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,


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  • Reply Chari Yandek September 26, 2017 at 10:10 am

    You are so NOT nutso – or if you are, I am too! It’s been 3 months in for me, but I look at his picture and get comforted and feel like he’s coming back any minute. I imagine this is just some sort of test by God and when I pass, he’ll walk back in the door. So you’re probably thinking I’ve lost my marbles now. I feel like somehow if I hadn’t thought certain thoughts when he was alive that he’d still be here, as if “I” had something to do with God taking him home. I feel I’m drowning in the sea of emotions, every day, every minute. But I continue to push through each day. Yes, I cry a lot, a whole lot at the drop of a hat – but I feel it’s because I loved him so deeply so I don’t beat myself up too much about it. You definitely are not alone and not crazy. Keep on keeping on girl!

    • Reply Extra Grace Required September 26, 2017 at 6:10 pm

      Thanks, Chari. I appreciate your comment. I’m so glad you’re here.

  • Reply Sheila September 26, 2017 at 10:29 am

    Of course you aren’t crazy! Sometimes I see someone down the street, built the way he was built. I am not sure what I pretend at this stage, but there is that very familiar punch in the gut when I get close enough to make sure – no, he is still dead! My comfort lies in the sure knowledge that he is in Heaven, improving the quality of life there!

    • Reply Extra Grace Required September 26, 2017 at 6:12 pm

      I’ve never written about this because it’s not very relevant to most people, and also out of respect for my brother-in-law, but my husband was an identical twin. I sooooooo understand that feeling when you see someone with the same build from afar….or in my case…the same voice/face/mannerisms!

  • Reply Lezlie September 26, 2017 at 11:50 am

    No you are not nuts. I’m at 2 years 8 months and the chronic pain does lessen. I agree that year two was in many ways harder than year one. I guess the best way I can describe it is an emotional limbo land. People are starting to ask me when I’m going to start dating and all I can say is – “Once was enough”.

  • Reply Kara Meech September 26, 2017 at 11:53 am

    I am right there with and thanks for this post,I play pretend games as well,and thought I was nuts as you put it,nice to know I am normal,I don’t have very good support,my husband died almost a year ago coming up on the sixth of October,and people seem to think that I should start getting over it…I have exhausted myself trying to make them understand…I gave up…so in short thank you so much,for this one,it help me navigate this turbulent ocean…

  • Reply evelyngittoes September 26, 2017 at 12:00 pm

    I have not lost a husband, but I have lost parents too young, and a young sister. Your posts are challenging, encouraging, inspirational and upsetting, often all at the same time. Grief holds no timescale and occasionally swamps you like a tsunami when you are least expecting it. A song, a date, a memory, a trinket, a smell…all can provoke a reaction. As the years go by the reactions are less acute but yes, I agree that the initial allowing of uncontrollable outpourings of grief is often easier than the following years when folks often think you have “moved on” Thank you. Ev

  • Reply Mar September 26, 2017 at 12:00 pm

    Your words were so on point for me. After that first year ended I found myself in an even deeper place of unexpected and unknown feelings. I tried to rationalize it because I had planned for and completed a cruise to Alaska featuring a well respected and loved pastor and writer (Max Lucado) with my daughter over the one year anniversary of the last week of my husband’s struggle and passing, and then an extended visit with my son, daughter-in-law and grandson in Anchorage. Coming home and attempting to resume my life was like starting the grief process afresh. Thankfully over time it passed, and I’m into the third year. I still am lonely but staying active in my church and volunteer activities. God is good; He walks with us each day. We have to learn to listen for His whispers of encouragement and peace. But never doubt or forget, He is there.

  • Reply Eileen Boggess September 26, 2017 at 12:03 pm

    You are brilliant and use whatever coping methods work for you to get through each day!

    • Reply Extra Grace Required September 26, 2017 at 6:09 pm

      You can always spot my friends. They use words like “brilliant.” LOL – Thanks, Eileen.

