I have written several times in recent months about my experiences with grieving. Grief is proving to be a process, though I would prefer that it were not. In other words, the way I am experiencing grief is evolving and continually surprising me. I am blindsided periodically.
I have taken to referring to this period in my life as grief meets midlife crisis. It seems an appropriate description of this season. Specifically, I find myself torn between pursuing life in the face of loss or unplugging, disconnecting and crashing. Truthfully, there are plenty of days when the latter feels preferable and more appropriate; there are, however, occasional flickers when the former at least seems possible. Sometimes the feelings of guilt (survivor guilt?) override all else, creating a feeling that suffering and hardship are unavoidable and appropriate. (N.B. I do not claim any of this is rational, but I suspect that I am not the only grieving person to struggle through similar thoughts and emotions.)
The truth is, I quit living in July. Everything since July is just me going through the motions. I have nothing left; I am used up and spent.
Grief is a process though, as I noted earlier. I am still numb, but not as numb as I was six months ago. I am still exhausted, but not as exhausted as six months ago. I still feel dead inside though; this has not changed or improved.
Another part of the grief process which I have experienced recently concerns associated memories. Initially, every memory that reminded me of Terri brought crushing sadness. Through the passage of time, I can now experience some memories with a positive emotional response. The part that strikes me as strange is how random the response to various memories appears to be. One memory may trigger positive emotions, while a remarkably similar memory may trigger profound sadness. Strange, yet true.
I can shop at Home Depot, for example, but not at Lowe’s. Entering either store triggers memories of visiting the store with Terri: one precipitates a positive response, the other a negative response. Entering a Home Depot store reminds me of how Terri would beg me to just ask for help rather than wandering through the entire store three times looking for something. This memory invariably brings a smile to my face that I cannot suppress. Entering a Lowe’s store reminds me of shopping for lighting fixtures or other home supplies at the Sheridan, Wyo. store while we were caretaking at a ranch on the Crow reservation in Montana. This memory overwhelms me with sadness. I cannot discern the distinction between the two stores, but the response is real regardless.
Today I stopped at a Dairy Queen while I was out doing an errand (I needed a “free” plastic spoon since I had packed and stored my silverware in preparation for a move in two days…) My initial response was positive: Terri used to like stopping at DQ for a Blizzard or other ice cream. I smiled as I ordered a Blizzard. The smile lasted until I turned to see a sign for ice cream cakes on the wall. Those who were there will remember Terri’s birthday ice cream cake last July. Why does one thing at DQ produce a positive emotional response while another produces a negative response? I have no idea, but the result is real.
Grieving is turning out to be a process, as I noted earlier. Fortunately, I am now at a place where I can experience positive memories. I continue to be perplexed by how random the response to various memories seems to be; whether the response is positive or negative seems to follow no discernible pattern.