From Acute to Chronic

September 26, 2017

The first year without my husband was so painful. I was really just getting by emotionally. I was in a fog and between missing him, handling all of the first-year orders of business and just surviving, it was truly all encompassing. This year the reality of it all has set in hard. I still miss him so much of course, but it’s a different kind of feeling now. The outward signs of grief are less apparent. I’m not bawling as much, or looking at the chair he used to sit in with as much sorrow.  I can look at pictures of us without as much heartache. This year is more real. That brings with it a new and different type of pain.

In some ways, the first year was better. The emotions poured out of me involuntarily in a very tangible and healing sort of way. It was raw. I couldn’t control it much and that was probably a good thing. The release of emotions and pain was necessary. But this year is different. It’s gone from acute pain to a chronic ache. I’d choose temporary acute pain over chronic pain any day of the week. I’m learning how to cope with chronic. I’m learning how to pursue joy, be hopeful and live with the ever-present ache of grief. I’m learning it’s part of me now and not something that is going to just disappear one day. I’m learning how it’s beginning to co-exist with happiness and hope. I used to think it would one day vanish and be replaced with joy. That it would heal and then be gone forever. Instead I’m learning that although it may heal,  it’s going to leave a scar. It’s chronic and likely permanent. It’s starting to live underneath the healthier, happier moments, but it’s there.

I love words and usually I think I’m fairly decent at finding the right ones to describe what I’m feeling. But defining where I’m at right now is challenging. On one hand I feel like I’m doing really well. Crying less is certainly a sign of that, right? I am hopeful about several things in my life. Hope is a good sign, right? And I am often happy. Happy is good too! And yet, there’s a dull ache underneath. It’s a quiet, chronic void that makes me think the louder grief in year one was much easier. In the quiet is where the lonely, homesick feeling lurks.

Eighteen months into this grief thing, I’m much more aware of how long my wait may be before I’m reunited with my husband. That feels so lonely. Overall, I think I’m dealing with grief in a healthy, normal and sane person kind of way. However, I’m going to admit something I do that’s probably cuckoo, or weird at best. Sometimes I pretend – well, not pretend, but ponder? Imagine? I’m struggling to find the right word that conveys I’m still sane and emotionally well. Anyway, I think about if he were in the military and deployed. I suppose it would be possible he’d be gone for 18 months. So I sort of trick myself to help pass the time we’re apart. I guess there really was no way to say that and still sound like I have all my marbles.

Of course I know he’s not deployed, on a work trip, etc. I know where he is. But imagining different scenarios makes the vast empty space of time before me more manageable. Please, guys – don’t have me committed. I promise you I’m truly in reality. I’m just admitting the mind games I sometimes briefly play to get through all of this time laid out before me. It’s like a mirage I imagine to help me walk faster and farther ahead in the metaphorical desert.

Oh my gosh – extra grace is required!!! I know I sound a little nutso, but I’ve always told you the truth about my grief, so I guess I won’t stop now. I share with you openly and honestly because it has always been my suspicion that I’m not alone. Just because the countless grief books, the devotionals and sermons, even the grief groups aren’t talking about these crazy things doesn’t mean they aren’t happening to us, right? So I share it all with you,  in part so I feel less alone with it, and also because I hope if you’re feeling these things too it will help YOU feel less alone.

If I truly am the only widow on earth with these thoughts and experiences, then I guess I need to know that too. Last month my counselor suggested closing my file. I guess she thinks I’m sane and normal and don’t need her anymore. Hahahaha – maybe I should have told her about this first.

I’ve made it 18 months. I can do this and I will do this. And I know you can and will too. Thank you for being here with me as I find my way through it all.

Extra grace,

Jodi

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