Over the last four months, I've done a lot of work on dealing with my grief. Some people give helpful advice, and some mean well but just can't understand. That's fine. I don't want anybody to ever have to understand this! One of the best grief illustrations was given to me by a friend. She said at the moment you experience such a profound loss, your vision is clouded by grief as if someone put their hand in front of your face. As time goes on and healing begins, that hand moves farther away from your face. However, for quite a long time, you see the hand. Sometimes it is all you can see. It's as if you see the world through fogged up, grief filled glasses. When I am talking to someone who cannot, in some way, relate to this loss, I feel like I am asking you to talk to my hand. I am trying to listen, but my mind is focused on the loss.
Although I was keenly aware of Mike's illness, I never expected him to take his own life. All of a sudden, the man with whom I shared secrets, hopes, dreams, inside jokes, laughs and tears was gone. The bond that could not be broken was traded for a broken heart. I used to think dying of a broken heart was an overblown exaggeration, but in those initial weeks, my only prayer was that my heart would keep beating - that I would live and carry on Mike's spirit. But there were times when I was certain my heart could not withstand the pain and I would be joining Mike in heaven sooner than I wanted. For the most part, that physical pain has subsided and now there is empty space where the pain once was. A big hole.
I'm still learning that I need to have patience with myself. I need to remember that because of this loss I will not be the same again, but the efforts I've put towards my grief will be rewarded in the end. I will go beyond surviving to living -- living life to the fullest just how Jesus and Mike want me to live. Right now, I am not there. I get frustrated with myself because I have not fully celebrated friends' birthdays, new babies and weddings. Normally, I would be their loudest cheerleader, but lately one pom-pom is all I can manage to raise.
My friends from college and Ava, Matt and Jeremy have been incredible support in this journey. Today when I proclaimed to Charlie that I sucked as a friend, he brought me back to reality. Charlie reminded me that I am doing what I can to make myself a better person for my friends in the future; that you must secure your own oxygen mask before helping others, and just because the bag doesn't inflate, doesn't mean the oxygen isn't flowing. Charlie reminded me that right now I am adjusting and need to take the time (however long) to do that. Some of my friends just let me talk in circles and cry. I know it is impossible for them to understand a word I am saying through the tears, but they listen through my blubbering. As time goes on, the tears are not as frequent, but our bond has been strengthened. We are united in this grief and determined to make it through. We are committed to living life with the zest that Mike did.
So, if I haven't called you lately or if I seem distracted when I am talking to you, "the hand" is blocking my view. One of the lessons I have learned from all of this is that sometimes you are not in the position to take care of others, but you need others to take care of you. It's not that I don't want to talk to you or I don't want to do something fun. In fact, it's just the opposite. I would love to spend time with you on the phone or in person. I just have trouble initiating the contact right now.
Counselors and friends have advised me to write down my feelings throughout the journey. At first, I thought about keeping them in a private journal. However, as I've been doing my grief work, I have stumbled upon blogs where people have chronicled their feelings through a loss and they have been so helpful for me to understand I am not alone in the way I am feeling. Consequently, I will post about grief probably once a week. Don't worry, I also have more fun posts, but if you know someone these might help, please pass them along.
Dude, miss you more. Promise. ;-)