The Grief Goes On…

Four months ago this week, we lost the man who I was privileged to call my husband.  In some ways, it seems like it has been longer than that. In others, it has moved ahead quickly with a big hole in our lives. And most of all, our lives will never be the same.

Yesterday, I read a blog about grief. The author shared that his father died on a Saturday morning, so that day of the week would never again be the same for him. That is how it has been for me each Monday since Kirk’s passing. This author also mentioned that after such a loss, you see things in terms of before and after the event. I have found that to be true.

I can hold it together for much of the week, but each Monday morning, I tend to relive what happened, often in bits and pieces. The health crisis that he was in, calling 911, watching the police officers do CPR prior to the firemen and paramedics getting to our house and then taking over, and working on him until they took him in an ambulance to the hospital.

My parents then arrived at our house and Ian woke up.  We all then went to the hospital hoping and praying that he would be okay.  When we arrived, they put us in a side room which would have had me concerned if I wasn’t in such shock.  A nurse, a doctor, and a family liaison then came in and told us that although his heart had restarted a few times, it didn’t stay pumping and that he had died.

We screamed and cried and were in deep shock. I couldn’t process this. How is it possible? How could this happen?  He should have woken up and been okay.  We just had laughed and talked the night before going to bed.  We had just had a great and Happy Thanksgiving weekend with our family and friends.  We had just been enjoying our life.

After receiving this shock, I went to see him.  It looked like my love but didn’t feel like him.  He was cold to the touch. That was such a bizarre feeling that I will never forget.   He was always warm when I held his hand or received a hug. I knew physically that he was gone but my brain couldn’t begin to process it.

I then went back to check on our son to see how he was doing.  Our pastor was there as well and that was a great comfort.  The pastor went with me the second time I went to see Kirk and prayed for him and for us.  I looked at him and willed him to wake up, I begged God to bring him back, but sadly, that was not to be.  For some reason that I don’t yet understand, it was his time to go.

I asked the nurse for his wedding band and she took it off his hand. I have been wearing it every day since. This brings me some comfort to have a part of something that was precious to him — us and our marriage and our life together.  That is so deeply precious to me as well.

After receiving the ring, I said goodbye and then went back to check on our son who was still in shock. My parents had started reaching out to our family and friends to give them the news. I was also still in shock. They suggested going to have breakfast so we left and I tried to eat. I couldn’t process answers to questions from my mom. I was numb and lost and so deeply sad. .

Now, I wish I had stayed longer with Kirk at the hospital, but all I could think of was to be with Ian and try to be strong for him and share in his grief and loss. I have asked Kirk to forgive me for leaving him when I did. I am finding comfort in knowing that he was already in Heaven and his body was simply a shell that I could say goodbye to.

We spent the rest of the day at our house.  My brother and sister also arrived from out-of-town. It was so good to see them and share our memories. Later someone went to get food from a favorite restaurant. As we were together, I was able to eat. We talked, we cried, and we shared good times we had just had with Kirk. We grieved together and all tried to support Ian.

One of Kirk’s brothers and wife came over later to see us. Many of his family lives out-of-town and they were all there for the memorial service. Seeing them that Monday meant the world to me. We were all shocked and saddened to lose this man who meant so much to us. We didn’t really know what to say but it was helpful to just be together.

That evening, Ian’s best friend and his mother came to see us, had made us a meal, and loaned us some DVDs. It was great to see them and especially nice for Ian. Since then, we regularly see them, go to the park, have meals and watch movies together. And, the boys play together, talk and laugh, which means the world to me.

That week we were also visited by other friends, neighbors, church members, and the pastor who performed our wedding and gave us such a special message as we started our life together. We also received text messages, notes on Facebook, emails, and phone calls. These loved ones prayed with us and shared stories with us.

We are so very fortunate to have such a great support system to help us through this. People cooked us food or delivered it from our favorite restaurants. Others gave us gift cards, sympathy cards, and Christmas cards. Our friends and family have gone above and beyond for us and we are so very thankful for that.

I was married to Kirk for 20 years. Last week, we visited clients that he had worked with long before he met me.  It was nice to share stories with them about him, to hear what he meant to them, and to cry together. It has rocked them as well as my family.

That week, I slept well at our hotel and that was great. It felt good to be busy and have some purpose. I have been floundering for a while. Still, there was time to share the grief and acknowledge that it is a part of our lives. We also prayed together and also were able to laugh. So life was going on as well as the grief.

All of us will be touched one day by the loss of a loved one. Sharing that with others makes that burden more bearable. When you have loved and lost, the grief does go on.  But so does life, so we try to have good times and find the positive things that we can enjoy. At times, I feel guilty that we are moving forward, but I have to realize that is what Kirk would want for us.  He always wanted the best for us and I cherish that.

