“Grief never fully goes away; but if it can be shared, it can be managed.”Margot Douaihy, Scorched Grace
Today marks three months since Joe breathed his last. In some ways that time feels like an eternity; at other moments I am right back in the grief and shock of that hospital room. The three-month mark seems like a mini milestone, and a good time for me to let you know how I am doing.
There are okay days and tough days, and I know that is going to be true for a while. Sundays are hard. I’m acutely aware of Joe’s absence. He should be sitting outside on the bench before church petting Beppe, the new church cat (who he would love). He should be in the back pew when the service begins, and talking sports and politics with the guys at coffee hour. But the hardest part of Sundays is coming home and not being able to talk about the day with him. That is when the house seems most empty.
I know that people are concerned about me, and I appreciate that. Some have suggested that I could use a sabbatical, some time away to heal. Actually what I need is to do what I’m doing — the work I love in the place I love with the people I love. I do plan to take some time off — a few days in the mountains next week, and photography trips to Alaska in August and Utah in November. Any time outside with my camera is healing. But it is also healing to be back with you.
I’m taking care of myself. I have a therapist who is helping me figure out this new life and how to deal with the grief and pain in a healthy way. I have a network of friends who check in with me regularly and people I know I can call in the tough moments (and I have).
I don’t want you to feel like you have to tiptoe around me, to give me space, or be hesitant to talk to me about what’s going on in your life because you think I have too much going on in mine. It’s okay to ask me how I’m doing and to talk about Joe. And I want you to know that sometimes waves of grief hit me unexpectedly, and if that happens in the middle of a service or when you’re talking to me, and I begin to cry, that’s okay, too. I’m learning that just happens, and it will pass.
The quote at the top of this email is from an unlikely source — a mystery novel in which the protagonist is a tattooed, lesbian, and recovering addict nun in New Orleans. This nun, or her creator, knows something about grief. It can’t be solved. It’s not something to get over. It is ever present. But being able to share it does help. I am fortunate to have people who are willing to walk with me and share in my grief. The acts of kindness extended to us from many people from many parts of our lives over the past five months have been so extraordinary that it takes my breath away.
Joe was the love of my life, my partner in all things, and my biggest supporter. His death is the greatest loss and pain I have ever experienced, and I will feel that loss for as long as I live. But even as I have been overcome with grief I have also felt embraced by the love of so many. Deep loss and great love are both there. I am going to be okay.