Updated: Sep 9, 2018
Have you ever had a nightmare where you are there but everything is foggy? In your nightmare you know you are part of what is happening but when you talk your voice doesn't sound like your own. You know you are functioning but you are so tired and your movements are sluggish. You look in the mirror and see someone who looks like you but it can't be you. The person looking back at you has no light in their eyes, they are pale and their face is riddled with pain and sadness. it is like time stood still and you relive your nightmare day after day. It is on a continuous loop; some things may change but it is still the same nightmare.
That was me in the days following my husband’s death. I know I was functioning as I had to, I needed to get things done. If I stayed busy I could step outside the nightmare for short bursts. It is when it was quite and I was all alone that I was pulled back into the nightmare. I was so afraid to close my eyes and when I did I cried in my sleep. I know that part was real because I would wake up and my pillow and pajamas would be soaked from my tears.
I knew I had to pull it together so I prayed for strength to get through the days ahead. I took the family shopping for funeral clothes, albeit I went from totally depressed to full blown maniac while shopping for clothes.
I made funeral arrangements, picked out flowers, gravesites and headstones. I know I ate because my children and family made sure I did.
I stood in the funeral home with my children by my side, I tried to stand tall and to hold it together and for the most part I did. I heard the words of condolences from those who knew and loved Jack, from those who barely knew him or didn't know him at all but came to support all of us. My friends and co-workers, my children's friends and peers. Family and friends of family. And over and over again I heard those words "I am sorry for your loss". I didn't fully grasp the meaning of the word loss at that time but as time went by I understood that for such a small word it had a huge impact.
I truly appreciated the individuals who spoke those 5 little words, gave me a hug or shook my hand and moved on. I didn't have the strength to deal with conversation or to help them with their grief. I kept praying God give me strength to make it through and he did. A few times I felt my son's hand on my elbow or on my back as I swayed. Jack did the same thing for me when we buried my mother and brother. It felt as if Jack was beside me and I drew on the support that was being provided.
The next day as one by one people said their final goodbye I held it together. However, when the last person left the funeral home and I was alone with "my love" I lost it. I cried for him, for me, for my children and for our families. I stood there just looking at him and said goodbye. In the distance I heard, should I go get her? Franny the funeral director who I have known for many years, said no, she can do this. And he was right. I pulled my self together, gave him one last kiss and walked to the door.
I walked into the church trying to hold my head up but looking straight ahead, I knew I would lose it again if I saw the grief on everyone's face. I made it through the services fairly well until my daughter delivered the eulogy. Then it was off to the gravesite.
I think by the time we got to the graveside I was back in a fog. I was there but not really. I kept my focus on my darling seven-year-old grandson Dimitri who was holding the priest’s bible open in his two little hands. The look of concentration and determination on his face helped to pull me through. After the service, I again was the last one to leave. I stood there and said my final goodbye to the man who was my life for 34 years.
As I walked away I could have sworn I heard him say "you will always be my love". My heard filled, I squared my shoulders, lifted my head and knew I would be okay. HIs love, his belief in me and the memories of our life together would give me the strength I needed to go on.