Hello to my wonderful Smorgasbord family.
I’d like to first say thank you to the so many of you who’ve been sending light, love and condolences with messages, emails, cards, and even some unexpected gifts. And a huge thank you to Sally for keeping my spirit alive here and beyond. Undoubtedly, I have a lifetime of stories to write about, and I’m not here today to write specifically about the 180 my life took not even two whole months ago, when my husband seemed to be getting sicker by the day and a palliative doctor came into the hospital room to talk to me about his ongoing care, before we’d even had confirmed results back from an oncologist. This was the beginning of the end.
But today’s article isn’t about all that what went down with my husband’s end of his life, but more geared toward the topic about what this series represents – Realms of Relationships, not just about relationships, but also about situations and emotions that we endure and or encounter in life in relationships, and how they affect us and how we deal with them.
So, for today, I’d like to share a bit about what I’m learning about how this grief process works, and since I’m currently living the nightmare, who better than me to share with you my experiences, straight from this proverbial horse’s mouth. And always remember, everybody’s own grief is unique, but one thing is for certain, there are definitely the same steps and stages involved in the grief process, and possibly a bit overly cliché sounding, but it is the old standard – the five stages of grief – Denial · Anger · Bargaining · Depression · Acceptance, which are, and will be components of the journey, no matter how one grieves. Yup, they’re real. There are variations for sure, which I’ll get into later. But suffice it to say, there are no shortcuts with grief.
Books on grief are typically not our first ‘go to’ genre. Let’s face it, how many people want to read about end of life? But ahh, how many who’ve lived through a heart wrenching loss wish they had someone to help them understand the inner torment grief brings to the table, wishing they knew more about what to expect?
As I grew myself up by reading self-help books about growing self-esteem, reading true stories and situations about people and how they handled their hardships, it paid off helping me to learn what I needed to better myself. In the same circumstance, wanting to reach out and look for some way of relief from the grieving process, books and gatherings with people who’ve walked in the shoes, really can help too.
Now I’m not saying reading books about grieving will help us get out of our grief, but they can do several other things such as, allow us to feel with another who has walked in the same devastating shoes of unbearable grief; it’s almost like a feeling of camaraderie, like when we shake our heads as we read something that resonates, as if to affirm every single emotion and stage we’re going through as we read. It’s a natural instinct for us to want to connect with others who are familiar with all the new emotions we will go through.
Truly, I believe that only someone who has lived the journey can write these kinds of books, and you can be sure, somewhere down the road, I’ll be writing one of my own – one day, when the stinging rawness of my unacceptance at willing to face all the music I keep locked up in a compartment in my head so that at present, I can function and get on with the grueling things that demand attending to during my hours of grief, like, arranging funerals, Covid restrictions, two religions dilemma, and fulfilling my husband’s wishes, all in the same moments while my very own hell in my heart resides within. I will write a book.
I’ve read books all my life to try to better myself and learn, so naturally, and despite the fact that I haven’t been able to read for pleasure at present, a single page of any book since my husband began deteriorating, Only after he passed I had a hunger to devour books that could make me feel I wasn’t alone. I felt compelled to read a few books about grieving. I needed to know how people got through it all. I needed to learn about all the other goodies (sarcasm) I had to look forward to.
I was immediately drawn to Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s work as a psychologist and her own experience with grief, and her work with people who’ve had near death experiences and came back to tell, which I’ve recently read – On Life After Death. Read
Debby’s Review for the book
Another I’ll be reading soon, her best-selling book next in line – On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss, will be next on my reading after I finish one of the two Nora McInerny’s books first. (I’ll mention Nora later.)
As it turned out, a lovely writer friend had sent me a wonderful selection of chocolate comfort foods, along with a paperback copy of Comfort for the Grieving Spouse’s Heart by Gary Roe.
