“When the pain of what we are living becomes greater than our fear of changing, we let go. When our fear of drowning swamps our fear of holding onto nothing, we start to swim”. Louise Gallagher
As described in my last post, a grief is a loss of something you cannot get back. The end of a marriage is such a loss. I accepted that and accepted it would take some time to pass through grief and its stages. What I did not expect was to have to go through it twice.
As I mourned the loss of my life companion and marriage there were stages(1) – shock, pain, yearning, bargaining, depression (sadness), which I slid in and out of over time, until final acceptance, that what was lost was gone forever. This was followed by a contented period of living in the joys of today, a feeling of moving on and hope for the future.
Then THUMP! I was down on the floor again.
One day I stopped living in my la-la land of sunny moments, faced the reality of my situation, and did not like what I saw. I fell into another hole of sadness, dread, despair and fear for the future. I remained in this black state of stagnation for months.
When I hit this second grief period, others remarked I might be suffering depression. I feel it unfortunate the same terminology is used to describe both a symptom (or low mood ‘depression’), and an illness (or mental disorder ‘clinical depression’). Depression as a low mood of sadness is one of the grief stages. It is normal, a symptom, the bleeding from the wound of grief. Whilst it is important to recognise the bleeding may become so intense professional help is required (by medication, counselling or other); it is equally as important to recognise it stems from a loss and it will not end until the wound of grief is healed. My dilemma was I thought I had healed.
My first grief – the loss of ‘we’
I had processed my grief, passed through its stages, came to accept my loss (my companion), integrated that loss into my life, and got back to what I considered normal. I had survived. I did not understand why I felt low again.
My second grief – the loss of ‘me’
Then I had an earth-shattering realisation that, with everything else lost in my marriage, I had also lost myself. This came as a huge shock. There is nothing more tragic than feeling a loss of self, a loss of identity and a loss of a sense of purpose. My drive in life had been as a wife and mother. Recovering from my marriage’s end was not a simple matter of “getting on with it”. It was not a simple carrying on as before with one little (him gone) change. It was not one change. Everything had changed. My home-life had altered, my family unit had splintered, my self-esteem was in tatters. I had no stability and no feeling of comfort or security. There was no ‘normal’. It was gone.
I came to realise that after I had processed my first grief I had tried to get back my ‘normal’. That became living our life, my way and striving for the dreams we had had as a couple. However, as there was no longer us, no longer our life, it did not work. I was living in the pain of the past. Moreover, as I was no longer half of us, who was I? Where had I gone? Who had I become? I had lost me and I sank deeper and deeper into the pain and grief of losing me. I wallowed about in self-pity and deep pain for many months.
One day something stirred. Like a bolt of lightening, I had an epiphany. I looked up to the sky and saw light breaking through from behind storm clouds. It was then I knew. I wanted my life. I wanted me back. I wanted to make my choices. I could choose to transform me.
I resolved to do so, like the Phoenix.