If I don’t grieve you as hard, does that negate our love?

Dear Rick,

It’s Friday. I’m working at home.

It just occurred to me that the pain isn’t as great anymore. That continuous ache in my heart hasn’t plagued me this morning.

Maybe I don’t want it to go away. The ache of missing you is somehow what I owe you. I loved you (LOVE you) so much, that it’s what I owe you. To hurt, to feel the pain of your loss.

It’s an odd thought. If I don’t grieve you as hard, does that negate our love? Is that the cockeyed thinking that’s been somehow under the surface nagging at me as I start to heal?

I know that in an instant I can see your face again and feel all the old pain resurface. One word that reminds me of you, one stray thought, one random occurance can bring back all the pain of losing you. So why can’t I accept and rejoice in the fact that I HAVEN’T felt that yet this morning?

You were in parts of my dreams last night, and I awoke with a dull ache and a longing for your death to be a figment of my imagination. But I didn’t feel that all out, wailing, screaming, horrific pain that I experienced so often: the mind-numbing, paralyzing kind, the kind that made me wonder if I could even go on living.

In the beginning, I had this vague fear that I wouldn’t be able to go on living with so much awful and continuous pain. It was too difficult to contemplate more than one day ahead, sometimes one hour ahead, it hurt so terribly to be without you. A part of me was gone and I could see nothing but the pain of my loss – a loss of hopes, dreams, and happiness.

Oh, I never really planned to do myself in. I knew I wanted to live – and, when thinking logically, I knew I had a lot to live for: to be with those I love, to try to rediscover things I desired, hopes for my own future. I knew logically that time would heal me, that I would feel joy again. After all, my parents, grandparents, and aunts are dead, and I rarely feel the pain of their loss anymore.

But maybe, deep inside, that’s what I fear – that I will lose the connection I feel to you. While the pain is in evidence, you are still a part of me. You’ve been physically ripped from my life, but your spirit remains in my heart. The pain is just what I must suffer to keep you there.

And now, as the months go on, each day it hurts a little less, and the fog lifts a little more. I see some daylight. I forget to think about you. Being 100 percent consumed by grief has lessened to maybe just the horrible nights when I can’t sleep from the pain, or to experiencing something you were so much a part of without you by my side.

Most days, it’s a dull ache. It throbs sometimes, with perhaps an hour or two of sobbing, but the contractions have subsided and are no longer constant. I’m beginning to feel whole again, and I honestly think that scares me. Because it proves I can live without you. Is that insane? It just seems wrong, because I love you so much and long for you so much and NEED you to be here with me. I’m a confused mess.

Jan 19, 2018

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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