This was the first book I could look at in months. Why? Because it felt like the writer knew exactly how I felt. Every single word was everything I was and am feeling. It was a book of validation. As I shed many tears as I read along, I began to understand that someone else, who could feel that same kind of gutting stab in the solar plexus, gets what I’m experiencing. I am not alone. But really, I am. And that’s part of the denial thing.
Denial: I still talk to my husband. I hug his pillow many times a day as my heartbreak moments are quite frequent, and temporarily kept in check by Valium – it keeps me from hugging pillows and crying every moment. And when you are the only one left to take care of yourself and all the paperwork and calls that come with a person’s passing, and the income taxes, one must be able to function to do when one doesn’t really want to. Even though she is the grieving wife, she is holding back the crash and burn to come til after the ‘acceptance’ comes, and she may have mixed up a few steps, as she’s never been one to follow order, but I’m pretty damned sure rage came early with this girl and it isn’t on the list, so I’ll replace that with bargaining.
Bargaining is much too late. My husband is gone, so there’s nothing left for me to bargain for. But the rage, the rage comes out in me like some primal being with whale-like outbursts. Add in a little mixture of blame to that list as I blame Covid for my husband’s not being seen a year ago for a complete checkup and rundown of symptoms I’d explain to the doctor because I watched my husband like a hawk. I can’t help but wonder, despite that fact there is no use looking back at hindsight, as I ask myself what else I could have done to save him. Yes, I’m blaming Covid for his demise.
Denial · Anger · Bargaining · Depression · Acceptance, are the five said stages of grief. Besides my replacing bargaining with rage, I’ve switched up depression with guilt. And I’m already feeling the guilt bubble within, lashing out at myself because I feel I didn’t do enough to save him, even though I know better that I did. I beat myself up internally because I was always so on top of everything with his health. I knew he was declining. I did tele-health calls with Dr. B, when my husband began filling with fluid and I began taking him for paracentesis every two weeks to hospital, then turned into weekly stints by January. Thanks to Covid and nobody getting to see their doctors in the live, unless they happen to be in hospital, I would like to state that so many more people are dying from other things than Covid itself. Because of Covid.
The guilt consumes me daily as I bang my head into my fists crying out ‘why couldn’t I save him?’ No, depression doesn’t reside within, just the guilt. I don’t equate depression with the sadness of grief. I am not depressed. I am broken-hearted and excruciatingly sad to the core of my being, leaving me feeling as though my heart physically hurts.
This is why I need to read books. And as I already said, each of our grief is our own, and how we deal with it may be different, but no less, we will all no doubt, feel all the bumps through the journey whether we admit to them or not.
Grief is a process – a very long process. Its palpitations, rawness in the heart, and the unrelenting reels of scenarios that continue to play out in my mind as I’m left remembering his suffering for the past few months. No, I’m far from ready to sit down and talk about the good times. Those are much too painful to even allow myself to think about right now.
Those times will hopefully come well after acceptance comes, once I’ve accepted my husband is gone and never coming back. Once I’ve accepted and lived through the grief that my husband, my love, my best friend is no more, that will be acceptance. And that is feeling such a long ways away right now. I dare not sit and reminisce over our wonderful times together, because it hurts too much to think about things that will never again be.
Once I graduate from playing the repetitive movie reels of the last weeks of our life together, where I watched over him, cared for him, felt his pain and his own sadness that he thought he’d kept hidden from me, and once I can allow myself to physically fall apart for more than just the many sporadic meltdowns I’m living through, and I can finally admit my husband is no more in this life, I will reach acceptance. And only after the time comes, will I be able to pick myself back up and put my beloved husband tucked safely in a corner of my heart, and then maybe I will be ready to accept what I am far from ready from doing presently.
