When The Sadness Comes
In the first year after my husband died, there were too many different emotions to keep track. There was shock and disbelief. There was fear and disappointment. There was so much guilt. It was too much to feel all at once. I was mostly trying to busy myself and escape to avoid what I felt. But the feeling I kept circling back to was anger. I was overwhelmed. I was unprepared. I was confused. There was uncertainty. There had been secrets. There was an unimaginable amount of debt. I couldn't find empathy yet. It hurt too much. It was too soon. His suicide felt like a personal attack. Like a huge fuck you to my son and to me. I was furious. I couldn't believe he could do this to us. I couldn't find any answers. I didn't understand that it was about him and not me. It was about his pain and his hopelessness. I couldn't feel his love for us anymore. I didn't see the tragedy for what it was. And I was judging myself. I didn't want to feel this way. I wanted to be like every other widow. I envied them. I felt like a failure. I felt like some kind of monster. I didn't want to hate him. I wished it weren't so complicated. All I wanted was to just feel sad. Nothing else.
The second year was full of panic. I felt untethered. I was anxious. I felt unglued. My world was spinning out of my control. I felt like I had to lie on the ground to keep from flying out into space. I was terrified. I was terrified of dying and of living and everything in between. I had to remember to breathe. My body felt as though my skin had been peeled off and all of my nerves were exposed. My muscles felt like they were being squeezed like a sponge. I felt so much pain. I felt sensitive and fragile. I felt unwell. I couldn't rest. I couldn't find the cause or the cure. I spent all my energy searching for the one thing that would fix me. A life coach, therapy, self help books, a chiropractor, podcasts, essential oils, a nutritionist, journaling, a heating pad, yoga, mala beads, ultrasounds, an MRI, supplements, meditation, melatonin, tapping. If I could just find the perfect mattress or the right types of foods. If I could just discover the mantra that would heal me. All of it helped. At different times and in different ways. But there was no magic pill. It would have to come from me. But I didn't know how to let go.
In the third year, there have been a lot of stops and starts. There has been progress and setbacks. There has been plenty of opportunity to apply all the tools I have gained. I started to integrate back into day-to-day life, slowly but surely. I've gone from doing the work to doing the really hard work. The deep stuff. The scary shit. I've started to really dig deep and peel back all the layers. I've learned that anger is easy. It's a default. A cover. A copout. It's a disguise for what is hiding below the surface. The hard feelings. The ones I would give anything to avoid. And as I've begun to resolve some of the resentment and the regret and the heartbreak, I've found something else buried underneath. And I keep thinking, so here it is. What I've been wishing for all this time. Sadness. And it isn't easy.
Anger is like a fiery rage inside your belly that you can try to smother with alcohol and food and unacceptable behaviors. You can take it out on other people. You can act like you don't give a shit. But sadness is something else. Sadness is an emptiness in your chest that has no cure. With anger you can scream. You can throw things. You can punch and you can yell. You can kick and smash and destroy. You can tear things up and throw them away. You can avoid. You can ignore. You can push people away. With sadness there are only tears. And they come even when you don't ask them to.
It was as though my mind had been protecting me. It would only allow negativity. Painful memories. Anger-inducing thoughts. Missing him came as a surprise. The sadness was almost unexpected. For nearly three years I have fought my feelings, argued with reality and doubted myself every step of the way. I questioned what we had. I wondered if it was all a lie. If any of it was real. I only saw him as someone who wasn't sure if he wanted me anymore. I couldn't remember the beginning. The history. Everything we shared. Maybe it was easier to see him in a that way in order to move on. Maybe I was afraid to face how I really felt. To realize what I had lost. To accept that he was really gone. This man that I had loved for so long. This man that I had promised forever. This man that was the one.
I wasn't sure if it made sense to mourn the loss of someone who left me. I didn't know if it was my place. I didn't feel like I was grieving the way I was supposed to. I didn't think it should be taking this long. My grief wasn't following any sort of pattern and didn't seem to be ending any time soon. I still struggle to allow my feelings or to name exactly which ones they are. I wasn't aware that I was allowed to feel conflicting emotions. I didn't realize I could dislike him and love him at the same time. That I could be shattered and still try to move forward. That I could feel defeated and hopeful all in the same breath. That I could feel anxious and trusting. Lonely and secure. Vulnerable and brave. I wasn't giving myself permission to feel.
As I do this work and heal myself I can't help but wish I could go back. I wish I could give him this more whole version of myself. That I could go back in time and we could work on ourselves together. That he could heal alongside me. I want to share everything I've learned with him. I want to tell him why I was broken before. In some ways it seems as though the process has just begun. It's all new now. Almost like I'm starting over. I wish I had these tools before but I wasn't ready for them then. It was meant to happen now. And now I can grieve more authentically. Without hesitation. Without fear or criticism. Without questioning where I should be. Without caring who may be judging me. Without self-doubt. Without denial. With only love. Now I can be the me I am meant to be.