[My apologies for being derelict in posting for a few weeks. We are in the home stretch for our oldest daughter’s wedding in July, and last minute preparations, as well as June being a difficult month in general with our wedding anniversary and Father’s Day has left me with little time to spare. I hope to get back on track fairly soon, and appreciate everyone who has reached out to me with concern and / or encouragement. xoxo Cheri G]
Many who have lost someone seemed to caution that the second year is harder than the first. When I was still in my first year of grieving my husband, I scoffed at this wondering how it could ever be harder.
Now that I’ve turned that corner and am a few months into my second year, I think I understand what they were trying to say. It’s not necessarily that this year is harder, but it’s certainly different from Year One.
There’s a great deal of time during the first year spent in a fog, everything hazy and unsure, and A’s absence seemed surreal, much like the last clinging tendrils of a bad dream you just can’t seem to shake. Things are coming more into focus now, and while the pain is not more sharp, it isn’t necessarily any less, either.
It’s as if I’ve shaken off those last sleepy bits only to realize that it wasn’t a bad dream. This is my reality. But while the pain hasn’t exactly lessened, it’s not that it has deepened, either. It’s just different.
You know when you’re in the middle of something – a crisis, throwing a party, cramming for finals, anything that requires a laser-like focus on the task at hand – and you have no extra energy or mental capacity to think about much else? When the crisis is over, the party goers have gone home, or you’ve packed up your dorm room for the Summer, you are suddenly able to see beyond the immediacy of whatever it is you were smack dab in the middle of. Only then does your mind allow you to extend your focus and see further and wider and finally address those things you might have temporarily set aside.
To me, that’s Year Two of grief so far. The bubble has popped and I am right there in the center of Oz. A world that has some familiar faces, yet seems so strange and surreal. And I am traveling down that yellow brick road trying to find my heart, my brain, my courage and my way home.
Perhaps what makes this all hardest to deal with, is that my biggest fan, the man who could every day make me laugh, smile and believe in myself, isn’t here to do those things. I spent so much time as half of a duo – my entire adult life, to be exact – that it’s sometimes extremely difficult to remember that he was merely my cheerleader, while I am the one in the game.
Unlike Dorothy and her squad, though, I feel I’ve got the advantage of already knowing that all of these things are within me; I just have to reach in and bring them to the surface. It’s those darned flying monkeys who appear out of nowhere causing chaos and fear (in my case, bringing thoughts of self-doubt and loneliness, and let’s be honest here, merely distracting me from the task at hand of healing and moving forward) that I have the biggest issue with.
I do recognize the progress I’ve made since losing my husband. I recently came across a photo from a year ago. When I originally posted it on my Facebook page, there were dozens of comments from friends and family commenting on how good I looked. I suppose compared to how I all by let myself go completely, I probably did look better.
Funny, but when I look at it now, what I see is the haunted, vacant stare of someone with too much pain and too little sleep who is trying to put up a good front. I see a woman who is attempting to pretend all is normal when it is anything but. I see a person who wants everything to be OK and go back to the life she knew, but knows everything has changed.
These days, while I may not always like what I see in the mirror or in photographs, I feel as though I’m starting to look more present. The smiles tend to make themselves all the way to my eyes. I am slowly coming back to life, much like the Peace Lily that sits in my bathroom, a sympathy gift from a former co-worker. A few weeks ago I noticed how I would allow it to begin to droop before thinking about watering it, yet every time I did, the plant would spring right back to an upright position.
The pot also contains another plant for which I don’t know the name. It consists of narrow trunk-like stems that wind around each other and end in a couple of long, thin leaves and a piece that extends from the top and (originally had) flowers. This plant actually looked completely dead at one point, but one day, I moved it around and buried the roots again and soon there were green shoots where once it had been only brown.
I have monitored the plant daily since replanting it, watered as needed, began talking to it and (odd duck that I am) occasionally stroking its leaves as I coo soothing words. As I watched it turning green and lively once more, showing vitality and perseverance, it occurred to me that this plant was mirroring my own life. Although we may have looked – and felt – limp and lifeless, we’ve been merely dormant, yet alive.
Yet, alive and living are two quite different things. So, while my plant is already showing signs of returning to its former glory, I am still in the process of becoming fully alive again. Much like the care of the Peace Lily, it will take a conscious effort and daily reminders to be good to myself. Without my biggest advocate here to do so, it will be up to me to coo soothing words and remind myself that I’m worth caring for.
It may take some doing, because I’ve always found it difficult to put myself first, mistakenly believing that to take care of myself would be selfish. I’m learning how wrong a belief that is, but old habits die hard. Yet I know if I’m ever to get out of Oz and find my way home, I’ve got to try.
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