Princess Diana's brother, Charles Spencer, who delivered his sister's eulogy was interviewed on the CBS News Sunday Morning show today (March 15, 2015). In the course of the interview he said (in response to interviewer Tracy Smith's statement "It has been close to 20 years." "Yeah, I met someone the other day who was so interesting, she had actually lost her sister in a car crash, in fact the same time. And I said, 'How is it for you?' And she said, 'Well, the pain's the same, it's just the tears are less.' And that's very profound."
Those words are indeed, profound, I thought to myself; simple and profound. We who grieve the loss of a significant person keep being told that over time  and even with work "it" gets better. "It" refers to the pain, I assume, or the whole journey. But as I approach the 5th anniversary, I do not feel the loss of my husband Bill being any less painful today than it was during the first two years. (Yes, I said two years...something most people do not understand unless they have been down this path.). I cry off and on, on occasions like his birthday or our anniversary and sometimes just out of the blue. The wailing has all but ceased. The waves of grief roll in but do not knock me off my feet any more. Maybe that is what everyone means by "gets easier or better". The desire to have him back is just as strong and yes, that woman who talked to Charles Spencer, is right; the pain is not less...it is indeed, the same.
Those around me do not really know how much I hurt unless they happen to be one of those in my inner most circle of friends, the ones I can still cry with and when asked how I am, I can be honest and say on a given day, "today is a tough day" and then talk a bit about that. That inner circle is small and one I cherish and need.

It may appear to others that I am  "better", "it" is better, or I am now "over it" or "moving on". I suspect many know I am not "over it" but say nothing. Like me, I would imagine that if you spoke to the vast majority of those who have lost a spouse or a child, or someone else we cherished and with whom we shared each and every day and all our dreams, ups and downs as well as joys and sacred moments; you would learn that the pain is still deep and real. If you have been down this path, you know.

So what have I have learned these years since Bill died (in spite of being told otherwise by many) and thankfully being heard and not judged by so many others.
I have learned that I am alone. I have a supportive circle of trusted friends, but in reality no one on this earth knows what I lost. I  am indeed alone and all of what I lost is beyond my ability to explain or share.

I hurt today as much as I did five years ago. It does not show like I did even four years ago but the pain is sitting there and with the smallest provocation can easily and quickly be evidenced by my tears. I have just learned to carry it differently. It is now a part of who I am.
I do not know what "moving on," "letting go," "being better" and a host of other phrases the bereaved hear too often from hopefully well intentioned people, even means. I guess if there are no tears flowing down my  face, that means I am "over it". I guess if I laugh and smile, that means I do not feel pain. Actually I can be laughing and feeling pain at the same moment. I guess if I get involved in community activities I am  "past my loss". And all of those phrases mean no one has to ask anymore how I am doing or be afraid I will burst into tears. 
I have learned that my grief is complicated because all grief is complicated. We humans are complicated and every loss is totally unique to each person and to each loss. My loss of my mom in 2006 was very different than my loss of Bill 4 years later. My neighbor's loss of her beloved husband is totally different than my loss of Bill. And yes, it is all complicated. That does not mean it is something that requires a diagnosis or a prescription. Grief is NOT a medical condition. It is a normal human experience and a sign of the love   we have (notice present tense) for the person who died and what we had together. It is part of life as is joy; a part that we as a society prefer to ignore and deny and then judge way too often when someone walks through their grief in what I see as a healthy manner i.e. with honesty and with a commitment to feel our pain instead of stuffing it or pretending.
I have learned that there are wonderful people around me especially those who are also bereaved. I met many at www.griefhealingdiscussiongroups.com (which I highly recommend to anyone in grief). I have a small close circle of confidants who are kind, who hear me and who "get it". There is wonderful information out there that has been incredibly helpful to me on this journey. Bill's transfiguration has been not only the deepest and most gut wrenching pain in my life but also has been a change and transformation agent.
So on March 27, it will be five years since I held my sweet and kind husband in my arms; since his once strong heart quit beating beneath my hand; since I felt his last breath on my cheek and since he was freed of his struggle with Alzheimer's disease. It will be five years since I saw his blue eyes smile at me and instead, as John O'Donohue said so well in his poem*, five years since I saw Bill's "eyes freeze behind the grey window."

And yes, the pain is the same.
*John O'Donohue in an interview on On Being (NPR with Krista Tippet)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZfvS2LYbZLQ
Beannacht / Blessing

On the day when the weight deadens
on your shoulders and you stumble,
may the clay dance to balance you.
And when your eyes freeze behind
the grey window and the ghost of loss
gets in to you, may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green, and azure blue come to awaken in you a meadow of delight.
When the canvas frays in the currach* of thought
and a stain of ocean blackens beneath you, may there come across the waters a path of yellow moonlight to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours, may the clarity of light be yours, may the fluency of the ocean be yours, may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow wind work these words of love around you, an invisible cloak to mind your life.”
Beannacht / Blessing:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/6224.John_O_Donohue

* currach is a canoe

 


Comments

Jan Crowther
03/16/2015 2:56am

every word applies to me Mary. It's three years for me and just lately I've been waking up so sad that I can hardly imagine how I'm going to get through the day without my beloved Pete. But of course I do. What else can I do? I just have one friend close who I can share with. Just one. I don't share with my family. I don't want to burden them with my pain. Yes, we are alone really. What can I say in response to this heart-felt piece except that I think you know that your sharing your grief and pain helps others. It helps me. It acknowledges my feelings. We have lost everything that really mattered to us, and yet we have to continue. And try to do it with grace. In some ways I am a different person than when Pete died. But he would find me unchanged too. And be proud of me as Bill is of you. Thank you for writing this which I'm intending to copy out by hand into my grief journal. It will make me cry but that will be good. Jan

