The Snowglobe Of Grief
On Friday, June 10, 2011, at 12:30 a.m., my life changed in such a way that it would never, ever be the same again. My husband Steven died after an eight-year battle with cancer.
Grief had already become a constant companion in 2009 when Steve’s cancer began to spread.Treatments and medications would work for awhile, and then the cancer took over again. While I was logically preparing myself for Steve’s death, there is no amount of preparation that can handle the heart-wrenching, emotional impact of a loved one’s death when it finally comes.
The immediate days and first few weeks that followed Steve’s death had a dreamlike familiarity. For some time there were no feelings that would emerge because of the numbness that had taken up residence in my very core. This numbness was a gift because later, as the numbness began to diminish, what emerged was a profound, unbearable, energy-draining, heavy sadness. The only reprieve from the sadness was when anger would take over.
Gradually, I began experiencing self-doubt:
- Was there more I could have done?
- Did I let Steve down at the end?
- Did I stop fighting for him?
- Did I fail him in some way?
The “could have,” “should have,” and “would have’s” of grief! What I had to keep telling myself was that regardless of what I could have, should have, or would have done, the outcome would still have been the same. Try to convince a grieving person not to let these kinds of thoughts and doubts add to the anguish of grief!
Little by little, the support system began to subside. People around me returned to their normal lives, but I did not. I no longer have a “normal life.” The reality of the situation is that I now have a “new normal,” and I am alone.
At times I feel like I am stuck inside a snow globe, where my grief remains constantly with me. Life must go on—and how quickly it goes on for those outside the “snow globe of grief.”
I see everyone else outside the “globe," living like nothing has happened. Don’t they know that I am still snow-deep in my grief and I need comfort and support? Often I heard, “Call me if you need anything,” and these words were genuinely expressed and heartfelt.
However, it is so hard for the grieving person to know what might be needed, let alone initiate a call asking for help. Don’t leave me forgotten in my snow globe of grief. Shake me up from time to time to let me know that you are nearby.
Of course, Steve’s death did not just affect me. His death impacted so many: his father and stepmother, his siblings, niece and nephew, uncle, aunts, cousins, son, friends, pastor…the list goes on. What all of us must strive for is respect for how the other is grieving, acknowledging that each of us is handling the pain of this shared death in very differing ways.
We do our best to provide comfort and support to one another. The death of a loved one can either bond the family closer, or the death can drive a wedge into the community cohesiveness, due partly to lack of understanding and respect of the grief process.
Since Steve’s death, I have experienced many of the “firsts”—the anniversary of our very first date, family picnics, his birthday, our anniversary. And now come the holidays. I have come to learn that the anticipation of these holidays is worse than the actual day, but that doesn’t make my dread of them diminish.
Yes, things will be very different this year, and the next and then the next. In time my broken heart will mend and my sadness no longer a constant companion. The sun will come out again for those of us grieving, but we must go through the storms of our grief before the sunshine can break through. The memories will become my treasures, and I will find peace once again.
May you also find peace as you continue your personal journey.