TILL DEATH DO US PART
When my husband Peter suddenly died from a heart attack four years ago, the finality of death smacked me in the head. What happened to the famous line “we lived happily ever after?” The unexpectedness and shock of the trauma made me reel with so many feelings that I couldn’t find my equilibrium for years. The disillusionment of living forever was something we all believe, draping this veiled cloth of Pollyanna around us like a Talisman. On some level we have to believe that an epic love will last forever. The movies, books, and television make the myth of “happily ever after” seem virtually real. Why not buy into the fantasy? The illusion helps us fight our fear of death and the grief and pain that accompanies the inevitability.
I was fortunate that Peter never knew he was dying. That was the gift both of us were granted. But in turn, I had to live with the pain of my substantial loss. I had to endure the anguish of never being able to say goodbye. My scenario is quite different from those who watch their loved ones fade away while enduring immense suffering. A slow and painful death is horrific and carries with it a whole set of end-of-life issues. Peter was fortunate to die without knowing. I was not fortunate, because I had to grieve the cavernous loss and find my way forward.
Grief is not rational. We have irrational thoughts after a death which are created from our crushed minds trying to make sense of the irrevocability of death. We cope with the inexorableness of death on some crazy level by the belief that our deceased loved ones might walk through the door. In some part of our shattered brains, we know this will not happen. But when one is in the midst of grief, we often must fantasize to get through the pain. That is one of the reasons for the unusual title of my book The Joke’s Over You Can Come Back Now https://www.amazon.com/Jokes-Over-You-Come-Back/dp/1981137866/
The emptiness of my grief is the most painful. When there is a thunderstorm (OK, not an often occurrence in Southern California, but worthy of a mention) I miss his warm and encircling arms around me in comfort. I grieve for the times when we would sit together and be content in each other’s presence. I hunger for the times we would watch television and know what each other was thinking — although Game of Thrones would have made us scream! I yearn for the memories when Peter held my hand in a movie or at a wedding, just touching me to say I love you without words. Grief has given me a constant ache and craving for affection and a need to be touched.
Grief strips away the fantasy that love lasts forever. Grief rudely teaches us that we have to be our own champions. I was thrust into a world alone and had a crash course in learning how to fight for myself. As I discover how to love the person in me, I will inspire her to keep fighting and find her way in her new existence. I have to be “the boss of me!” As George Burns says while swearing on a bible in the movie: Oh God!, “So help me, me!”
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