I recently received a message from a woman who is concerned that I’m still counting sad Saturdays — she’s worried that my grief for my dead mate is going on too long and keeping me from living. I appreciate her concern and her continued prayers (just as I appreciate the concern and prayers from all of you), but the truth is, except for readers of this blog, no one knows I still have my sad times. I don’t hide myself away from life, I’m not missing from life, and I’m not missing life. I miss him, of course, and I hate that he is missing from this life, but that particular sorrow is something I accept as part of my life.
There is nothing wrong with sad times, and there is no reason to fear sadness. Depression is dangerous, but not all sadness is depression, nor does all sadness lead to depression. Sometimes sadness is melancholic or nostalgic — a seasoning of life rather than a banishment of life, a reminder not to take life for granted. For several months now I’ve been hesitant to continue posting about grief since such posts show me (perhaps) in a pathetic or needy light, but there are too many misconceptions about grief that we accept as truth, and I want people who have lost the most significant person in their life to know that they do not need to put aside their sorrow simply to placate others. It is their grief and they need to feel the sorrow, not ignore it. Experiencing grief and processing it are how we learn to be whole again (or as whole as is possible).
The first year after such a traumatic loss, one struggles to survive the psychic shock. The second year one deals with the effects of the ongoing loss and begins to look ahead more often than one looks behind. Since I am still in my second year, I don’t know what the third and fourth year bring — perhaps occasional upsurges of grief or a continual (though diminishing) struggle to comprehend life and death and loss. People who have been on this journey and come out of it mostly intact, tell me that it takes four years before one completely gets back the joy of living. So I am still within the normal bounds of grief.
For some people, grief is a time of shutting themselves away, of forgetting that they have other people in their life who need them, and if this goes on too long, they might need to seek professional help, especially if there are children involved. For me, though, and for others who are grieving appropriately, this is a time of opening up, of showing our vulnerability, of admitting that life is not always happy or fun. And in doing so, we make connections to help us rebuild our lives.
If I had hidden my sadness, if I had followed my natural inclination to bear my pain in silence, my life would have been much diminished. You and all the people I met since I began this journey nineteen months ago have added so much to my life that it tells me what I already know: I am not grieving inappropriately.