

Diane Stringam Tolley said...

Oh, Jenny, I ache for you! I'm so glad you have found something that helps. Please know that I am here!