Grief is an unwelcome guest who has come to stay at our house for a long, long while. Right now I’m unsure grief will ever leave, and this feels appropriate. The absence of grief would be abnormal. To recognize that this sadness can last as long as I need it to, that I have all the time in the world to mourn her loss, is a kind of comfort. Grief is loving someone who is no longer there; whose familiar face is suddenly gone, replaced by an intense longing that cannot be satisfied. In many ways this unwanted, painful journey of grief has barely begun. The first 6 months after Fiona’s passing are a fog of shock, denial, and bewilderment. I wondered why our hot water was so hot a while ago. I’d completely forgotten that our hot water heater went out the day after Fiona died, and had to be replaced while our house was filled with mourners. Much of what happened in the months after Fiona died is a complete blur, lost in the shadows of intense emotional pain. Each day I still cannot believe this happened and she is no longer here.
I’ve spent much time in denial, not wanting to process or acknowledge the enormity of my loss. Wanting to feel in control instead of falling helpless into the valley of the shadow of death. Reading about grief has helped me work through things in my head, allowing me a small measure of peace that what I am feeling is normal. The purpose of grief is threefold; you express your feelings about your loss, express your protest at the loss as well as your desire to change what happened and have it not be true, and express the effects you have experienced from the devastating impact of the loss (Recovering from the Losses of Life, H. Norman Wright). Learning to live with the loss in a healthy way, facing it and adapting to it is the goal. This seems like an insurmountable journey, one which will take many years. Fiona was a part of my life for 10 years. Adapting to her absence is something I want to resist with every fiber of my being, but eventually I must.
Fiona was gone so suddenly. No one had a chance to say goodbye. No prayer chain was started and no prayer requests went out on social media. We didn’t even have time to tell but a few people she was in the hospital, and we didn’t know she was even that sick. No family came to see her because she was contagious, and we were told she’d be going home the next day. The way in which she died has complicated the grieving process in many ways. There is a constant sense of unreality, bewilderment, and shock. I feel an intense need to understand what happened, and have become immersed in the medical aspects of what went wrong, which takes much time and energy. I feel a very strong sense of guilt and find myself ruminating on “if onlys” and “what ifs”. The need to blame someone or something for what happened is extremely intense. A feeling of helplessness and chronic apprehension of what might happen next is very draining.
One thing I know for certain; there will be no rushing through grief, no neat and clean finish, no “getting over it”. I can’t make things happen or solve this problem, as I am used to doing. I may have many years before I see Fiona again, yet I also have many years to try to adjust to her loss, as a person adjusts to a missing limb. Grieving requires patience, a virtue not common in today’s world, and one I am certainly being forced to learn. It’s a one step forward, two steps back journey down a crooked road with few guideposts. I love Eric Clapton’s beautiful song Tears In Heaven, which he wrote after his young son died in a tragic fall. I never fully understood these lines of the song until now, knowing how long the years stretch before me without Fiona in them:
Time can bring you down, time can bend your knees. Time can break your heart, have you begging please, begging please.
The mantra “one day at a time” of those in recovery from addiction has truly come to life for me. That is how I try to get through each day. That is all a broken heart can manage.
These verses I wrote in my journal several months ago, to soothe the heart broken by separation, despair, and fear of the long future without my dear Fiona.
I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:13-14
Hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not have yet, we wait for it patiently. Romans 8:24-25
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalms 73:26
How I long for the day I will see this beautiful face again, and be together for eternity.