Monday, September 17, 2007

A Scab grows in Baltimore

I talked for several hours yesterday with a friend to try and get her to understand some changes that have happened to me since Jim's death and the journey of grief. I think she understands a lot more about some of the processing that occurs on the journey.

The analogy I used was that the death of a spouse is an open gaping wound. Bloody and painful and disgusting. Shocking. As it starts to heal, begins along the edges, but can start oozing at any moment. It will form a new line on the body, it can change colors, and be strong or weak. This takes time. Recovery is often slow. A scab must grow to strengthen the skin. A new skin that is still very tender and needs a gentle touch. But also itchy and lets you know it is there.

My friend Diane said that she was glad to see I was doing well on most levels, but was worried about me because it seems my personality has changed. I am not acting like myself. I told her I didn't quite understand and she said I am not the same person that I was before Jim, or acting as I did during marriage with Jim. She said she still sees the old me most of the time but is worried that the new side may take over. Shortness in speech and not caring. I had to tell her that to be honest, there is a point where I don't care anymore. I can be okay to a point where I get pushed to do something and then I just stop. And I can only hope that people will understand the occasional abruptness. One thing she said that I am still thinking about - she is concerned that the mask I show is not allowing the grief to come out. My feeling is that the mask I show the public is the one that will get me thru the day.

I sat with her and told her that she has to understand...I am not the same Betsy. I am not acting like myself and I don't even know exactly what myself is anymore. I am a Betsy that has been broken in half and is hurt. That as I heal, as I grieve, things may alter again and my old personality may come back stronger, as it is what I know and am familiar with. However, she also has to realize, it may not also. I just don't know right now. Nor can I expect to. My scab is going to heal and how it realigns may be different because of the suffering that has occurred. I have been altered and changed. I am looking at things in a different light and feeling things in a different way than I ever have before and with such intensity that it is painful. Painful.

Sharing with her the hurt and the feelings of the last three months has helped. For both of us. I told her that the numbness has just begun to wear off and the true grieving is beginning. It shows with major twinges of hurt, anger, guilt and depression at times. I am hoping she will know that her support is appreciated. When she left we talked again and she said that she really didn't mean to upset me, that she is trying to understand and even then, realizes that she can't. I told her that I am digesting what she said and thinking on it. That her input is appreciated, as long as she is not forcing me to change my ways. She said that she wants to watch out for me as she knows that since I don't have Jim to do this. That touched me. She even gave me a hug - and she is not a physical person so I was surprised at that.

I have been very lucky in my having friends that have helped and supported me. That have put up with my short remarks or strange questions and odd babbling and just filed it under grieving friend. I am not trying to use the widowhood as an excuse for my actions but as a reason and guide. Imagine living your worst nightmare, dreams squashed and life changed immeasurably. I have come to realize now that there is no way to fathom what your response to the death of a partner. I certainly had no clue I would be feeling this way, but rather imagined myself a lump on the floor not moving or functioning. That I get up every morning and go to work amazes me sometimes. That I break down and cry while looking at the last christmas picture we will ever have doesn't amaze me. That I can remember to feed dogs, feed myself and take trash out- that amazes me.

1 comment:

Don Sakers said...

With all due respect to your friend, she needs to lighten up and get a little patience.

Suppose you had been in an accident and lost your left arm. After three months, would she be saying, "Betsy, I'm concerned about you. You've changed the way you lift things, your nonverbal gestures are all different, and I've noticed that your shirts don't fit the way they used to."

Well, you have suffered a psychological and emotional amputation as bad as any physical amputation could be. You are NOT the same person you were...and in some ways, you will never be.

And anyway, three months is way too short to expect any sort of major recovery.

In the olden days, official mourning lasted a year and a day. That isn't to say that mourning stopped on the 366th day...in some ways, mourning is a lifelong process. It means that, during the first year at least, nothing is settled and people should not expect the mourner to behave normally or "get better."

So give yourself at least a year. And if people give you guff, tell them that they need to give you at least a year...then come back and talk. But for the first year, you're emotionally crippled, and people are just going to have to understand that and cut you some slack.

A year from now, eighteen months, if you're still emotionally crippled...then maybe it would be time for your friends to worry about you.

But right now...you've suffered an amputation, and as you say, the wound is way too fresh and raw for anybody to be giving you this sort of grief.

-Don