Process of Grief

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August 4th, 2016

Last night, my friend stopped over and asked me to look something up for her on my computer. As my screen saver popped up, one of my favorite pictures of Darrell appeared. His eyes were crinkled in one of my favorite grins.

She looked sadly at me and asked, “Do you really think that helps?”

I didn’t have to ask what she was referring to; I knew it was about my grief over his passing. They say anger is part of the process of grieving. I had been fortunate that there hasn’t been really anything to be angry about. Yes, I missed him, yes, it had been hard to lose him, but really his final days had been peaceful and our relationship up to the last minute, had been so good.

Yet, a comment like this, even eleven months out, had a way of worming under my skin and setting off a bigger spark of anger each time I was questioned on how I was handling my grief.

Aren’t we all different? Isn’t it refreshing we aren’t all the same? Each of us sees through different eyes and perceives the world in so many wonderful ways around us. This is why I have always respected how differently each person handles things in their lives.  Sometimes I worry their coping methods are destructive to their health or way of life, but still they have the freedom of choice to do this.

I had so many people who were wonderfully supportive. My favorites were the ones who just listen. Or ask me how I’m coping and really wanted to hear how I was doing it.  My least favorites were those who had a preconceived idea of how I should be doing it.

I’ve been questioned about such silly things. Why are his clothes still in our closet?  Why haven’t I spread his ashes and why do I wear my wedding ring?  To them, there is a rule somewhere about this. I respect that through the years there have been some common customs developed to help people move on, but they aren’t set in stone.

I still have need of feeling some normalcy in my life, so the clothes remain until that need passes.  We had wanted our ashes spread together, so I must wait to add mine to his. The wedding ring was my version of wearing black. I needed that support, that closeness to my husband, to the way of life I had. It also helped keep away others and not have the dreaded question asked, “So are you married?”

Whatever my reasons, they should be respected. Pictures of my loved one should be a normal thing. As my granddaughter pointed out, I could have asked if she had pictures of her grandchildren on her phone. They live in another state, so why wouldn’t she want to have pictures of them when she couldn’t be with them. She still loves them even though she doesn’t see them every day and wants a reminder of them. Why wouldn’t I continue to have pictures of Darrell decorate my living space?  Just because he has passed, doesn’t mean he never existed. I can’t wipe my memory clean.  Starting over is hard enough, but I need the foundation my married relationship created for me to continue on.

Grieving people are just touchy, each in a different way. No wonder people avoid friends who have lost loved ones. It is hard to determine what will and won’t offend or hurt them. I was on that side once. I had never lost a loved one and felt a deep agony over what to say to someone who had.

But don’t worry, no matter what you say or do, we understand you are trying to help and just overlook the unintentional mistakes. Just don’t be surprised at tears, a growl or a blank look. Just keep being there for us.  We will heal; it is just going to take a little time.

 

True Halloween Story

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So I live out in the country and always have a small herd of cats. Of course I’m a responsible pet owner and I spay and neuter. Occasionally I take in a stray.  Sometimes the family will donate one to me when life circumstances dictate they need to move and can’t take their cat with them.

This is how a black cat called Ichabod came to live with us. My cats are all outdoor kitties. I provide them with a warm well house during the winter and plenty of feed. In return they keep my property mouse free. Ichabod was quite friendly, but he missed his two boys and having the luxury of being a house kitty when he wanted to. Eventually he adapted. His favorite place to sleep during the day and survey his kingdom was on top of our hay storage, under the metal lean-to cover. When ever I was working around the place I could feel his golden eyes watching me.

For over a year he has roamed and hunted until one afternoon I noticed the black form on the top of the hay had not moved all day. I knew. Just knew it wasn’t good. My husband hauled out a ladder and after climbing up to the tallest stack, confirmed my fears.

We buried him, and called the grandsons. They were quite upset, as expected. It broke my heart.

This morning as I went out to do the chores, my breath was a little puff cloud in the frigid air, and I remembered it was Halloween. Two steps later I stumbled over a black cat that seemed very happy to see me. We quite often get people who dump cats off, hoping we will care for their castoffs. I was surprised as this cat was full grown. He meowed and I shook my head. “No way. It sounds just like Ichabod. But it can’t be.”  Within minutes, my stunned mind finally realized, it was, indeed, the mourned and buried Ichabod!

He had been gone for over two weeks and was very hungry. I know it sounds creepy, but I was so freaked out I took a shovel and checked the grave plot. Yup, still a dead cat in it, but whose cat did I bury?!?!

At this time, we are thankful to have Ichabod alive and well. We have figured out that one of the strays in the area must have curled up in the sun and died in its sleep.

But just in case, if any of you are missing your black cat, I may have an idea where it is…….