Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Sweetness of Life

in shadows
Originally uploaded by
Arno Arno

Last night I struggled with two things. First, I was in extreme need of Michael's comforting arms. When I am faced with an emotionally trying time as a parent, there is no payoff at the end of the day. There is no comfort or reassurance for me. That is a given. Secondly, I am coming into an awareness, with the help of my therapist, that I am closing myself off from any potential comfort, especially in the form of touch, because it isn't Michael. When I was talking about my feelings, and was beginning to cry, my therapist asked if it would be okay if he came over to hold my hand, or put a hand on my shoulder. I said it was fine, but then stopped him from proceeding.

I'm in a no win situation, and it is getting me stuck.

In the wake of meeting Michael, and allowing him to love me, I learned about how sweet life can be. Throughout my adulthood I had dated here and there, but I had only imagined what it would be like to love someone on the level that I had with Michael. I had only imagined what it would be like to have not only my emotional needs met, but my physical needs met as well. I was finally able to experience what others took for granted when they are part of a two parent family.

Since I chose to be a single parent I was used to having to deal with tough situations, then later talk myself down from the stressful aftermath. When I went to bed at the end of the night I knew how to tell myself that things would be alright, and that perhaps one day there would be someone to hold me and make be believe that things would be alright. In meeting Michael, that which I always needed and wanted, became realized. When I was in a difficult, or stressful situation with the kids, he could be the calming factor. And when words could not reach me, his arms and body could.

In the short time that Michael and I were together my mind and body became in tune with his. The sound of his voice could calm me. The touch of his hand could soothe me. It became an autonomic response. I didn't have to consciously accept his touch, or his comfort, I simply responded. Now in his absence my mind and body know what is missing. And, likewise, I can't just consciously tell my mind and body to stop needing him, or to not anticipate his touch. Sometimes when I am lying in bed, missing or needing him, something might shift in the bed, causing perhaps a pillow to shift as well. This might ever so slightly cause it to brush across my shoulder, causing in turn a memory of his touch. It is no wonder then that I reach out for these objects when in the grip of pain and sorrow. These inanimate objects are then charged with the responsibility of getting me through that moment. It is desperation at it's finest.

Today's epiphany was that with each of the ongoing challenges I am having with the kids, comes the ongoing trauma of needing Michael in such a desperate way that cannot be fulfilled. I then go into physical, or emotional, isolation because any one's attempt at comforting me is a cruel reminder of what I no longer have. And before anyone gets too close, for comfort, I push them away. It is too painful to have a little, when I need and want so much.

As my therapist has pointed out, this cycle is not allowing me to move through this part of my grief. Because my children's needs are so significant, and ongoing, I never have the opportunity to move past the trauma cycle. I never get to the point of testing the waters, and allowing myself to taste the sweetness of life through other people. I have become a person who very strongly needs touch. I need to feel life's sweetness. I need nourishment. I cannot have, and do not want, a life without it. I know that I am not ready to seek it in a major way, like in a new relationship, but I need to find it in small ways. There is no moving forward without it. If there is no sweetness in my life, then I don't want it.


  1. Dan, have you noticed how you feel for the couple of days after going to a massage therapist? Do you feel different - perhaps more relaxed and better able to handle stress? I wonder this as I've noticed that some widows mention massage therapy as a way of dealing with the lack of touch problem. I can see where it could be very helpful - along with just making time for yourself at least once or twice a week. I think I agree with your therapist about how the constant challenge of dealing with each new crisis is not giving you a break and actually acting as a reminder of how much you've lost. No solutions offered, but just the hope that maybe the proposed move to SD would give you more tangible support. However, what to do until then? Is there any form of respite care you can think of - some kind of super nanny or similar service - that would give you an opportunity to get away from the house for a few days to recharge somewhere - maybe go to some kind of retreat or just a favorite place to rest and recover? It seems to me that might be a good thing to do right about now, and that it could be helpful in getting you through the next while before you move if that is indeed in the future.

  2. such a sharp edge - not wanting to be sentenced to a life without sweetness, especially after receiving it so fully and beautifully, or the alternative: receiving sweetness from someone, anyone, who is not the one you love. Horrifying. I do the same thing, bristling at the slightest attempts by others to comfort me, because they do not know me as Matt does, they are not him, and their presence only makes that absence glaringly huge. Throwing scotch tape balls at the hole in the universe. It riles me more when some people are hurt that their tape doesn't fix it.

    I have found that bodywork brings me back to my center (at least closer to it), and that is comfort. To be back with me. That, and the company of my 6 month old baby friend, who, when she was born, reminded me so much of matt, I thought he was in there. Such sweetness in her, and no actual talking.

    Animals, tiny babies, the woods, and bodywork from someone who is not in my life - makes me a tiny fraction more able to be me. At least, those are the things I try when I am not able to stop screaming, being angry, having flashbacks, and all that. Those sweet, non-talking things won't make this worse, and that is saying something.

  3. Thanks bev and megan, for your excellent feedback. I do go for regular massages, about one every two weeks. I would go more often, but worry about spending too much money not knowing the expense of my planned move. I always make a point of explaining to the massage therapist why I am there. They usually asked where I carry my tension, you know, regular questions for these appointments. I explain the typical response, but then explain that I seek this out because I have experienced a loss, and seek the opportunity to be cared for. Each massage therapist has been very kind and nurturing because of this.

  4. I'm glad you're going for the regular massages. I know it may be worrisome to spend the money on them, but when it comes to coping in the first year or so, I think sometimes you just have to say - "I'm investing this money in myself because otherwise I'm going to blow a fuse." I don't mean get carried away, but be sure to cut yourself some slack so that you stay physically and mentally strong and well. Also, don't discount the possibility of finding a super-nanny for a couple of days or so. I used to do that kind of care for a couple who had two really wild boys 8 and 12. The older one was extremely hard to deal with. One night while I was sleeping, he painted his own poop all over the bathroom walls in the ensuite bath in his parents' bedroom - his way of making a statement about what he thought about them going away for a few days of rest. That was sort of "typical" of the kinds of things he did. It was difficult, but eventually, things were okay and we managed. I did a couple of one week stints for this couple. I'm probably not telling you anything you don't already know, but there are people out there that are used to caring for pretty over-the-top kids - with firmness and kindness.

  5. I know this catch 22 very well. I'm starved for touch, for physical affection... but often when someone wants to hug me or rub my back or give me physical comfort, it's such a painful reminder that this person IS NOT MIKE and that Mike will never touch me again, I push them away. Don't know the answer to this, but I hear you.