A tightrope and a grand canyon


Yesterday, I posted this on my Facebook page:

WIDOWHOOD 15 MONTHS: Discovering there is such a thing as “sophomore slump” in the grieving process and, like most other places in the grieving process, it sucks. Loved ones who know and understand say I’m on track, that it IS harder the second year, when the numbness wears off and Awareness floods in, and the rest of the world moves on because that’s life. There are those who move away because they can’t read/hear/take any more darkness, and if I’m honest, I have to bless them and let go with love because I’ve been that friend, too. And then there are those who are revealed, the ones who stay, the ones who’ve walked through the dark themselves and understand that the “year of firsts” is followed by the “year of seconds” and “the year of thirds.”

And then I drove to work and worried about having said too much, shown too much, and being “too public.”

It’s a tricky thing, writing about grief, going public with my grieving process. What to say and what to keep private. I love when people respond with stories about their own grief experiences. It helps to know that I’m not just out here grandstanding, shouting “No! LOOK at ME, PEOPLE! I AM HURTING!”, that even this work has purpose and merit beyond repeatedly heaving the huge rock off my chest.

Writing about grieving sets you up for lots of attention. Sometimes that’s a great thing, a wonderful balm. You put your pain and rage out there because you need that healing touch from others. You must write because if you don’t your brain will explode, and the outpouring of love is an affirmation that you are still part of this world. And sometimes the attention is painful, like poking a bruise, and every hug or “how are you?” reaffirms that you are a freak and you don’t really belong here now, and that your old life is dead.

It’s an even trickier thing to grieve in private life. How much to say? Who to say it to? How much to hold inside? And when you must speak, if no one is there, where do you go? I mean, there are only so many therapy sessions one can afford in a week and unfortunately, grief groups, unlike Alcoholic Anonymous meetings, are not a daily or even weekly event.

The phone doesn’t ring. So you don’t call or text or send a message because you figure people are busy, or just sick of hearing you kvetch and moan. Maybe it’s all about you! Maybe…it’s just life. Maybe the world moves on. People move on. Friends move on, move away, coworkers leave. There are births, anniversaries, weddings, new romances, family vacations – life goes on.

Often, friends don’t quite know what to do for you, or with you. Face it: you’re not exactly great company. At any given moment, you’re moody, sad, bitter, anxious, morose, angry, weepy – and that’s just in the car on the way to the movie.

What’s not to love, right? Everybody wants to spend time with that.

I know this is true because I have been that friend/relative/coworker, standing outside ground zero, looking across my bereft friend/family member/colleague and wondering if there’s anything I can do — or, more often in my case, surreptitiously checking the time and thinking “Thank god it’s not me.”

Except, now it’s me. I’m on this road. Sometimes it is so lonely and frightening, such a sad and desolate place, I have no hope within me, not a flicker. Writing becomes difficult-to-impossible when that emptiness and darkness absorbs me.

Until I must stop and write about it.

People, this is a strange, strange new road.


About Vicki Caroline Cheatwood

Writerly. Rebooting. Evolving. Searching for great chicken salad.
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