We lower our sails; a while we rest
From the unending, endless quest.”
― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Widowhood is repetition. It is confronting the same grief over and over until it wears you down. Like water dripping on a rock, eventually turning it into rubble. How you survive depends on how strong your rock is and how fast your tears are eroding it.
Some days, my rock is strong. As big and bold as Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Some days my rock is barely a pebble that isn’t even big enough to kick down the sidewalk.
My rock grows and shrinks dependent on the moment.
Today I am being worn down by the constant reminders of the absence of my husband. I feel my tears on my cheek without really recognizing that I am crying. I can hear them drop onto my strength, my will, my ability to overcome, one by one.
My rock is sandstone today. Unable to withstand much pressure before crumbling.
I think what really wears me down is the repetitiveness. The same thoughts running through my head, the same burning ache inside me, the same feeling of despair and isolation, the same fear of the future. It is exhausting, living through this never ending cycle. I wake up to it, I fall into a restless sleep because of it. Day after day, a rerun of this gambit of emotions that is slowly taking over my life.
I get involved with something and am able to, just for a moment, push past the pain and the grief and experience some sort of life. Then something I see, or hear, or even think about slaps me in the face with the knowledge that though I was once whole, I am now broken, a mere shadow of what I was.
I try and fake it, but I know, and those around me know that I am faking it. But I politely pretend not to know that they know and they politely pretend not to know and all are content because none of us have ever been taught or had experience in this. The pretense is safe, neutral ground,
We are socially awkward in death. We have no frame of reference. How do I react when I am just so tired I can’t think, but someone does something extremely caring for me? Do I force a smile that we both know I’m not feeling? Deep down there is gratitude and love for what they did, but I have no energy with which to dredge it up to the forefront.
How does my friend act when I am at my lowest? Are they supposed to just stand by until I need them? Are they supposed to confront my grief and try to help me resolve it? Are they supposed to ignore it and go on as if nothing is wrong?
And in each instance, how am I supposed to react? I need guidelines, I need rules and some semblance of order, I need a map to help me wander through this jumble of chaos I find myself in. I need instructions to pass to friends and family so that they know the illusive etiquette of death.
I remember seeing a piece of driftwood being tossed about in the waves at the beach one day. As I watched I realized that there is nothing joyous and beautiful in it. It made me feel as if the wood was desperately trying to get to land and the sea was playing with it, keeping it from safety. I remember I wanted to get that piece of wood so I didn’t have to watch its struggle anymore.
I feel like that today. Being swept back and forth in my grief. Unable to come up for air. Wanting the waves of grief to just stop for a moment so that I can catch my breath. So that I can get to dry land.
I find myself without energy to even cry anymore. My eyes are swollen, painful and red, my chest hurts from the deep sobs, my head pounding in time with my heart beat and yet, I don’t think I’ve tapped into even the slightest amount of grief that I hold within. But I am too tired to cry anymore today.
I am even too tired to give up.
So, even though my rock is small and weak right now, it is still a rock. I have no more tears left so my rock is safe from diminishing even further.
Instead, I will crawl within myself and lie in the memories of who I was when my husband was with me. I will find solace and comfort, because there, within, I do know the rules, I do have a guide because there within I have a piece of my husband.
What will happen tomorrow? I don’t know.
I guess it will all depend on what size my rock is.
Beth is an ordinary woman who has found herself to be in an un-ordinary situation. She wanted to chronicle the journey of widowhood for others who happen to find themselves on the same path. The good and the bad.