I woke up last night and couldn’t get back to sleep. Not unusual but this time it was different. I was sad and not sure why. I thought it might be my usual feeling of missing my kids since we now have an empty house, but then I reminded myself that they are all doing well on their own. I was excited about plans to see the youngest soon, so concern for kids wasn’t what was bothering me. I was puzzled for a few minutes as the tears went from my eyes down into my ears. It wasn’t until I just relaxed and listened to my heart that I figured it out. Could it be the date? Yup, that was it. The next day was May 26th.
On some days it seems like two weeks, and other days like thirty years ago, but in reality it was fourteen years since police officers showed up at my front door. They announced that my husband had been flying an airplane that crashed, and he didn’t survive.
“It has been said, ‘time heals all wounds.’ I do not agree,” Rose Kennedy said. “The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone.” Rose was a smart lady, and she knew what she was talking about, having buried several children and her husband.
Life goes on. I met and remarried an amazing man who didn’t feel threatened by my first husband, and tried hard to be a good step-dad. So I’m happy a lot of the time. But the heart remembers.
Since then, May has always been a tough month to get through. There is a cluster of kid’s birthdays, our wedding anniversary and my first husband’s birthday all together. It’s a mix of happy occasions with the reminder that he is missing. Last year was especially difficult since our youngest daughter turned eighteen, graduated high school early with honors, then left for another state in an exciting working student position. I was left stunned and missing her while she was busy and out on her own.
I learned to remember to try not to run from the sadness, and to let grief into my house like an annoying relative at a family gathering. The one who drinks too much and embarrasses everyone by telling dirty jokes. If ignored, grief gets worse. It turns into a mean, nasty dog that will sneak up behind you and bite you in the rear — you just can’t run from it for long. So, I’ve mentally turned around to whack that nasty dog on the nose with a rolled up newspaper several times, then had a good cry. I knew I would survive when the crying led to remembering good things and I smiled while drying the tears from my face, or more recently from my ears.
I guess the trick is to not be afraid to grieve and cry — whether it’s been fourteen years or fourteen hours, and to get some control of it. So if you are struggling, mentally turn around and whack that nasty, mean dog that is grief, firmly tell it to behave, then smile with a good memory.