See, that’s what’s so fucking annoying about grief. On the one hand, it’s completely unpredictable – you have no idea when or how it will hit, yet rest assured, even you, will be dragged through EVERY single phase of it at some point. So really, it is completely predictable in an unpredictable way. You will experience despair, you will experience confusion, you will experience numbness, you will experience pain, and you will experience anger. You WILL experience it ALL.
I just went through at least 2 weeks of melodramatic ups and downs. I was feeling some relief yesterday, a day of calm, a day of just being numb, recuperating from the emotional roller coaster. But of course, the calm was not to last. And this morning, as I was doing my regular zombified walk with my dog, I felt it. RAGE.
I’ve thought a lot about what I call the “tangly octopus tentacles” of a relationship. The many “arms”, and facets of a relationship that were NOT nicely tied up in a bow, a gift to stow away, after a spouse has died. Relationships are complicated, right? So on some level, they remain complicated, even into death. I think if anyone were to ask themselves, if my spouse died today, suddenly, would I feel like everything was “resolved”? I’d find it hard to believe that anyone could claim a completely “clean break”. No matter how good the relationship was. And so those octopus tentacles remain, flailing around for those of us “left behind” to try and tame. Great.
It’s pretty easy to speak hypothetically about these things. I knew going into it that I’d have to face some untamed tentacles. That’s why I found a therapist as quickly as I could. But I guess I was hoping that I could carefully side step up to these issues, gently approaching, one click of emotion at a time, so as to keep the full-blown “rage” to a minimum. Nope, not an option. That’s just another trait of grief. It won’t let you get away with just scratching the surface. It’s going to drag you face first through the shit, one way or another.
Many things in my marriage were great. I loved spending time with my husband, we were in sync, we loved doing the same kinds of things, we were completely comfortable with each other, we usually laughed after a fight…but there was one huge, pervasive issue that constantly threatened our happiness: starting a family. And without going into too much detail, we had reached the following point: I wanted to adopt a child, my husband said he did too, but for years he kept creating reasons to procrastinate on doing so (we’ll adopt after we remodel the kitchen, we’ll adopt after I get a new job, we’ll adopt after we decide if we are going to move), and truth be told, I was finally reaching the end of my patience. This impasse was completely destroying us, it was destroying me. When I looked toward our future together, I was starting to see black.
And though I told him over and over – for YEARS – that it was destroying us, it wasn’t until this year, that he finally saw it too. We were sitting at dinner in our favorite pizzeria, and he broke down. He said, “We have to do this. It’s destroying us. Let’s sell the house, move closer to your family, my job will allow me to keep working, so you can take time off to start focusing on building our family and the adoption process.”
The VERY next day we found out he had a brain tumor (well, stage IV “adrenal” cancer that had metastasized, but that’s its own story). A fucking brain tumor???!!! Could it get much worse? When I think of worst-case medical scenarios, brain tumor, paralysis, and cancer are the first that come to mind. (In fact, the shock of his initial diagnosis is something I am still processing.) I’m not piggy-backing these events for dramatic effect. That’s exactly how it happened. From one day to the next.
That’s the source of my rage. For YEARS I waited it out, I waited HIM out, he finally came around, and BOOM. Our dreams, his life, our future together – completely crushed. So here I am now, in my 40s without a husband, or child. I’m sure it’s pretty clear why I feel rage. Uncontrollable rage that I don’t know how to direct. What do you “DO” with feelings like this? I am angry at him, angry at the circumstances, and angry that I have to continue to work through this “issue” – OUR issue, an issue HE helped CREATE – alone.
I loved him, and am devastated that he had to suffer through a brain tumor and cancer, and leave this world at such a young age. He was a good man, a generous, gentle and kind husband, and he deserved a full life. But I sacrificed a lot for him. From pushing off starting a family, to pushing off facing my anger about it. I wasn’t about to bring this anger into our final months together. It was just one facet of so many in a wonderful marriage, that, like most marriages, had its ups and downs. And I don’t want to continue to carry this anger against him, as I mourn all the wonderful things about him. But man, of all the tentacles waiving around, this one stings the most when it slaps me across the face. And I imagine it will slap me quite a few more times before it becomes a hardened scar.