Reply
03/16/2015 11:47am

Thank you, Jan. I admire you copying this entire blog by hand and yes, it will make you cry and yes, that is good to release those tears...how healing they are. Thank you for your response. It is reassuring to me when people feel helped by what I share. Peace, Mary

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Helene Domi
03/16/2015 5:40am

You totally hit the nail on the head....Grief is now a part of me, I'm not mentally ill. I am sad alot of the time, but it is normal. In less than a month, I will be 3 years without my best friend and mother
This Friday, my high school friends and I will be scattering the ashes of one of our own. He was a wonderful friend to each of us.
And death keeps coming. We can't stop it. We just pack in the grief with the rest and do our best.
What else can we do?

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Helene Domi
03/16/2015 5:41am

The list sentence is not a question I want answered. It should have a period.

Reply
03/16/2015 11:49am

Dear Helene, It is always helpful when a reader says I hit the nail on the head. Then I know I helped someone in some small way. No, we who grieve are not mentally ill or diagnosable. Yes, at my age (too close to 75) death has been and keeps coming. And we learn to carry grief in one hand and gratitude in the other. It is what we do...and who we are. Peace to your heart and peace as you scatter your friend's ashes on Friday. Mary

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Anne Gorman
03/16/2015 8:37am

Thank you for this excellent reflection, Mary. It is how it is. Our pain changes but never goes away. It is important to acknowledge that all feelings in grief are normal. I so appreciate your openness.

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Mary Friedel-Hunt
03/16/2015 11:50am

Thank you, Anne, for your comments. I think being open and vulnerable is something that needs greater acceptance as it always leads to healing. I think Brene Brown is surely speaking to this and it is catching on. Peace to your heart, Mary

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Deniece Carver
03/16/2015 9:28am

I'm touched. Thank you for this.

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Mary Friedel-Hunt
03/16/2015 11:51am

Thank you, Deniece. I think of you often and hope you are doing well. Thanks for reading my blog. Mary

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03/16/2015 10:45am

Thank you for this, Mary. I get it as you might imagine. It will be seven years since Vic died on June 3, still the before and after day. I can't imagine what it might mean to be over it. I live a life. I serve others. I spend time with family. I manage a difficult and erratic illness on my own. But there is always a place deep in my heart that feels alone and yearning. It's a constant companion.

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Mary Friedel-Hunt
03/16/2015 11:53am

Yes, Elaine, it is always there...a constant companion as you said so well. And so much of what we shared with our beloveds we now do alone...including illnesses. We help and we live. I got your email and will respond. So good to hear from you. Peace and love, Mary

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iloilo
03/21/2015 10:07am

Dear Mary,
You not only hit the nail on the head, you spoke straight to my heart. Doug has been gone three years, and I am only beginning to accept that this grief and pain are going to be mine to carry, and although there are days when I do very well out in the world, there are also times when my grief is brought back tot he surface by some remark, sighting, place, book -- it doesn't matter what, but the tears well up and fall, and for a few minutes, I am a small bundle of feelings, alone and vulnerable, feeling newly bereft and lost. I go on, I am living life, trying to make some plans for myself, helping others, volunteering, and hoping to find a better sense of "me" some day. But the sense of Doug will always be in my heart, and the longing for his presence is now a part of how I face the world each day. We seem to build stronger emotional muscles to carry the heavy load of grief, and so we do not appear so bent over with our sorrow. But I think that really, we have just learned to carry the grief with more grace. Thank you for giving us words for this journey of life.
namaste,
iloilo

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Mary Friedel-Hunt
03/21/2015 1:23pm

My dear iloilo,
Yes, I so understand all of what you have shared. Just this week I was aware of those tiny unexpected things that remind us and result in some tears flowing. Sometimes they are the strangest things -a song, a bird returning to a nest, something on a TV program and on and on. They come out of nowhere and remind me...they no longer lead to a huge reaction but just enough to bring the sorrow to the forefront for a while. I also know about "finding a better sense" of ourselves...I have all the confidence in the world in you and your journey...confidence that you will be true to your Self/self and that peace and meaning will be yours again on a more steady basis.
Peace and love,
Mary

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09/18/2015 11:33am

Profound and sound five years of the plan went pretty well and according to the set goals and aims. It is extremely beneficial and advantageous. The products are advanced for the betterment and even more significance and incessant value.

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Vicki Moreno
02/22/2016 5:40pm

Mary, I heard of you from an aquaintance/customer. She suggested I google your name. I am so glad I did.
I lost my husband suddenly five months ago. Every thing you have said is what I am going through. Reading your words have let me know that what I am going through is what is expected.
Thank you for what you do. I feel family and friends want to help but don't always want to see me cry or hear about my feelings as often as I need to talk. Thank you again.

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Mary Friedel-Hunt
02/22/2016 7:32pm

Thank you Vicki. I am so very sorry for your loss. There are no words so just know that I walk a similar path to yours...just a few feet ahead in time. Do feel free to email me if you wish. I can send you some links that you will find helpful. I am also curious who suggested you google my name. mfriedelhunt@charter.net

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