I’m fairly certain most people have at least a working knowledge of the Five Stages of Grief (or Seven, depending on which school of thought you subscribe to). I know it was something I studied in an early Psychology class in college many moons ago, but as I was young and had been fairly protected from loss, at least ones to which I was so closely connected, it was simply another subject matter to learn, not information to retain for later personal use.
Although these theories are based on the findings of experts, most people will tell you that not everyone experiences every step, and even if they do, it may not necessarily be in the same order. Some of us (myself included) seem to fluctuate randomly through them, and find it more comfortable in one stage or another.
All this being said, the numbness of losing my husband back in April seems to have worn off completely (at least it feels that way at the moment), and although my feelings have been all over the map, I have definitely been feeling things.
This past weekend marked five months since my husband died, and I spend quite a bit of time talking over everything with my oldest daughter. We discussed the night of his heart attack, his hospital stay, and how we have each been coping with life without him since. It seems we both harbor a bit of guilt, which is quote / unquote “normal”, so they say.
In my case, I wonder which decisions I could have made differently, and whether or not they would have had an impact on the end result. While my husband was in a coma, I learned that a friend of a friend (who is said to have psychic abilities) urged me to stay close to him as I was “his tether to this Earth”.
Anyone who knows me and has witnessed the relationship my husband and I had doesn’t find this hard to believe. We had a very strong attachment to one another (some might go so far as to say unhealthy because we were almost always together). He even voiced a similar sentiment to hers many years ago, telling me that if I were to die before him, and the kids were in a place where they no longer needed him, he would choose to join me because he couldn’t face this world without me. (Passionate statement, and yet another thing about which to feel guilty. What does it say about me that I didn’t mirror that philosophy? Did he love me more than I love him? Or am I stronger somehow for choosing to stay without him because it’s definitely much harder than choosing to go?)
But I look back on the night I drove my youngest two home. When I returned the next day, he had taken a turn for the worse and he never recovered. Had I been gone too long? Did he think I wasn’t coming back? Did I snap the tether? Likely none of these things – the timing was merely coincidental. Wretched and unfortunate timing, but coincidental nonetheless.
I think about every major argument we had through the years and feel guilt about their causes. I remember times I didn’t go where he wanted to go or do what he wanted to do and mentally kick myself for missing the opportunity. I question every decision that might have created a different path from the one we traveled. I ask myself if I did everything possible. Then I remember that our life together may not have been perfect, but we had each other and made a lot of incredible memories. And we had love, which is more than many people can say.
But then sometimes, as if my own thoughts weren’t enough to induce guilt, I occasionally feel the weight of others’ accusations, as well. Whether spoken or not, there are, I’m sure, plenty of people who have the same questions as I. I went through it years ago when my father passed away. You question every decision and wonder what you could have done differently. Then, as now, my best course of action is to (attempt to) remove emotion from the equation and look at things logically.
In the end, I remind myself of all the facts surrounding his heart attack, hospitalization and death (not theories, not ponderings, not guilt-induced thoughts, but facts) and I’m able to get through those temporary moments of despair. And despite being found guilty by a jury of my peers (at least in my own mind), I believe I should get out with time served.
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