One of the things Kirk would say with some laughter is that Heaven wasn’t ready for him and hell wouldn’t take him. That Monday in late November, Heaven was ready for him. Just we who loved him were not ready. As I said earlier in this piece, I still don’t know the reason but am trying to live with the new normal.

Our son has his entire life ahead of him so I want to share that with him and celebrate it. We remember and talk about his dad. I tell him stories of times with his dad throughout his young life. And we try to carry out the plans and ideas that he’d had for our family with some adjustments.

If you are grieving, I hope and pray that you have a support system, a faith, and the knowledge that you will be reunited with your loved one in the future. That is what I believe and it helps in the hardest of times. Blessings to you and yours.

Darkness and Light

This week in my grief journey, I have experienced both darkness and light.  At times, I have been very down and depressed and negative but I have also been happy, upbeat, and encouraged.

It is very strange to have such extremes nearly every day but that is how it is going for me.  I cannot speak for anyone else, only my journey and that with my son. We are doing the best we can and still have a long journey ahead of us.

At times I am overwhelmed with loss and sadness. I strongly feel the weight of the loss and it is hard to get past it. So, at those times, I wallow, cry, scream, or pray.  Or a combination. I then try to focus on the good in our lives and all the support we have.  Also, I am thankful that my love didn’t suffer when he left us.

Other times, I laugh at a memory, a favorite song, or a photo. My memory of him is long and wonderful. We were by no means a perfect couple but we had a good relationship that was ours. I am thankful every day for that and all of those wonderful years that I had with him. I am also so thankful we had a child.

I still must be in the denial phase since I cannot believe that he is gone. Now that some of the shock is wearing off, I am remembering problems and issues that we’d had and feeling some guilt. I wish I had done a few things differently. I wish I could do a few things over again. I have asked him for forgiveness and have said how much I loved him and still do.

Now, it is time realize that I need to forgive myself. I know that I loved him deeply and with all that I had as he did with me. We also loved our son and were good partners in raising him and teaching him what we wanted to. When I feel bad, I try to focus on that and it helps.

Our son and I often talk about his dad. I try not to overwhelm him with it but do mention funny things his dad did, or a favorite story about the two of them, or how much his dad loved him. We talk that his dad is still with us but in a different place. I know he misses him like I do. He is staying busy with school, homework, his reading and writing, and time with friends and family. And all of that is helping.

There are things to look forward to and I am thankful for those. But every once in a while, my fears creep in that something will happen to me. I keep praying and working to ensure our son and I are okay. Each day includes projects but also time to just be, to cry if needed, to laugh if I feel like it, and just to be present.

This week we went to the Ash Wednesday service at our church. Before that we had a dinner and there was time to visit some couples who I have known since I was a child. That part was great. But the hard part was the Bible verse that states we came from dust and will go back to dust. That hit me so hard since my love was cremated.

The thing I have to remember is that his body may be dust but his spirit and soul are not. I firmly believe that he is in Heaven and that makes me smile. I can imagine him there making friends, having chats, and making everyone laugh. If there are problems or things to repair, I can imagine him helping with that as well.

I can only imagine what his first time must have been like when he arrived. I wonder if he was surprised to be there since it was so sudden. I hope he was told that we are going to be okay and that he could visit some of his loved ones who passed before him. Last summer we watched the I Can Only Imagine movie. It touched all three of us. We cried and talking about it after watching it. I am so glad that we shared that time.

Another thing that hit me hard this week was the death of actor Luke Perry from a massive stroke. He was the same age as my love was when he died. It brought up all of the feelings of the suddenness and wishing I could have done more for him. So I cried a lot that day. I prayed a lot too. But I also spent extra time that day with our son on his homework, talking with him about his day, and being in the moment with him.

Finding the light in the darkness can be a challenge but it is there. I keep praying to continue to find it and move forward, but realize that it is a long process.  After all, when you have loved someone for so long, the feelings don’t just go away with them. There has to be time to heal and figure out a way to live with a different life than what we expected.

Throughout this experience, I have been thinking of my friends and family who have lost loved ones of their own — both before my loss and after. Before it happens, you have no idea how hard it is. You have no idea what someone is going through. Whether you know it is coming or unexpected, when that other person is gone, there is hurt and sorrow.

I think it has helped me have more empathy for others and their grief.  And more desire to want to reach out to those grieving. I try to reach out and pray for others and do my best to comfort them. It is not easy since I am still raw, but there is comfort in bearing one another’s burdens.

My prayer is that we may comfort one another in both the good times and the bad, pray for each other, laugh together, cry together, lift one another up, and be there to listen. I also hope and pray that we will always be loving to each other and treat one another with kindness. After all, we don’t always know how much someone is suffering.