Oh yes, grief is a process. It’s a long process, and for some it can be lifelong. Death of a spouse is its own special variety of grief. As someone who has grieved far too many times in my life, and differently for each passing loved one, I have to say, the death of a spouse is pretty earth shattering. And I will also say, that every grief is different, just like everyone grieves differently. A lot of the grief comes from tons of angles that feel like darts being thrown at me. The missing of every single thing we did together, because we were best friends too. Many relationships are different with couples, but despite the levels and variations of love, a couple suddenly becoming one alone is a huge transition to be had.
Everything changes in a blink of an eye and we’re just supposed to keep moving, while we’re in shock.
It really is a journey of baby steps, this is certain. You can only go one day at a time, sometimes one hour at a time. But you still must live and take care of things, take care of business, take care of ourselves. The world doesn’t stop just because ours has, there are many legalities that need to be dealt with, banking, credit cards, investments, insurance, etc. And when you’re living solo, it’s me, myself, and I taking care of everything while trying to keep it all together.
So, the bottom line I will say from my experience so far, as my husband hasn’t even been gone a month, and it feels more like two years’ worth of grief and time have passed for me. I have a long way to go yet, but I’m making plans. Because we have to make plans. Ideally, I would have already been on a plane to England at this point, but sadly, I await vax #2 here in the Covid capital of Canada. I feel the need to go far away and be in another headspace for a while for a bit of distance from the oh so familiar. My friend there is awaiting her 2nd vax June 2nd and promises to fly over here for a few weeks to help me pack up and move to a smaller unit in my same building. We are hoping she can fly here and then hoping we can fly out of Corona Toronto back to UK together. That’s the plan. We need to have plans. Yes, we suffer, scream, cry, hurt, but eventually we have to move on. But that doesn’t mean we won’t always love or miss or hurt for our lost loved one. I’m told by many, even at the end of the hard grieving journey, there’s always going to be a hole within, but there’s apparently, a time when we will be able manage the hole a little easier. I long for that day when my suffering might ease.
I asked for Twenty years. He gave me twenty-one and a lifetime of love.
I was recently introduced to Nora McInerny’s books and her Ted Talk. I can’t wait to dig into her books. I felt a kindred spirit with Nora, not only because we both carry heavy hearts, but because she decided to share her grief to help others and lays it all out in it’s raw essence, coupled with injections of humor – sort of like the way I write. No doubts I’ll write a book on this topic and it will stand along side Nora’s.
Enjoy this 15 minute, entertaining, and beautiful video where Nora shares her triple grief and how she dealt.
If anyone here has lost someone and carries a deep hole within and wishes to share some of themselves, please feel free to join the conversation.
Debby Gies is a Canadian nonfiction/memoir author who writes under the pen name of D.G. Kaye. She was born, raised, and resides in Toronto, Canada. Kaye writes about her life experiences, matters of the heart and women’s issues.
D.G. writes to inspire others. Her writing encompasses stories taken from events she encountered in her own life, and she shares the lessons taken from them. Her sunny outlook on life developed from learning to overcome challenges in her life, and finding the upside from those situations, while practicing gratitude for all the positives.
When Kaye isn’t writing intimate memoirs, she brings her natural sense of humor into her other works. She loves to laugh and self- medicate with a daily dose of humor.
I love to tell stories that have lessons in them, and hope to empower others by sharing my own experiences. I write raw and honest about my own experiences, hoping through my writing, that others can relate and find that there is always a choice to move from a negative space, and look for the positive.
“Live Laugh Love . . . And Don’t Forget to Breathe!”
“For every kindness, there should be kindness in return. Wouldn’t that just make the world right?”
When I’m not writing, I’m reading or quite possibly looking after some mundane thing in life. It’s also possible I may be on a secret getaway trip, as that is my passion—traveling.
Books by D.G. Kaye
My thanks to Debby for sharing the process of grief from this very personal and honest perspective. Her heart is always in her writing and no less so in this post.
Today is George’s Birthday and this post is a lovely tribute and also I am sure he would be very proud of Debby for her strength and determination to continue to support others.
As always your feedback is very welcome. Thanks Sally