Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Grief Box

Sometimes I feel like the lack of emotion I show publicly is puzzling to others.  To tell the truth, I didn't understand it myself at first.   It's probably not so surprising to other widows.   I think I've come up with a way to explain it.  I call it The Grief Box.

All of my grief and touching memories and meaningful emotions associated with Rudy are kept in The Grief Box.  The box is something I carry with me everywhere I go. 

When I go out, I guard that box carefully. It's like Pandora's Box.  I don't want it opened when I'm out and vulnerable. The box can be accessed from all sides and it's not all that strong.  Sometimes I'm guarding one side of the box and something sneaks up and pulls a memory out from the other side.  Every time the box is compromised, the pain is raw.  It takes time to recover from a surprise leak.  

As time goes on, I'm getting better at guarding the box.  The box is thicker and tougher and harder to puncture by surprise, but it's not at all invincible.  If I know something is coming up, I can brace for it.  When I'm braced, The Grief Box is difficult to sneak open.  On the other hand, when I'm home and by myself, the box is fairly unprotected.  Memories and emotions spring forth rather freely.  I don't push those back so much.  I am able to feel what I feel without need for explanation and without making anyone else sad or uncomfortable.  All my friends and family would be more than happy to be a shoulder for me to cry on, but I do better sorting through these emotions on my own. 

Widows whose husbands die suddenly and unexpectedly are usually much more emotionally demonstrative (or they are in a complete state of shock).  They haven't had time to build their grief box. 

Widows whose husbands die after a long illness usually appear to be holding up well.  

For me, I began building my grief box the day the doctor said "Stage IV,  Not Curable".  That was pretty much the worst day of my life.  It was even harder than the day Rudy died because I didn't expect that diagnosis.  I had no protection. I felt like I turned to stone, but looking back, I'm sure I was in shock. By the time he died, I was a tougher, different person.  I had even reached the point where I was thankful for Rudy's release from suffering.  

I've been a widow for nearly six months now, but in some ways I think I've been widowed for a year.  The day of that diagnosis is the day I started losing him.  That was the day I began building my Grief Box.

Those of us who carry around a grief box are not able to be free and easy emotionally.  I have no idea how long it will take me to feel free and easy again.  I sometimes wonder if I ever will. Will I have to guard my grief box always?  I do talk about Rudy often and I hope one day memories of him will only bring smiles.  For now, I'm just one of those widows who is holding up well...  I'm holding up a Grief Box.  

I should end there.  That last bit would make a good ending.  Still, I feel compelled to let the people I love know that I really am doing well.  I'm functioning and figuring out how to get on.  I'm getting out there and finding ways to have fun. I am constantly looking for good things.  I find it's true, when you look for good, you will find it. Hiking is my newest thing.  I most enjoy being around friends I see often.  With them, I don't feel like the elephant in the room that everyone has to be careful around.  In other words, nobody needs to worry about me.  But, I want to make it perfectly clear... widows you meet who are holding up well are dealing with lots of pain whether you see it or not.

 This post was written after hearing a comment about how another widow was "holding up well" and I thought to myself that only another widow understands what it means to be holding up well.