One of the things I hear often is, “You’re so strong.” Uh, no. Well, okay, yeah, I can lift the 50# bag of dog food, so I guess I’m a little strong, but I know that’s not what they mean. Honestly, strength has nothing to do with the grief journey. And it’s not like there’s a choice. One day you wake up and realize your entire life has changed, and there’s not a blasted thing you can do about it. No matter what you do, the reality is, he’s gone and gone forever.
So, what do you do? Literally, you fake it til you make it. Those first days and, if you’re lucky weeks, after the funeral people rally around you and you get through. Sometimes it might just be breath by breath, but you get through. But, eventually, they all go away and you’re left on your own to soldier on. As much as you’d like to curl up into the fetal position and never leave your bed, that’s not usually an option as there are details that must be attended to. There are medical bills, funeral costs, things to change to your name, the blasted death certificates to get to various places to prove to others that he’s gone, insurance stuff to take care of. The list goes on and on, and they won’t wait. In those first weeks, you have the busy-ness of taking care of all of that. For me, in those first days, weeks, and months, I often said that the only reason I was vertical was because dogs gotta poop! And in the beginning sometimes being vertical is the toughest part of the day, but you get through it a little at a time. In some ways, it’s okay because it forces you to get out and do stuff, but at the same time, you can’t wait to get home and just collapse again. Honestly, for me, my memory is that I didn’t leave my recliner for six months other than to do what I absolutely had to do, but those blasted Facebook memories prove me wrong. Apparently, I did get out and do things. And for me, one of the main things I had to do was find an income!
It’s amazing the things you can force yourself to do, given any particular situation. Believe it or not, I’m an introvert, so I’ve never liked new situations, and I’ve never liked going into places I’ve never been before. I’ve never liked having to walk up to someone and initiate a conversation. My mom liked to tell the story of how shy I was when I was little; so shy that even after riding a school bus to kindergarten for an entire year, I wouldn’t say goodbye to the driver on the last day. I’ve always been that way. Now, after three and a quarter years post-loss, none of that bothers me anymore. Fake it til you make it.
How? Somewhere on this journey, someone told me, “You have 100% success rate for getting through rough days.” That little phrase, along with searching for the blessings in each day, got me through. And somewhere in that journey I started to believe it, and to realize the things I’ve done that I’d never done before.
Some days I wonder if my husband would recognize me now, doing things that before would have sent me into major anxiety. But I have no doubt he’d be proud of me. And I can thank him for a lot of that; for the things he taught me, for the confidence he gave me, and for the person I became because of our relationship. During those tough days I can hear his voice in my head telling me I can do it.
As for the make it part, eventually you get there. I can honestly say that the anxiety is minimal now, unless I let myself look too far into the future and wonder about what might happen. I can also admit there are days when I am truly happy and I know he’d be proud. I still miss him every single day, but I know I now have the confidence to take things as they come and, thanks to a wonderful support system of family and friends, I know who I can call when I need advice or help.
Onwards and upwards! (That just might be the next entry…)