As for me, I have not found a word or phrase that accurately describes the journey and pain that follows a significant loss.
Many years ago, I accidentally cut one of my fingers using a wicked kitchen slicer...the entire tip of that finger was hanging by a thread when I arrived at the emergency room. The physician was able to reattach it and over time it "healed". I think of this when I hear people discuss healing or recovery in regards to my journey and the grief I feel following my husband Bill's death.
If one looks at my finger, it appears healed just as I appear healed to most people 4 years later. However, the finger is different, changed as it was by this accident and the follow up surgery. The new scar tissue is tougher than the skin on my other fingers and it has a protective feel about it. It lacks feeling yet it is simultaneously extremely hypersensitive to touch. Touching a keyboard or well...anything is irritating...sort of like touching an exposed nerve.
Leaving our Galena, IL home for a long bike ride through the hills on the first day of spring.
Bill and I enjoyed spring. The bicycles and motorcycles came out of winter storage. We hiked almost daily through our Wisconsin woods or Colorado mountains. We enjoyed being outside almost anywhere doing almost anything. Even though we spent time cross country skiing in the winter, hibernating was our way of life on winter days. Now when spring arrives I must shed the heavy clothes that protected me from the cold. The winter solitude and hibernation that renews our souls wanes. Instead of welcoming spring, I feel more emotionally naked. A thousand triggers and memories of spring days with Bill trip off pain. Just as my keyboard irritates the nerves in my finger, spring trips off my vulnerability. The merry month of May is not so merry without Bill and the life we created for ourselves.
That finger "healed". It does not bother me every day...I rarely notice it. However, the amputation I have experienced with Bill's death has affected every part of my being and every corner of my life not just the tip of a finger. Rarely even noticing Bill's death is just not a possibility. This loss left me lonely for his physical presence; introduced me to pain I never knew existed; changed me and my life forever; left me hypersensitive and vulnerable as it has also steeled me. The pain does not go away...it is always there. The tsunamis of grief no longer come thundering in ten times a day but they still come unexpectedly now and then. The smaller waves of grief come and go quite often. I have learned to allow the pain they carry with them; cry the tears or feel the sadness. I know these words are familiar to every one of you who has experienced a significant loss. You are not alone. There are many of us who share your pain but who do not talk about it in our society so bent on being positive and happy all day every day so as to avoid or deny life's pain.
Along with my pain are memories of pure joy and love. How blessed we were to have the love we share/d. We both knew it was a rare gift and that it came with a high price tag when one of us would die. But no one can anticipate the fall-out following the death of someone so important to us.
Acceptance of my grief was a challenge. I fought it for a while. Then learned that fighting it was a losing battle with far reaching ramifications.
Loss forces changes. We change and our life styles change. Mine includes more solitude, writing and art. I help others who are grieving; enjoy old friends and have met new ones...many of them wounded healers who aren't afraid to be real. And I have said good-bye to some folks. Rising to a silent house each day, I meditate, walk Bentley (our gentle and sweet Golden Retriever) and see what the day presents grateful for all that has blessed my life. I am not bitter or even angry. How could I be with all I have been given? I just hurt.
I just don't think there is a word for it.
How has your life changed following a significant loss?
How have you changed?
Is there recovery for you?
Befriending Myself: Rescued by Pema Chodron by Elaine Mansfield
Bereavement by Elaine Mansfield (A series of articles by Elaine)
Good Grief: Healing From the Pain of Loss by University Health Services- UW Madison
A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis (Entire book in pdf format)
The Labyrinth of Grief by Mary Friedel-Hunt