Me: I’m so forgetful.
She: That’s perfectly normal.
Me: And I have so little energy.
She: That’s normal.
Me: I feel I’m getting better, and then I have a crash, and I feel terrible again.
She: That’s to be expected. The grieving process isn’t linear.
Me: I get so easily overwhelmed. It’s so difficult for me to formulate any plan.
She: Perfectly normal.
Me: What can I do to fix all this?
She: Nothing. You just have to be patient. Time will help.
Patience. Not one of my strengths. I want to charge in, take the cure, be back to “normal,” whatever that is. I never want to forget Mark, and that won’t happen, but it would be so great to be able to see beyond the murky horizon that this brain fog has created.
The counselor’s message: “When you have mental conversations with yourself, talk to yourself the way that you would talk to a friend. Don’t be judgmental. If a friend was in your situation, you’d be supportive and forgiving. You need to be that way with yourself.”
I can tell there’s some wisdom there.
Recently I talked with an acquaintance who has trodden a similar life path. Five years ago, Kathleen lost her husband to a horrible cancer, after he battled it for 14 months. Now, she’s in a new home and has a new committed relationship, and she seems so settled and balanced.
We met for happy hour at a local restaurant. “How did you get through it?” I asked her, as we sat at the bar and sipped our wine.
Kathleen thought about that for a while before answering. “Three things helped me. First, yoga, for the breathing practice. Second, I found a personal trainer, and I still work with him though it’s expensive, to take care of my body. Third, for a while I saw a counselor regularly, so I had someplace to go and just cry.”
Then she paused. “And of course, most important, was being patient with myself.”
That patience thing again…
I feel like I’m treading water, but I guess I don’t have the personal resources to swim forward yet. I’m trying to avoid making mistakes. Another piece of advice I’ve been given: “Don’t make any important decisions for at least a year.” That’s good advice too, I sense, though after your spouse’s death you’re forced to make a lot of important decisions right away, whether you want to or not.
I guess my plan is, for a while, not to have a plan. That is so not me. I’ll try to be patient. Grief will take its own fine time, and it won’t be rushed. Right now I can believe in my head that joy must still be out there somewhere, but my heart denies it. I’ll try to be patient and wait for my heart to catch up.