I’ve been wanting to write this post for a long time but I neither had the emotional strength nor the distance to put what I have been feeling and encountered into words. Now, almost 6 months since Matt passed I feel like I have a better perspective on this thing we call grief than I did. It’s like driving onto an overpass and seeing the skyline of a city, it’s easy to see with some distance, maybe in another 6 months I’ll see it from the distance of a plane flying overhead. Someplace I recognize, some place that still tugs a bit at my heartstrings, but not my home anymore.
It’s easy to make your home in grief and linger there, wallowing in the days that you don’t get and forgetting to live the days that you have. To look back on the road your traveling, on everything that you’ve lost, on everything that’s been taken from you. It’s hard to turn away from that and look forward to where you are going. It’s a struggle not to try to grasp for the things that have fallen beside the road and try to drag them with you, it’s hard to let go because you feel as though letting go might mean forget and you never ever want to forget a single moment. Those plans you had are gone, you must let them go and make new ones, make a new life, and try to be a whole person again. It’s hard. It’s really fucking hard. Distance through time helps, it doesn’t solve anything but it helps. The razor sharp edges of loss are dulled and eroded, eventually they don’t slice right through you every time, only sometimes and only in some moments.
I have had some crazy things said to me in the months that I’ve lost Matt from being criticized to wearing my wedding ring too long (a month), to comments about NOT wearing it, to dating advise, criticized about keeping my last name because I’m “not married anymore”, to being told not to “grieve too long” to “I don’t see you as a widow, you can’t be a widow” (ok, let me just jump in my way way back machine and will my husband’s cancer away so I don’t have to be a widow anymore, wish I thought of that).
I am determined to believe that people are generally coming from a good place, that they are good people who have no idea what the hell is coming out of their mouths or how they sound. I have to believe this or else I would spend a lot of time punching people in the face. This tragedy didn’t happen to other people, it happened to me and my inlaws. More people might have been saddened by Matt’s sudden death but they weren’t affected by it the way we were. They weren’t present at those horrible final moments. They don’t count, at least not in my book. Given that I believe that people are inherently good I have to believe that the terrible things that come out of their mouths are because they just don’t know what to say.
What is the best and only thing you have to say upon learning that someone has passed? “I’m sorry”, “That fucking sucks,” “That’s horrible”, then let the conversation move on. Don’t dwell, don’t force us to talk about what we don’t want to talk about. If I don’t know you chances are I don’t want to play 20 questions about the worst 11 days of my life. I might cry, you might feel like a dick, and this could have been avoided.
No one wants to compare loss. Ever. I know it might have been a big event in your life that you lost [fill in the blank], but it’s not the same, it’s nowhere near the same. The reason for that? We are not the same person. How I deal with grief and how I feel about my loss you could never understand and I could never understand how you felt about yours. I might have an idea but I’d never presume to know how it affected you. I hate to hear “I know exactly how you feel” because all I want to say in response is “No you FUCKING don’t, you have NO IDEA how I feel.” I definitely don’t want to compare notes with you.
Things do get better though. Not because of anything anyone says, not because of anything anyone does. It gets better because that’s the only option. The pain will be with me forever, there is nothing I can ever do to erase those terrible days, but it becomes more distant, it becomes more manageable. Eventually life turns becomes normal again, a new kind of normal, something different than before but not necessarily terrible. The storm has passed and the cleanup can take years but eventually everything is swept up and a new life forms.