09 April 2010

The stages of grief and stages of life.

I have not written anything in a while because I have not felt like writing.....that and I have been too busy. But if I am honest, I felt too down to write. I felt everyone would already be sick of my regular moaning and whinging, so it was probably best I write nothing at all. But the longer I left it, the less I wanted to write. I sometimes wonder whether I should just stop the blog altogether. After all, my reason for starting it in the first place has now really gone.

Five weeks ago, to the very evening, I watched Greg die. It does not seem five weeks in some ways; in other ways it seems a lifetime. We were together for forty years: thirty-four of those as a married couple. What is five weeks of widowhood compared to forty years as a couple? A mere drop in the ocean and yet already I am getting used to the feel of saying "I am a widow". Already I am becoming a dab hand at filling in the ubiquitous forms, registering my status as "widowed". On Kay's student finance form which we filled in again this week for the forthcoming academic year, I am now the sole parent. Overnight, years and accustomed years of being "married" are replaced with the dowdy label of "widowed". I suddenly feel like I have concrete restraints around my feet, pulling me downwards into a place where nobody will give me a second glance. I feel I should maybe be dressed in black wearing a black net veil or should sit amongst the cobwebs Miss Havisham-like. With the change of status, I feel a tremendous change in my very being. I suddenly feel a hundred and two years old with one foot in the grave. Greg's suffering may be over. Mine seems to just be beginning.


They say there are various stages of grief. They are:


Shock/Denial

Anger/Bargaining

Pain/Guilt

Depression/Loneliness

The Upturn

Reconstruction

Acceptance/Hope



Some stages last a few weeks, others many years or decades. I think I have gone through a fair number of those stages in the last few weeks alone! I certainly have gone through denial - imagining that Greg is still in hospital, as he was there so regularly in the past five years. Sometimes the reality hits me that this time he will not be coming back. I have often felt anger. Why me? Why did he let this happen? Why did he start drinking and let it get so far? Why could we not have looked forward to a long retirement together? Then there is the guilt. I should have not said some of the nasty things I said when my frustration flared up and overspilled into venom. I should not have bought the whisky for him, when he was too drunk to drive to get it himself. I should have done more to bully the medics into doing something to stop him. I have already seen glimpses of the depression I know will definitely hit me, once Kay has left for university again and I am alone with my thoughts and an empty house full of too many memories, good and bad. I don't tell her this, of course. I am putting on my brave I-can-cope-with anything mask for her. But in the last week or so, she has been out twice with friends and slept over at their house, giving me a taste of what is like to turn out the light at night and just hear the sound of my own breathing for company. Those different stages of grief are coming one after the other in quick succession like a roller-coaster at the moment.

On a more positive note, the funeral was beautiful. So many people came up to me afterwards and said how much they had "enjoyed" it. Over about sixty people were there. About a quarter were family; about a quarter were work colleagues; a quarter were friends from the past; the rest were neighbours, close friends of mine and close friends of Kay's. Two (quite separate) people even turned up all the way from Scotland - one, an old work colleague, whom we had not seen for thirty years! The actual chapel service was put together by Kay and myself. We carefully chose the readings, the hymns and the music on a theme of his life in different stages and culminated in the Joni Mitchell song "The Circle Game". I wrote the history of his life which the clergyman read out. The funeral director was extremely helpful and friendly. The Order of Service, designed and printed by Kay, had photos of Greg in different stages of his life too, so it all seemed to fit. A work of art. Greg would have been proud of us. Afterwards we gathered for refreshments at a local club and everyone said wonderful things about Greg. It certainly helped get me through the otherwise difficult day. Greg would have so enjoyed it. Who knows? Perhaps he did.

25 comments:

Nechtan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nechtan said...

Hi Addy,

It is good the funeral ran smoothly and so many people showed their appreciation. It can't have been easy but knowing how many people wanted to be there must have given some added support.

I can't imagine how hard this must be for you. The mix of emotions must be continual. I just hope there comes a time when your memories of your husband are all those good ones. Over your time together there must have been plenty of those, some of which you have blogged about.

You mentioned about the possibility of stopping blogging. Deep inside you will know when you make that choice but I would just say one thing. Your intention to create this blog is one thing but the reason people visit your blog is another- your tale. I know were you ever to hang up your keyboard you would sorely missed and when Kay returns to Uni the blog at this time might still be a good outlet.

All the best

Nechtan

PS. Sorry I deleted the last comment because when I re-read it it might have sounded like something I did not intentionally set out to say.

aims said...

You have written this so concisely and so well - obviously from your heart. The one thing that stands out for me is your strength and the effort you are putting into your own life. Something you haven't done in a long time. You've always given everything away -

I believe that you are so strong and so accepting of your title now because you've basically become a widow twice and this time around you had to do the paperwork for it.

