The grief is lessening and that scares me

Dear Rick,

I don’t feel the grief all the time anymore. In the beginning, it was like a giant fog, like a veil over my face and head, over my life.

I thought about you constantly. I couldn’t stop. Everything was a memory. When I was alone, all I could do was immerse myself in the grief of the loss and the thoughts and the memories of you.

But now it’s different. Now I have a whole chunks of life that you’re not a part of. It makes me sad. Happy, but sad. I want my life to go on. I want to be able to live without you, and I’m working hard towards that goal: to have a life again. But the more I work through the memories, the more I live on without you, the farther away you are receding into my past.

I don’t want to lose you. I almost want to hang onto the grief so I don’t. It’s a double-edge sword: working to move on with my life, working to make a life for myself, yet knowing with every step that the memory of you becomes more elusive, that you begin to have less impact on my thoughts, that you become a man I used to love, no longer my ever-present love, my partner, my companion.

This morning, I picked up my grief meditation book and there, in today’s message, was this exact thought. How often does that happen and I think it’s a message from you?

The idea of the essay is that the grief of the loss and love we had is so bound up together that we are often afraid to let the grief go. But grief and love can be viewed as two sides of a coin. And soon, when the coin is flipped, the memory of the love will always be on the top.

“People bring us well-meant but miserable consolations when they tell us what time will do to help our grief. We do not want to lose our grief, because our grief is bound up with our love and we could not cease to mourn without being robbed of our affections” —PHILLIPS BROOKS

Of course time eases our grief, provided we let it follow its course and give it its due. Few of us would want the intensity and desolation of early grief to stay with us forever. That’s not what we’re afraid of.

But we may be afraid that we’ll lose the intensity of love we felt for the one we have lost.

At first these two—the grief and the love—are so wedded to each other that we cannot separate them. We may cling to the grief in desperation so we will be sure not to lose the love.

Perhaps the grief and the love will always be wedded to each other to some degree, like two sides of a coin. But maybe after a while, when we flip the coin, it will almost always be the love that turns up on top.

My loved one is as much a part of my life as the air and food and water that nourish my body. Therefore I shall not fear losing someone who has been, and is, a part of me.”

from “Healing After Loss: Daily Meditations For Working Through Grief” by Martha W. Hickman

About the author

Katherine Billings Palmer is a technical writer, poet, and essayist from Garden City, Michigan. She’s won several academic writing awards, including first place in the University of Michigan Dearborn Critical Essay Contest for her work about poet John Donne: “‘The Sun Rising’: A Lover’s Boast.”

In 2017, Katherine’s husband, Rick, died of complications from small cell lung cancer. She wrote a series of poems and essays about her struggles to cope with her grief. I Wanted to Grow Old With You is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions.

Her latest book, A Widow’s Words: Grief, Reflection, Prose, and Poetry – The First Year was published in January 2019 and is also available on Amazon.com.

Katherine is a guest blogger for the Hope for Widows Foundation and writes about her grief journey at www.TheWritingWidow.com.

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