  • Reply Kim Hanner September 26, 2017 at 12:27 pm

    Thank you for putting my thoughts into words. It has been almost 18 months since I lost my husband. This year has been worse than the first. I thought I would magically feel better after that one year anniversary, but no. Sometimes I feel as though I cannot breathe, like I am waiting on something. But the something is nothing. My children are married and an empty home is a deafening silence. I pray for ways to move on but it seems like there is nothing to do and nowhere to go. It helps to know others feel exactly the same and I am not bonkers. Thanks for your thoughts and words.

  • Reply Barbara McCarthy September 26, 2017 at 1:38 pm

    I lost my husband 15 years ago and I still play the “he will be back soon” game in my head…the Friday nights that are so lonely are the worst….I pray everyday for ways to move on but, not yet!…I am happy most of the time…yet I am terribly lonely…whatever YOU need to do to get YOU through a hour…a minute…YOU do it….there are an awful lot of us out there…and it is really, really hard….I will keep you in my prayers.

  • Reply Suzanne September 26, 2017 at 2:49 pm

    I so appreciated your post today. I have never commented on a blog before but today you really nailed my feelings. My husband died 4 years ago this past August. See, I have trouble saying I’m going on 5 years because 5 is too long when he is still so much a part of my life. We were married 39 years until we were on vacation and he died of a heart attack without any goodbyes. I totally understand the mind games and I think they do help. My friends and family are always saying how they admire the way I have gone on with the busywork of life but in reality I feel like I am just existing and can only be myself when I am home alone. Don’t get me wrong, I am very thankful for my abundant blessings (my Savior, the marriage we had, our family, friends, on and on) and praise God every day but the chronic aching for my husband never goes away.
    I know this is not the path you thought you would be walking but you are handing out cups of lemonade out of the lemons you have been given and what a blessing you are to many of us.
    May you and your children feel Jesus’ presence every day.

  • Reply Sue McAulay September 26, 2017 at 3:45 pm

    Thank you for making me feel that I’m not so alone. This Thursday will be one year that my husband Mark has been gone. The ache isn’t as painful most days, it has “dulled,” but is still there. You give me hope and put into words some of the things I am feeling. Praying for extra grace, this week especially. Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply Ruth September 26, 2017 at 4:55 pm

    Oh my….you and all the people who have commented are in my prayers! You are not NUTS, just dealing with your grief in a way that works for you. It appears that you have touched many lives with your beautiful way with words…mine included! Keep on writing!

  • Reply Jan Stone September 26, 2017 at 8:13 pm

    It’s almost 10 months for me, and I’ve moved into this stage…what you said put it into words for me…it hurts sometimes that no one around me knows what I go through in private. I do well most of the time, but that underlying realization that it’s going to be a long time without him causes a very deep pain. Thank you for being so real that I know someone gets it.

  • Reply Shirley Shelbourn October 1, 2017 at 1:49 pm

    Widowhood does cause some interesting thoughts. And no you are not going nuts.LOL

  • Reply Rev. Judi Wiegman October 2, 2017 at 3:31 pm

    WOW. I guess we will never give up on hoping the door will open and the smell of his cologne will permeate the house once more. My issue in the 9th month of his absence is the many dreams with him and the sound of his voice in them. They seem so real and I gain new hope that he is just away on a trip. He will forever be the wind beneath my wings, my true north! Coping? Not too well.

  • Reply Libby Peay October 5, 2017 at 11:15 am

    Jodi, all this talk about the second year being harder is hard. I can’t see right now at 7 months how it could be worse. I did confess to my counselor that I knew it was irrational thinking, but there are times when I think if I hold his picture close enough and look at it hard enough I could bring him back. How’s that for crazy? It does help to know there are others that understand. My sister in law is in her 2nd year and she has given me soooo much help and support. Thank you for your thoughts.

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