Climbing out of the Hole of Grief

I wrote this the other day on my personal Facebook page and due to the responses I have received I have decided to share it here with some minor editing for privacy purposes:

The anniversary of my spouse’s death is coming in fast: this Saturday. I wasn’t going to say anything until the actual day, but I changed my mind because I am in my feelings now.

It’ll be four years. That number is really hard for me to fathom. Until I sit and think about it. These four years have been an eternity. My life with him feels like a different world.

This grief journey of mine has not been pretty. There were times where I wasn’t sure I was going to survive. Life didn’t feel possible and I felt like I was withering into nothing. I feared there would be nothing left because everything was flowing out of a gaping wound in my chest. I was a hollow shell. I couldn’t stand looking in the mirror and see my dead eyes staring back at me. Who was this woman? She felt so empty. And behind the emptiness was terror. She was terrified to the core. Screaming for help. It hurt too much, please help. It was so exhausting. I remember spending most of my time on my couch, staring at the ceiling with movies playing in the background. I watched some movies repeatedly just to fill the space. I would fade in and out of a restless, disturbed sleep. I often awoke feeling confused about where I was and what my reality was. Every time I woke up, I was gut punched by my new reality that I didn’t sign up for. Sometimes it took my breath away. This really happened. I spent the first year in shock, trying to comprehend what the fuck had happened. And totally neglecting myself on all levels.

My behavior got really reckless and erratic. It’s as if this life didn’t feel real (it was an incomprehensible reality for me) and I needed reminders that I was alive and this was indeed reality. I spent time with people I shouldn’t have because I couldn’t stand listening to my internal screaming alone anymore. I couldn’t hold the weight of the panic, depression, or loneliness. There was such a void left behind by my spouse; he was my world. It was unbearable.

Somewhere along the way, I found the strength to seek out help. A part of me insisted on finding help. I couldn’t let this be what happened. I couldn’t do that to him. I felt so much guilt and shame for dating men who weren’t kind to me. I felt like I tarnished my spouse’s name somehow in the process. He was a kind and loving partner. It felt like such a dishonor to him. I knew I deserved better because I had it before.

Thankfully, removing those toxic men was an important turning point in my healing. I was able to follow the path that lead to healing instead of adding to the pain. It was time to really turn inward and focus on myself. And that process was really challenging. I had to face my mistakes and mental illness head on. I learned a lot of painful truths along the way.

With the help of my support system (especially my current boyfriend), I have been able to work on myself and go through the tumultuous ride the last year has been. I feel so blessed to have a support network who helped me through finding my way out of the dark. A lot of people made it possible for me to have the space to completely fall apart and put myself back together. There’s a handful of people who genuinely saved my life and they probably don’t understand the impact they had on me. The amount of gratitude I have for that part of the process is astronomical. I feel so lucky to have such generous, kind, incredible humans in my life. I felt I had to be worth something if these amazing people consider me worth the time, effort, money, whatever. You name the issue, someone helped me somewhere along the way. Some people even made sure I stayed housed when I struggled with my health. What a gift that was; I had to make it right for everyone (myself included).

I find my current relationship with grief to be complicated and I’m working to adapt to the change. It’s become intensely dualistic and I feel like I am being torn apart from opposing ends. There’s a part of me that is still so fucking devastated that Matthew is gone. It doesn’t make sense to me. His death was such an unexpected nuclear bomb in my life and I wasn’t equipped to handle the blow. I never realized how harshly and quickly life could turn on you without warning. I feel like there’s a monster in my closet now, waiting to drop another bomb on me. I have a perpetual feeling of looking over my shoulder, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

The other side of me is grateful for parts of this journey. I have learned about myself and life on a much deeper level. I’ve managed to make my new trajectory something that I’m excited for. I haven’t been this inspired since I was a child. I have learned how to deeply cherish life in a way that I couldn’t before. I have gone on a crazy journey of self discovery and I appreciate what I have found along the way. My priorities changed. My interests blossomed as I explored my inner workings and my outer world. And I’ve finally learned the importance of self love (the hard way, but hey at least I learned it at some point).

I’m still in the process of finding myself. And my new role as a chiropractic student is helping me do that. It’s hard to be a student when you’re overwhelmed by grief and the amount of change that has occurred in these last four years (especially 2020 holy moly). But it’s so worth it to me. This gives me an opportunity to face certain inner demons and overcome them. This is me finally taking the time to have faith in myself and abilities to truly follow my soul’s desire: to help people. I want to heal people. There’s so much pain in this world and I am being provided the opportunity to be a light and relief to those on their own journeys. It is such a gift that I couldn’t be more grateful for. It’s challenging, but it’s worth it. And I am pretty sure my spouse is proud of me and is cheering me on from wherever he may be. He was always so supportive and I’ll never forget it and I’ll carry that support in my pocket for the rest of my life. I’m trying to build a life worth living, even if there’s still a part of me that feels out of place without him by my side.

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