You could write a book and be of such help to others. Your writing is so beautiful and it touches us deep inside - and the truth is what we all need to hear and to listen to.

Thinking of you....

Fab, feisty and fifty... said...

l have just posted in my special place about how l am now cross and my pal told me that l'm now in stage two!!! l wondered what the other stages were.....and so thanks for letting me know whats to do here...

understanding that there is some kind of other power that has some control over this is strangely comforting, about all the comfort l can get these days...

l am thinking of you often and only wish that you find a calmer and more self satisfying place to rest your head in the days and months ahead...
saz x

laurie said...

one of the hardest thing is grief when you're feeling other things, too. i know this from personal experience. you can't rush it; but you will come out the other side stronger and calmer.

i'm thinking of you, dear.

Ginny said...

My friend. I am so sorry. I have been gone from the blogs so long and I was unaware of what was happening in your life. You are stong and you will make it through. I know it may not seem like it now, but you will. My prayers and thoughts are with you. I have thought of you often over these past few months. I am sorry that I didn't keep in touch. Take care of yourself and keep taking it one day at a time.

Kit Courteney said...

When reading your post I knew exactly what I was going to say but it seems Nechtan and Aims have said it far better!

I've thought for some time how useful and I dare say, important, your blog must be to so many. You write so well, about the good and bad times. Quite simply, you have a beautiful way of communicating.

I genuinely believe that you might actually find it helpful to continue blogging for as long as you are able to (without causing yourself any added upset of course).

I say this because, although my own experience was absolutely nothing like yours, I've been going through 'sad stuff' myself since the summer. I haven't blogged about it and won't do but I have found that having access to my blog and being able to let off steam about all sorts of rubbish has really helped me to stay 'me' rather than to dwell on things TOO much. A sort of outlet for the brain.

Apart from anything, if you disappeared we'd not find out how your daughter was doing at Uni, how your mum is and what's going on in Snoopy's little doggy world... quite aside from your own news!

Take care, and thinking of you.

Eurodog said...

Hello Addy,
I would like to write to you. Would it be possible to send me your e-mail address to eurodogtraining@gmail.com
Thank you.

Gill - That British Woman said...

I too did not know there were stages of grief. With God's help you will get through this,

Gill in Canada

Almost American said...

Addy, you are so right with your comment that 5 weeks is nothing compared to 40 years - but it can still seem like an awfully long time as you are living it!

I'm glad you know about the stages of grief, but do watch out - they are not always linear. You can bounce back and forth between different 'stages', and even once you've reached acceptance a particularly bad day (that may have nothing to do with your loss) can still trigger 'regression' to stage you thought you were done with.

Use the blogging as you see fit - there will always be people out here to listen.

"With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy. "

June said...

"After all, my reason for starting it in the first place has now really gone."

I'm not sure that you will have nothing more to gain from blogging about your life. Alcoholism is a family disease. It isn't just the drunk who's sick; family members grow into some pretty dysfunctional behaviors too and those behaviors become habitual even in the absence of the drunk.
You might find that you continue some of those behaviors and unwittingly search out people who fit the jigsaw puzzle piece that you've become. And if that happens you might find that history repeats itself.

Monalisa said...

This must be a difficult time for you, more so after coping for so long with Greg.
I must admit your blog was quite intriguing, not just the story of your life with alcoholism in the family, but the way you write - so honest and open.

April said...

Dear Rosario (I'm used to that name), I don't know why but I thought of you in the last weeks ... and then I tried to find your blog again. I regret that I closed my Cologne blog but I'm havin a private one for some time now
http://april11.wordpress.com and I just opened a new Cologne blog
http://garten11.wordpress.com.

But let's talk of you. I'm very sad for you that Greg has passed away and it's always difficult to say/write the right words. (Are there any words?)

I think what you have gone through is more than one can bear and now that 'it's all over' it's not over for you, of course. You have suffered for so long, you have been brave beyond words. That you fall into a deep hole now (as we call it in German) that is very much understandable.

But for one thing I know: there is no need to make any reprovals to yourself. You have done what you could, even more than most people would do and you created him a dignified funeral.

Now it is time for yourself. I hope for you and I wish you that you will 'find yourself' again and above all: find some sense in life, find a new life. It's too early now, but time will come ...

P.S. I f you changed your settings about comments I could comment with my wordpress URL here.

Paul Bennett said...

I've noticed in the years I've been writing and speaking about grief that most people quickly accept the identity of "widow" or "widower"; so much of what we know about ourselves -- our identity -- has been erased by the death of our spouse that we automatically accept this new definition of ourselves. Then, more gradually, most find this identity too confining to hold the new life they are creating for themselves.

