― Lemony Snicket
It’s been a while since I wrote publicly. Most, well all, of my writing lately has been in a personal journal, but this is something I think needs to be said out loud.
You see, books, therapists, theorists and many other sorts of ‘ists’ all talk about the primary loss and the secondary losses, but they seldom talk about the tertiary losses. Oh yes, there is a third round of loss after losing your spouse. Oh yay.
Primary loss is of course my husband. Secondary losses include his income and companionship, our future together, physical closeness, a sense of who I am. Some lose their homes. Some lose friends. I luckily have not had to suffer through those last two. But then, according to many of my widowed friends, you have a third round of loss. That is where I am at right now.
My third round begins with my loss of feeling secure. Some call it a ‘feeling of doom’, others call it anxiety. Panic attacks, PTSD, ‘waiting for the other shoe to drop’…all names for this dread that smothers me day and night.
I believe that it is hitting me because I am finally reluctantly accepting my husband’s death. Despite my desperate need for a reset button or for him to come waltzing in saying it was all a terrible nightmare, I am truly realizing that he is gone forever. I will never see him, touch him, feel him ever again.
And since my world could be shattered in million pieces once, why not a second time or a third time? The death of my husband has taught me that there is a very thin line between being secure and being tossed about on a whirlwind of fate driven events of which you have no control over.
So I am afraid. I am afraid of every minute of every day. I’m afraid I’ll lose my job. I’m afraid my house will burn down while I’m away. I’m afraid my truck will break down, leaving me stranded. I’m afraid people will leave me. I’m afraid that my animals will sicken and die. I’m afraid of a thousand little things that could happen.
Most are irrational fears or fears with no basis. So far, my bosses are happy with my work. I take care to not leave things on that could start a fire. If my truck breaks down my family is a phone call away. My friends have stuck with me this long and have given no indication they were tired of me. My animals, knock on wood, are all healthy and happy and thriving. I can give a reason for just about every one of those thousand fears of why I shouldn’t be afraid and yet, I am.
For a while, after my husband’s death, I was unafraid. Nothing life could throw at me could make me afraid. After all, I had just gone through one of the worst things possible nothing could be as bad. But now it is the polar opposite. Now I fear what life can and most likely will throw at me.
Because I was slapped so hard on that fateful day, once the numbness wore off, I am constantly ducking anything that remotely resembles a blow. I learned my lesson as to how fragile reality is. How quickly things can change and how really ‘not-in-control’ we are of our lives. It is a realization that took me two years to get to, but now I’m here and I hate it.
I hate having no confidence in myself. I hate having no confidence in my daily life. I hate this feeling of just minutes away from flying apart. I hate this feeling of doom and dread. I hate it tremendously and yet it does not go away. I try and talk myself out of it. I try to fix it chemically (with my doctor’s supervision so please don’t think ‘intervention’). I even talked to a therapists a couple of times but nothing helps.
Yes, there are things to fear in life. After all, jobs are lost through no fault of our own. Wildfires start that can take out hundreds of homes in a few hours and I live in a fire prone area. Yes, there are crazy drivers out there that can cut in front or behind and cause a wreck. But should one be afraid all the time of the ‘what-ifs’ and ‘could-happens’? No…but I am.
I used to be able to go through life knowing, in the back of my mind, that bad things happen but also not worrying about it. After all, it hasn’t happened yet and even so, that is something that happens to other people. People you hear about. A friend of a friend. But now I know, sadly and tragically, that sometimes you are those ‘other’ people. You are the one that a friend of a friend is talking about.
Life is and always has been a series of problems to figure out and solve. Some are big like needing a new water tank, some are small like running out of crackers for your soup. Nothing has changed about that. But I have changed and that’s what makes it so different now. I’ll continue to have problems big and small. I’ll continue to try and figure out ways to solve them. But now, I can’t seem to shrug them off as easily. Now they hit hard and sometimes send me in a blind panic. Now, there are days when the absence of crackers seems bigger than the leaking water tank, as unreasonable as that sounds. There are some days when I am completely overwhelmed and all I can do is sit and stare mindlessly at old TV reruns.
I know, deep inside, that eventually I will control the fear, the panic, the chaos in my brain and start to figure things out again. This is just another aspect of widowhood I need to ride out.