Forrest Gump’s mother was certainly wise with her iconic life lesson
“Life is like a box of chocolates you never know what you are going to get”
I have found that the grief process has been exactly like a box of chocolates. Contrary to everything I’ve been told and read (about grief and its many stages) mine is so uncategorized and random. I never know what attribute of grief is going to pop up or when.
My 52 year old wiser widow self knows better than to expect grief to fall into a box of categories landing on specific goal months. However I do find it ironic that I am almost 15 months into this gig and I can’t make neither head nor tails of where the emotions are supposed to land. I guess, like many things in life, you have no idea what to expect when you aren’t expectant.
For those of you who have children do you remember the books ‘What To Expect When You’re Expecting’ and ‘What To Expect The First Year’? In 1991 my husband and I read every single page. We anticipated each change my body would make. If a symptom did not coincide on the month the book said it was to occur? We became worried and secretly frantic. Our 24 year old minds were captivated with the mind blowing prospect that this little person was going to be growing and as if on command “performing” milestones in utero. The reality was each pregnancy is different and some things occurred on said months and some didn’t.
Likewise when our oldest daughter was born we devoured the pages of ‘What To Expect The First Year’ because, well, we had no idea what to expect! If our daughter didn’t achieve the milestones the book said she should on the exact time, day and month? We were full of worry and angst. Our 25 year old young first time parental selves thought every single thing must occur according to schedule.
I have never gone through ”Grief In A Box’ per se or grief in the appropriate order that Elisabeth Kubler Ross & David Kessler write about in ‘Five Stages of Grief’. This is the gold standard of grief for our country. But it doesn’t fit my grief. And that is okay.
I’ve never felt anger. And that might be because my husband had a terminal illness. ALS afforded us time to fulfill bucket lists, cross t’s, dot i’s, throw parties, say ‘i love you’s’. I’ve felt betrayal and anger at my circumstance surrounding my family but never angry at my husband or God. I have felt anguishing deep pain, heartbroken, empty, lonely, unmotivated, hazed, distracted and unfulfilled but never angry. And all of these feelings do not come at once. They come at random times. They may hang on for months or be fleeting after several hours. And it is not depression. Undoubtedly depression is a very real component to grief. These feelings are grief.
The hardest part of grief for me are the ever changing emotions. After 15 months the daily non stop crying has ceased but new feelings are now at the forefront. Things I haven’t felt before or dealt with before. I have a new found sense of independence. Yet the awareness that I am now absolutely unequivocally alone is luminous in every aspect of my life. I often feel a sense of disbelief. It is as if a light has just been turned on and illuminated the fact that Robin is truly gone. I found great comfort, just as recently as six months ago, being surrounded by couple friends and their families. I now find it an agonizing reminder of what is no longer.
And through it all I know that it will eventually all be well. But it is not well with me yet. It is hard. I often think how much easier it would be if grief came in absolute stages and steps. Then we would all be able to check off each emotion: “done”…next. Until then? All we can do is trudge forward. Know that we will never know from one hour to the next what we are going to get in this journey called grief. And that is okay for today.