Most of my days lately are not good, but today was worse than what I am slowly perceiving as normal.
Yesterday we had a memorial service for my husband.
Funerals, memorials, services and receptions. Every culture and religion has them. They are a time to honor the dead and console the living. A time to “lay the dearly departed to rest”. It is a time to share memories and anecdotes. A time to laugh and cry together as you say goodbye.
And that’s the problem with me today. I’m still not ready to say goodbye.
When I think back to the events of yesterday, I remember a wonderful service given my husband by the brethren of his lodge, a beautiful eulogy given by my brother, a sea of loving and supportive faces looking up at me as I spoke a few words and a magnificent reception created by my sister-in-law and family.
But I don’t remember what I felt. It was almost as if I were going through the motions. I smiled, hugged everyone, thanked everyone, talked with everyone but it wasn’t me. It was as if I was separated from myself. As if this was some grand play and I was one of the main characters. Because none of this could possibly be real.
I do remember a jumble of feelings when I stood up there to talk about my husband. They were swirling around with memories and fragments that I didn’t say half of what I wanted to. For instance, that he was my best friend and I considered myself lucky to have had him with me, even for the short time we were together.
But then again, those who knew us would already know that without me having to say anything.
There was a lot of talk about my husband during the reception. People sharing memories, people saying that they would miss him, people sending out their silent goodbyes to him. And I’m glad that they were able to get some closure.
But I’m not ready yet. I honestly don’t think I’ll ever be ready. I don’t want closure. I want him.
All day today, as I went about my business, a little voice keeps crying inside of me wanting him back. Wanting him here. Wanting him to hold me, tell me that this was all a nightmare and gently wake me up. That none of this is real and it was all a mistake. But all those people who came yesterday were living proof that it was true.
My husband is dead and all the wishing and the longing won’t change that. And that thought just makes me want to lie on the floor, curl up in a little ball, and retreat from this painful reality. I’m finding it extremely difficult to wrap my head around it. So once again, I’m still partially waiting for him to come through the door.
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross came up with the 5 stages of grief years ago in a book On Death and Dying. Denial, bargaining, anger, depression and acceptance.
The reason I mention all of this is because if I were to gauge my feelings by this, I should be in the ‘depression’ stage.
I’ve gone through the denial, meandered through bargaining, stormed through anger and am supposed to be well on my way into depression and racing for the finish line of acceptance.
Except I find myself right back at denial again.
So wait, did I take a wrong turn? How am I right back at the beginning?
Because the 5 stages were meant to be referred to as ‘common’ emotions that many people go through and there is no order in which to traverse through them. Often times, one will feel several of them at the same time. Sometimes none at all. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross later wrote that she regrets ever writing about it because people tend to think that you should move from one stage to another in a linear pattern and that they should use these stages as road maps. But there is no finish line. There is no road map. There are no rules that govern how this journey goes.
In grief, one will go stumbling from one stage to another and back again. Staying here for a while, there a little longer. Maybe skip around. Even repeat a few. Like the stages are on a lazy susan and someone sent it twirling and whatever stops near you is the stage of the day.
So today I am right back where I started after leaving the hospital on January 27, 2015. Denial, with a touch of bargaining.
With all my being, I want to hit that reset button. I want to not be here. I want to scream and rage at the heavens. I want to storm up to God and demand that He make it right. I want to hold onto my husband’s hand and never let go. I want to hear him say, ‘I love you.’ I want the safe assurance that he is and will always be by my side. I want his crooked little smile to appear in the doorway as he hides a special present behind his back. I want to sleep next to him and feel his warmth and hear his breathing. I want, I want, I want, I want….
I want what I cannot and never will have again. And I don't want to believe it.
And that’s why today is a bad day.