One way to look at your life now is that you are busy learning new things about yourself. While the "stages of grief" may be useful for reassuring ourselves that our reactions to loss are "normal," they can become another confining identity. We check off the "in denial" box like we check off the "widowed" box.

In my book, Loving Grief, I wrote about my experience moving through the months after Bonnie died. Since its publication, I have had many conversations with other grieving people who find it tremendously useful to view this time as an intense experience of love, and a sacred path of discovery about oneself.

Addy, I invite you to visit my website, www.lovinggrief.com. You may find something of use there, and I would welcome your eloquent comments.

Paul Bennett

Retiredandcrazy said...

I can identify so much with your feelings Addy. Some days I am still waiting for Davy to come home from somewhere, then I crash and burn when I accept this won't happen. I throw myself into life, then think "what's the point without Davy". I laugh a lot and feel guilty. But "one day at a time" I cope and accept that my feelings will be all over the place, probably for the rest of my life. Life is now "different" but I have to live it to the full, to the best of my ability. God Bless you Addy. You are a strong woman and will overcome.

Retiredandcrazy said...

And PS, I also feel that I don't want to write anymore, but it is now almost a compulsion and seems to give me direction when I drift.

Flowerpot said...

I do so feel for you Addy at this incredibly difficult time. You have a lot to deal with but I am thinking about how you will manage when Kay goes back to university. Yes you are incredibly strong but have you ever thought of talking to someone from Cruse, the bereavement charity? A friend of mine who was widowed recently (and very suddenly) found they were incredbily helpful. You take care. Thinking of you.

Furtheron said...

I can't begin to understand how you are feeling right now.

However - don't feel guilty about what you did or didn't do. There is no point that is gone and that is that.

Why did Greg start and not stop... simple though it is "because he was an alcoholic"... currently my alcoholism is only "arrested" I never feel it is cured, that way will lay danger for me. So try not to blame him it was just what is.

Don't feel your life is over. Now you can spend time with Kay, with friends, with yourself and do new different things. Good luck

nuttycow said...

Hey - I'm glad you found the strength to write again. Please know that *we* (the vast range of people who read your blog) are never bored of reading. The wonderful thing about blogs is that they give the writer a chance for catharsis. That's what they're for. Don't worry about us, write for you.

Love to both.

Ellen said...

I am pleased to hear that Greg's funeral was a joyful celebration of his life and that friends and family from far and wide were able to attend, and that the love and support of those people carried you and Kay through a very difficult day. I am sure that Greg would have been incredibly proud of you both.

As you say, five weeks compared to 40 years is a drop in the ocean. Perhaps for now it will help to just live each day at a time and embrace each emotion as it comes and inevitably passes. Every emotion gives an insight into aspects of the past and the future, gradually allowing acceptance to be born.

As so many other people have commented, you are an eloquent, wise and witty blogger (Miss Haversham made me smile!). Your original reason for starting the blog was to express your life living with Greg's alcoholism. This has been such a tremendous help to so many of us living with aspects of this devastating disease. However, those of us who read your blog regularly have come to appreciate reading about you and your life. I hope that you will decide to keep writing and if so to continue sharing your journey with us.

Take care dear friend, and be kind to yourself. x

Strawberry Jam Anne said...

I can only imagine how you are feeling now Addy and how hard it must be for you. All I would say is that grieving is a healing process and one you must go through at your own pace. You will make choices that suit you at the time. It must be hard to be alone after so many years with your partner and I hope you can come to terms with your "status" and begin a new life for yourself eventually. Just concentrate on all the good memories you have. It is Spring, a time of new beginnings, I do hope you soon begin to feel that, hard though it may be.

I hope this doesn't sound like a sermon. I, for one, would continue to read your blog as I consider you a friend, albeit in the blogging world. "Aims" commented that perhaps you should consider writing a book and maybe that sort of project would help you through this extremely difficult time. Take care Addy. Thinking of you and sending a hug. A x

Crystal Jigsaw said...

I think we would all like to live through hope stage of grief but it takes all the other stages to get there. It isn't something that happens over night. Your blog may help you to vent your frustrations and go through the stages of grief as you have mentioned here. There are many people here to support you.

CJ xx

Wendy said...

I just wanted to say I'm so sorry for your loss. I haven't been writing or reading for some time so I was totally shocked when I clicked on your blog and read that you had lost Greg.

My heart goes out to you. I wish you strength and hope for the future xxx

Working Mum said...

I'm glad that the funeral went well and that there were many people showing their respect for the man before the illness. I have little to add to the already supportive comments here other than to say, the process of grief will take time and you may find your blog a good outlet. Don't worry about what people want to read, it's your blog, you write what you need to.

Do You Come with the Car? said...

I wish you peace... Is there a support group in your area you could join? It may be of great help to be around others experiencing the same situation you are.