Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Alone Again (Naturally)

Originally uploaded by
Brentjp99 (completed)

Today was therapy Tuesday. It has become something I really look forward to, as it is probably the only time in my week that I have a one on one discussion with another adult. Aside from writing this blog, it is the only time, and place, that I have to talk about my grief. Every other hour of my day allows for only short soundbites at best.

All day at work I realized that I was back to feeling very sad and depressed. I was feeling so apathetic about life in general. In talking to my therapist, I was explaining that I do have good times throughout the day, or week. I do enjoy my time with the kids, most of the time. When at home the kids and I do have opportunities to talk a bit, and laugh at life. But as my daughter has been pointing out to me lately, I spend a good amount of time alone in my room.

I have found that I go through periods where I prefer to spend as much time as possible in my bedroom, then I go through periods where I only go down there at bedtime. Lately I realize that when ever I go to the room for a short break from the upstairs chaos, I am almost immediately in tears. In talking to my therapist today he recognized that I was putting much of my energy into not feeling what I was describing. The concerns that I brought up were that I feel so apathetic and depressed, yet I was detaching from my feelings. In talking about this I began crying. My therapist asked if it would be okay for him to approach me. He then put his arms around me, and I began sobbing.

I am in such pain. There is still such a significant sense of sadness in my life. What I learned this afternoon, is that I am trying to distance myself from my sadness. I believe this is because it takes me to such a lonely place. As I recognized this afternoon, it is a rare opportunity for me to have someone just sit and listen. It is even more rare for me to have someone put their arms around me while I grieve.

It is sad to me, that I have done to myself that which I try to change through this blog, which is to provide a place where grieving is okay. I have been grieving for 5 months and 3 days, and I am still quite vulnerable to the sadness that pervades grief. There is no way to survive this for long without letting out that which builds up within.

The truth is I cry on a daily basis. The truth is that when I am not crying, I am working very hard to keep the tears under control. Grief does not come with a limited volume of tears. The body of the widowed continues to produce tears and sadness. The sadness if not expressed becomes stronger and stronger. It's toxicity deepens with each day that I don't fully express it. It feels like a poison that can only be ridden from my body through a blood-letting.

My therapist says that I cannot continue to grieve entirely alone. Unfortunately, this is the nature of the beast. Ask any widow or widower, and they will tell you how alone they feel, and how alone they truly are. Even those of us blessed with children find ourselves feeling alone. Our children offer us much love, and much distraction, but by days end we are once again faced with the fact that we grieve alone. Nights are very lonely. Our spouses/partners are gone, and nothing has taken their place. Where ever we go there is an absence, and this is especially true in our homes, and in our bedrooms. Our beds feel enormous, no matter the actual size.

I don't know when these intense feelings of sadness, and loneliness, begin to change. Or maybe it's not about when the feelings change, but more about when they becomes less intense. I can honestly say that the periods of time, of this type of intensity, has changed for me. The first few months were pure agony. The crying, the sobbing, could go on all day and night. I just need to remind myself, and those that love me, that the sadness and loneliness have not gone away. The feelings can still be as intense at times, even though they may not last as long.

Gilbert O'Sullivan - Alone Again, Naturally Lyrics

In a little while from now
If I’m not feeling any less sour
I promise myself to treat myself
And visit a nearby tower
And climbing to the top will throw myself off
In an effort to make it clear to who
Ever what it’s like when you’re shattered
Left standing in the lurch at a church
Where people saying: "My God, that’s tough
She's stood him up"
No point in us remaining
We may as well go home
As I did on my own
Alone again, naturally

To think that only yesterday
I was cheerful, bright and gay
Looking forward to well wouldn’t do
The role I was about to play
But as if to knock me down
Reality came around
And without so much, as a mere touch
Cut me into little pieces
Leaving me to doubt
Talk about God and His mercy
Or if He really does exist
Why did He desert me in my hour of need
I truly am indeed Alone again, naturally

It seems to me that there are more hearts
broken in the world that can’t be mended
Left unattended
What do we do? What do we do?

Alone again, naturally
Now looking back over the years
And whatever else that appears
I remember I cried when my father died
Never wishing to hide the tears
And at sixty-five years old
My mother, God rest her soul,
Couldn’t understand why the only man
She had ever loved had been taken
Leaving her to start with a heart so badly broken
Despite encouragement from me
No words were ever spoken
And when she passed away
I cried and cried all day
Alone again, naturally
Alone again, naturally


  1. I lost my partner back in October, October 20th. I can appreciate your comments about lonliness and absence. Especially about the enormous bed. I read before I go to bed, and notice I have a pile of books and magazines on the side of the bed were my partner used to be.

