Grief experts warn that episodes of grieving come in waves, that it is not a linear process where one moves along a smooth trajectory of improved mood and well-being. But that doesn’t really work for me so I decided my grief would be different. I’m a linear kind of gal and achievement oriented. I like to get things done. I was just kicking myself a few minutes ago about the fact that I rose at 6 something many many Saturday mornings when I was married to Tom to run off and have a class with the most kick-butt of all Jazzercise instructors. It made me feel so PRODUCTIVE to have a hard workout done by 8 am —on a SATURDAY! What I wouldn’t give to have those hours back in an alternate universe where I stay in the warm bed with my loving husband who liked to wake up slowly.
But no ebb and flow for me on the grief walk. I was going to do everything possible to feel better as fast as possible and get my life back on track. I told my students I would be taking two weeks off to cry full time and then would be back in the saddle. I did and I was. I dutifully went to grief support group, wrote some poems and started this blog, traveled a ton and made sure I was busy busy busy— kind of like my life before I lost Tom. I think I looked pretty much ok on the outside. But weird stuff happened. I visited my best friend at her new house and kept saying snarky things I didn’t mean. I reverted to old habits of sloth that don’t serve me at all and make my daughter crazy. I was hating on people all over the place. My friend Jill says that Tom softened my rough edges and it was as if they had all grown back double overnight. Sharp tongue, mean spirit, a mess inside and out.
I think I get now that I was/am just profoundly lost but couldn’t face the pain of that. I had not only lost Tom but the better version of me that I was with Tom. I was grieving both of those losses by trying to ignore them and it wasn’t working. As Christmas approached it all seemed to get worse. It’s not like we had a huge history of Christmases together. We were married for exactly 2 and he was sick, really sick, for the last one. But Christmas is so fraught with activity and tradition and emotion that it is overwhelming even to the most resilient of us as we soldier through the shopping, baking, wrapping hoping not to disappoint anyone. Because being with Tom was ever and always so peaceful, so calming and so safe, everything just seems harder without him. I had plenty of experience living life without him—55 years’ worth—but I didn’t want to go back. He made life fun and easy and was my polar opposite on the stress meter and thus the ballast that kept my boat on even keel. I was nicer when he was alive because I was so damn happy.
I haven’t cried in months, but yesterday the tears fell where they often have in the past—on the yoga mat. I love that my yoga teacher let me sit sobbing in child’s pose while still letting me know she got it by talking to the class as a whole about grief. I felt better pretty fast (there really is healing power in the salt water our bodies make) and got up and did some Shiva Dancers I was proud of. I’m thinking she might have focused on balancing poses to spare me from the hip openers that kick my butt. Thanks, Rebecca.
I am making a resolution way before New Year’s Eve. I’m going to try really hard to ride the waves of grief and let them buffet me as they will anyway. Isn’t it the swimmer who tries to fight the rip tide who drowns? The one who just swims along without resisting survives. I still have a 15 year-old who is down to one parent and needs me. Even my 22 year-old could use some motherly advice (or a hot meal) from time to time. And I still do have a pretty long to-do list of projects I am excited about. And water color class starts up again in January. And I have Fiddler on the Roof to produce with local kids. I’ll be listening hard when they sing Miracle of Miracles. Finding Tom was the greatest miracle of my life. So I might cry in public. I’m going to try to be ok with that. Tommy was a pretty big crier. Maybe he was trying to teach me how to do that too.
Life is a journey. So is death. And grief. Our tickets are prepaid so we might as well just ride.