Tentacles

Oh shit, I can feel the rage coming.

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.

Fuck it.

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.

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11 thoughts on “Tentacles

    • Thank you Karen. I appreciate that you are reading my ramblings. I do wonder why I am putting these things out to the virtual universe, but I think it does help to get it onto the page, (and out of my psyche), and to realize that someone, on occasion reads it.

  1. The anger…its one of the stages of grief they tell me. But its a tough one isn’t it? Almost as if you’re being disloyal by being mad at him for dying. Though rationally you know, like I do, he didn’t want to die.

    I had a hard hard time getting mad at Mike, he didn’t want to die. He fought it, hard. But he did die. I wasn’t mad at him at first. Not mad at him as some months went by. I am mad at him, but for things that have happened that weren’t even in his control His crazy exwife suing me. He’s selfish son suing me. His parents finacing the lawsuits. I got pretty mad at them but was mad at him too. I thought he should have fixed them before he died to prevent their hatred. It doesn’t have to be rational does it?

    I’m frikken furious with him that the one thing–the one chore–the only assignment in life he had was to follow through on the life insurance. He thought $25 a month for both of us was too much. But again, who knew he’d die so young? I did EVERYTHING else, this one thing..he couldn’t complete. Its sure made life a lot harder because he dropped the ball.

    I too put my life on hold for him…not the same way as you…in adopting a baby. He died and I had no clue who I was, what I liked, didn’t like because whatever Mike wanted to do, we did. Whereever he wanted to live, we lived. Whoever he wanted to have as friends, we befriended them. He wasn’t controlling or oppressive or anything like that, I just thought he worked hard every day and I didn’t really care one way or the other, if he was happy, I’m happy. All would have been fine if he didn’t die.

    But I think I understand if you hadn’t put it off because your husband wanted/needed to, then today you might have a child to help fill that void, a child to love and to live for, a child who can carry on dad’s name, a child you could talk to about his dad. How cruel is life when he announces he’s ready to start the adoption process and the very next day be given a cancer diagnosis? How horribly cruel.

    It is normal to be angry at the deceased. You know that right? Do not feel guilt, shame, embarrassment or anything negative about that anger. Its a stage, a phase, it will pass. I think you should let yourself be angry. Sit with it awhile even. There’s a lot of dreams, hopes..the future that was cancelled by the death. That would piss any one off. Anger can be motivating.

    Would it be an impossible task, impossibly painful thought to perhaps consider the adoption process now? I’m sorry, I do not mean to hurt nor pull at scabs, but it is/was something you wanted, could it be possible to do it for you for that child…in the future?

    • Rose, all the things you had to deal with in the aftermath…i can’t imagine. But I can see where your anger would come from, even if not completely “rational”…our anger can lie in our abandonment, too, right? I do understand that it’s part of the process….I like your suggestion to sit with it. I know there are many “learnings” to be had as I continue through my grief, I just often feel so reactive, still. I haven’t given up on my desire to have a family, I really don’t want to sit in self-pity and anger forever about “what could have been”, and I do think about whether I would still consider adopting…but it will take time before I feel stable enough…and am able to wrap my mind around what single parenthood would mean. Thank you for your thoughtful replies, and suggestions.

      • Abandoned? Yes I guess there’s that too though I don’t know if I consciously thought that. Now that you mention it however, yes I felt like I was abandoned.

        Anger is absolutely part of the process–just make sure you don’t get stuck there. If you move past it and find you’ve come back to it, remember that’s normal too.

        It makes complete sense that you want to be more stable; you want to know who you are now as a widow…ugh….but I am glad…for you…that you haven’t given up the idea of adoption. Certainly, not right now there are too many things up in the air. But perhaps one day in the future? Its something to have hope about. One day to be strong enough to consider adopting. If you don’t you don’t. But you might. The thing about death…this greiving thing we are in…it takes hope away. Stripes it like death is lacquer on old wood. The big thing about the grieving process…our goal…is to find hope again.

        That is the one of the hardest things to do, in my experience anyway.

  2. It’s hard to know what to say to a post like that. If you haven’t been through that experience, it’s like you don’t feel entitled to comment. But at the same time, I know you wrote it and put it out there, and maybe there’s something positive to know that people have read it and felt … something. Again, I don’t feel entitled to even name an emotion, considering what you’re going through.

    That’s a very strange twist of fate. The adoption-diagnosis two-day twist. My brother and my dad once had a falling out over a decision that my dad made many years ago. My brother was angry about how things had worked out (i.e. how it affected him now, in the present) because of that decision made a long time ago.

    I suggested to them that they both replay the entire scenario in their head “as if” my dad had done it the way my brother had wanted. Not just how they imagined things would be right now, but how it would have all unfolded week by week, month by month, year by year, all the way from the beginning up to the present day. Basically imagining a different life, not just a different present time.

    My brother was certain it would have been better his way; my dad disagreed. They both took my suggestion and imagined it all as it would have been – through all the months and years – if my dad had done what my brother wanted. Step by step they played it out in detail. I don’t know what conclusion they reached, but they stopped fighting. That’s all I know.

  3. I haven’t really got to it yet on my blog, but I really struggled with being angry at myself. Randy and I went through a really rough time where I actually wanted him out. We had two great amazing years together after, but for a long time I had a lot of anger at me for wasting that time. I’m okay now, but only because I know without that time, we never would have had an awesome marriage in the end. The one big, and I mean HUGE, thing I have learned is that there is no right or wrong thing to feel…doesn’t seem to be a rhyme or reason of why we feel it either. How many times we will re-visit it before we can move past. It’s just like you describe…all the sudden. It’s okay to be mad..for any reason. I mean, it wasn’t supposed to be like this. He wasn’t supposed to just leave you.

    Keep writing, it helps. Keep getting mad and sad. The moving forward thing will happen on its own.
    And, keep in touch…
    Sara

  4. Good, great post. I’m going through the same things (different details) and have been calling it the roller coaster. I really like the way you describe the ups and downs in having to come to terms with all the aspects of the relationship that weren’t great and didn’t work their way to some magical closure moment. You’ve done a wonderful job of putting this down, and I’m right there with you on this. It’s so hard to be missing someone, deeply grieving their loss while simultaneously still feeling anger over those less than perfect aspects of the relationship.

    I wish you all the best, and there are others of us going through the same sad, lonely journey.

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