    I guess I was trying to fill that space. Don't know. But I do feel that giant hole, that emptiness. Not just the bed but in my world.

    Good comment about apathy. For me it was/is sort of a numbness, but at random moments I start to sob. But these aren't so random as they are triggered by things; a song, a memory, etc.

    Anyway, thank you for your blog.

  2. Dan, I believe that people who really loved their partners (or other very close friends or family), can be intensely sad for quite some time. It's true - it's a very lonely time.
    Don died on Sept. 6th, 2008. Looking back to this date last year (5 months after his death), there are a few things that stand out in my mind. Reading the comment from anonymous, I recall that my bed was literally covered with books and objects meaningful to me. Foremost, I kept Don's ashes in a box inside of a canvas pack sack and that was up at the top of the bed, and everything else was stacked below. At night, I often slept with my hand atop the canvas bag. I no longer cover the bed with objects, but the canvas bag is on the headboard shelf right above my pillow where I can rest my hand whenever I feel inclined.
    This time last year, I also cried a lot - to the point of feeling quite ill. Several people came to visit me here last winter and I noticed that most of them seemed quite uncomfortable about me speaking about losing Don, how I felt, etc.. and a couple told me to just try to get over it. Everyone seemed to want to change the subject. I would spend my days taking everyone to places (this is an area that is popular for tourists), make dinner and clean up, then retreat down to my room and flake out on the bed and cry until I went to sleep. Throughout the day, I actually longed for evenings when I could be alone with my grief.
    Looking back on things, I think I started to cry less intensely at the end of March when I was traveling across Utah with my older dog, and hiking in the canyons there. I found that trip harder and was more tired out by then - months of grieving will do that to you. Also, I've discovered that road travel (alone with the dogs) is quite difficult and exhausting. It takes the edge off of my sadness and grief. I still experience the sadness at times - but the intensity is somewhat diminished so that I can actually "think" more clearly about what I'm feeling inside. Again, this kind of travel is not practical for everyone, but this seems an interesting phenomenon and probably has some kind of parallel to other ways of working one's way through what is a very sad time. Seventeen months out and I still cry pretty easily. In fact, I cry as I write this. For some reason, this has been a very sad few weeks for me as I try to plot a new direction in life.
    Btw, I apologize for these longish comments. I set out to say something brief, but it never seems to turn out as planned.

  3. I am so grateful that your therapist gave you that much needed hug. As a former counselor, I know so many in the field who would never offer a client any type of physical comfort.

    For what it is worth, my grief matured over time. That first year the tears flowing were ones of shock, disbelief, fatigue, and pity. As time went on, they became tears for what I realized the boys and I had really lost. In a way, my grief intensified the following years because each and every day was a greater indicator and reminder of how significantly our lives had changed. In the beginning, you don't realize this because there is a lack of the time perspective.

    The real crummy aspect of all of this is that as my grief intensified, all those around me believed that since more time had passed, I should have been over it. Maybe these blogs will help educate the world out there that grief reactions may be worse for some of us the second or third years out, in lieu of the popular myth that it takes a year to heal from loss.

    I found Bev's comment about taking her trip with the dogs wearing her out physically and the connection into that "helping" in some ways. I know that when I took this recent Nursing Asst. class, I was so busy studying, it did distract me from the loss I was feeling about having to sell my home and move into an apartment. Maybe distractions aren't a bad idea as long as we don't use them to protect ourselves or put off the challenging work of really feeling our pain and being there with it. I read somewhere recently the quote, "There is joy in pain" which I found interesting.

    Take care and thank you so much for stimulating my mind and helping me to clarify where I am on this road. It sure has been a better journey with you walking along with me.

  4. i've always liked that song. it's on my playlist. i have no snappy thing to say. no great wisdom to pass along. you are suffering. i am suffering. it sometimes seems the whole world is crying. but you are in my thoughts. i worry about you. i worry about me. i pray we can all find a quiet place in between this intense sorrow and a kind of peace where we can dwell for a while. until we heal? who knows if we will ever truly heal. but at least we can wait for the knife of grief to stop carving us up.

    we're on this journey together. i'm the silhouette walking over there by the water's edge, whichever way that is for you.

  5. Another thing I had with me on the bed was a tin of old snapshots that my partner and I had taken. I was going through it looking for some pix to take to his family, but I found it somewhat comforting to have that next to me, that box of memories of him and our time together.