Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Pain Relief

Freezing morning fog touched by sun
Originally uploaded by B℮n

I just returned from therapy. I arrived there a complete emotional mess, and I left there with some perspective. There is just too much going on for me right this minute.

Tomorrow is January 13th. That makes it officially 4 months months ago that Michael died. Just four months.

Saturday Michael's mother will arrive for us to go through his things. When we planned the date, it seemed like light years away. I think we both thought the time would be enough to give us distance from our pain. Yet, clearly from my waking, and not so waking, hours of worry, it isn't the distance we initially thought. I just called her to check in. After talking with her I realize that my emotions and worry have just gotten out of control. She reminded me that it didn't have to happen right now, that we could just have a visit. Hearing this was such a relief. I told her that I have been agonizing over this, but that I would like us to spend some time visiting, and begin the process. I told her that I didn't want to rush the process, but I do want to begin it.

Monday, January 18th will be Michael's birthday. Do I need to say more? Michael's mother will be spending the night on Saturday, so I plan to have a cake in Michael's memory that night. I don't want her driving home Sunday feeling too upset, and I don't want to put so much onto Monday. I think I'll do something with the kids during the day on Monday, then have some quiet time alone that night.

The following weekend is the reunion-memorial weekend with Michael's friends. They all love Michael very much, so I'm going to just bask in their warmth and friendship.

Last year I was an active participant in an online support group. We were all caregivers to someone with a brain tumor. The group was probably 90% wives. I'm still on the listserv, so I read all the ongoing discussion, but tend to be a silent observer. Very recently one of the women that was active when I was, lost her husband. This week another woman's husband started a significant decline, which we all knew meant his tumor had spread. In these past few days I have been so greatly affected by this. So much so, that I couldn't even bear to go to work today.

Not only have I been going through the cyclical experience of my own grief, but I have been so angry knowing that this horrible condition has, and will begin to, grab hold of these women as well.

Today in therapy I said that I felt like I was spewing venom. In the past I have posted about how I felt like grief had infected my blood with toxins. These past few days my toxicity levels have gone through the roof. When it gets this bad it is so difficult to step back and have perspective. This is especially challenging when you have had little sleep, and the kids have the nerve to still need you. None of this is shared as a an apology for my venomous posts, more of an explanation.

Right now I understand my anger a little better. By tonight I may already forget. What angers me is that last week another widow began this horrible experience. In the next few weeks another may join our ranks. And these are just two people that I'm vaguely familiar with. I'm angry that this keeps happening. I never want another person to feel such pain. I don't want this pain in my own life, and I certainly don't want it in yours.

Tomorrow is a new day. It may be better, or it may not. I need to remind myself that it moves as such. I need to remind myself to be patient, patient with myself.

I need something joyful to look forward to. I need relief.


  1. Hello, Dan. I've been following your blog for awhile now. I may have found my way here from "Suddenly a Widow".
    I very much identify with the anger that you describe - feeling toxic and like there is venom coursing through my veins (I've described it in exactly those terms to close friends). For me, I have an incredible hatred for cancer and what it did to my husband (we were together for almost 35 years). He was an extremely fit never-smoker who died of non-small-cell lung cancer that metastasized to his bones and brain. He died 16 months ago. I cared for him at home for a year. Saying it was the most difficult year of my life would be a gross understatement. Before that, I cared for my dad at home through several months of terminal kidney cancer. I had to have surgery for a condition that was turning into cancer, and I've had 4 dogs die from various forms. I hate cancer so much for what it has done to everyone and everything that I love, and for how it makes people suffer. At 16 months out, the anger is finally beginning to ebb. I wrote about some of this on a recent post to my blog. If you're interested, here's the URL. The post seemed to strike a chord with a good many people judging by the comments.
    All I can say is that, for me, various emotions come and go. As much as possible, I just let that happen. Just an opinion, but I think that 4 or 5 months is probably too soon to be going through Michael's things with relatives, etc... I realize that my own way of dealing with my husband's (Don's) death was kind of off the wall - I left home within a month and just traveled and spent the winter in a rented house elsewhere - then returned home and sold the place and packed up our belongings, or gave things away. Even at about 10 months out, that was pretty difficult. Don't push yourself too hard, especially if you don't really have to. It sounds like Michael's mother is very understanding, so just take your time getting to this. Sounds like you have an awful lot on your plate as it is.
    Oh, and yes, you definitely need to find something to look forward to - some way to find a little relief and happiness, if only for a short while each day. For me, I find that relief in nature, going for walks with my dogs. It will be different for you, but take the time to look for that place that helps you to feel well. - bev

  2. Hi Bev.

    Thank you for such wise words. I really appreciate hearing your thoughts and experiences. The only way I can understand what I am going through is to see my reflection from others also walking this journey. It helps to know what has worked for different people.

    I will be looking to create short periods of happiness. Today my therapist was talking about this, and half kiddingly said "maybe get a new kitten." I started laughing, and told him that was the worst suggestion he could have made. I then referred him to my post about the cat.

    Thanks again.


  3. Hi Dan - I've left a longer reply to your comment back on my blog post, but just wanted to say - yes, keep looking for ways to find happiness, even if it is for just a few moments at a time. For months, any joy that I felt was fleeting - I just didn't have it in me to concentrate on anything for more than a few minutes at a time. Friends gave me books which I would abandon after finding myself stuck on the same page reading over the same couple of paragraphs without remembering a word. I did not hum or sing for over a year, but suddenly noticed myself singing a couple of bars of some song one afternoon a little over a year after Don's death. The whole grief process is very slow and change is often glacial, at best, but it does happen - sort of like watching paint dry. I'm just beginning to feel like my soul is awakening after a very long winter. Having read your "$2000 cat" post, no, a new kitten is not what's needed (ha!), but I'm sure you will discover something in which to lose yourself and find some peace. - bev

  4. Your mother-in-law sounds like a true gem. Follow what your heart is telling you - four months is early to go through possessions, especially so close to Michael's birthday. It is also a process that can be taken in smaller steps instead of doing in one fell swoop.

    There does seem to be a lot on your plate right now, especially in the week ahead. But I give you major credit for recognizing this, stepping back and cutting yourself some slack. Did your therapist offer any constructive ways to work through the anger? Mine basically advised me to not stuff mine and to honor and face those feelings when I encountered them.

    Keep hanging in there! You're doing what needs to be done in a courageous way and providing inspiration to others.

  5. Sounds like Michael took after his Mom? I'm so relieved for you that she is staying, and hope that you can find comfort in each other's company. I'm even more relieved that she's being understanding about Michael's possessions.


  6. Thanks to all of you for echoing words of slowing down, and pacing myself.

    I must confirm that Michael does take after his mother. She would never agree, or admit to this, as her self-esteem has suffered over time. She often says that Michael must have raised himself, as he turned out so good. I try to remind her that he turned out the way he did because of her. She has two sons, who couldn't be more opposite. Michael didn't grow up with a father, as they were all abandoned when he was just a toddler. But Michael does have wonderful paternal relatives who do their best to provide what his father could not.