I really thought I was doing fine. I had stopped the daily crying thing. I’d go longer and longer periods without thinking about him. I’d even look heavenward and do some joking quips now and then, and smile.
The outside observer would assume I was coping well. I was doing all the things I needed to do. Nothing looked different. Move along. Nothing to see here.
I did occasionally watch my friends and family who were interacting with me as normal and think, “Wow. They can’t see it. I’m profoundly changed, will never ever be the same, and they can’t see it.” It’s as if your entire house is the same except for the basement, which has been completely and utterly gutted and is showing evidence of fissures which, granted, have been patched, but are still there. Visitors to the upper floors would never know, but the structure is not what it was.
Chuck’s death, without a doubt, is the worst thing that has ever happened to me. So it was silly of me to think that I’d gotten over the worst of it in a few months. I was just distracted by the stress of house hunting and packing and moving, so I had shoved my emotions into a little corner, and I guess the pressure had been building up.
I’d gotten past the worst of the move, and was finally transporting my dogs from the old apartment to the new when the dam broke. I suddenly realized for the first time that I was moving to a place that Chuck had never been and wouldn’t know. There’d be no memories of him there. And… I know this is silly, but it hit me like a ton of bricks: How would he be able to find me now? How could he come to me when I needed him? I was officially and completely and utterly and profoundly alone for the first time in decades. I wailed, “I can’t do this alone! I’m frightened!” I never use the word frightened. I hate the word frightened. It’s such a spineless, wimpy word.
Needless to say, I did not react well. Hysterical panic attack would be putting it mildly. I called one of my best friends, crying and probably incoherent, and bless him, he listened. Unfortunately he’s not the type to say “There, there, everything is going to be all right,” or, “I’ll be right over.” I really could have used that, but he’s not a coddler. But he listened. And that gave me just enough strength to pull my silly self together and complete the drive to my new home, where I hugged my dogs fiercely and fell into a profound and much-needed sleep.
Grief can be sneaky. You might think you have conquered it. You might believe you’ve wrestled it to the ground and you are now standing triumphantly with your foot on its chest, but when you least expect it, it can still rise up and punch you right in the gut.
So I guess the trick is to learn how to take a punch. If I do that, maybe someday grief will get bored and quietly slink away, probably without me even realizing it for a long time. Oh, I’m sure it will still make brief visits every now and then to give me a nice forceful backhanded slap, but hey, it sure beats a daily beat down.