Living Around Grief

Michael died almost three years ago, but I still think about him every day. He invades my thoughts when I least expect him to—like when I’m studying my face in the bathroom mirror or putting a Russet in the oven.

 I miss the things we used to do together. Not so much the big ticket items like our trips to Europe, but little things like catching one of our favorite episodes of I Love Lucy for the hundredth time.

Sometimes grieving him is about the things I can’t do. I still can’t watch Rupaul’s Drag Race because we viewed it with weekly, religious fervor whenever it was in season. I worry that when I finally have our things moved from Mexico, I won’t be able to open the boxes. I’m afraid the objects inside will recreate our life together too closely, and I won’t be able to stop crying. 

Several years ago, over lunch, Mike’s sister Pam gave me a couple of manila envelopes of his letters, a childhood picture or two, and a few neatly-typed college term papers. I haven’t been able to open them even though I moved them from Portland to Omaha and ran across them again in my recent unpacking. Some things are just too painful, I guess.

These spikes of sadness surprise me because I’m happy. I’ve made a new life for myself, finding unexpected joy and even love. So, why am I still depressed over losing the man and the life I made with him?  

Like everybody else, I grew up in a society of bootstrapping souls who think that mourning should end about a year in. Then those of us who are grieving should just get on with it so we don’t make the people around us uncomfortable any longer than we have to. I think most folks who are mourning discard their grief too soon because they figure it’s the price they have to pay to move on. 

But grief isn’t finite. It’s a journey that never ends. Glimpses of those we’ve lost don’t suddenly disappear with a new existence but live within it. They and grief, never leave but are something we live around while they color our lives in their own bittersweet but vital way. 

18 thoughts on “Living Around Grief”

  1. I totally get it Charles. There are things I find difficult to look at still, and I have 3 voice recordings of my husband on my phone. I cannot listen to them, yet won’t erase them. Grief will last as long as we love. And like you, I cannot watch things on TV we enjoyed together. Just some things that have made their mark. ❤

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    1. I wish I had recordings of Michael’s voice. I do have video taken by some of our best friends on our travels. I watched them when I was putting together the video tribute for his celebration of life, but I haven’t been able to watch them since. “Grief will last as long as we love” describes it perfectly.

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  2. 100%. When my Dad passed many years ago, someone shared this wisdom with me: “You never ‘get over’ grief; you simply integrate into who you are.” I’m trying to remember this as I reflect on the lives of five friends that passed away – in the span of three months – in 2021. Life feels so incomplete without them here.

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    1. I can’t imagine the pain of losing so many people I care about in so short a time. Integrating those we’ve loved and lost into who we are is a beautiful and wise way of looking at grief. I’m sending positive and comforting thoughts in your direction, Karla.

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  3. You have fully loved and lived and grieved . It is without limit. I had a co worker who moved on quickly. He described his grieving as a very scheduled process. He said, “I decided to pre-grieve So when it actually happened I could move on an not lose time off work.” I had to respect his way of grieving. Personally, my pattern includes pre, intra, post and more post. Thanks for Sharing

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    1. Thanks, Sandra. I’m glad I’ve taken the risk of loving and living despite the possibility of loss. I wish I could’ve been as organized in my grief as your co-worker was. Like you, my process is a lot messier.

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  4. I agree and thank you for sharing. I listened to a podcast about grief and he said something like the amount of grief we feel is a reflection of how much love we felt 💖 Since my breakup even though I haven’t found someone new yet (I’m working on it!) I feel pretty ok most days. But I get a stab of pain at any mention of or visuals of baseball. Bc he loved baseball and taught me so much about it. He made me love it too, and we loved watching it together, talking about it, going to live games, and even playing it. I totally understand and think grief may stay with us forever in some ways and that’s ok too. So glad you’ve found happiness despite all the sadness 💖

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    1. Thanks, Libby. It’s odd. For me, some things we enjoyed doing together are just fine. Doing them can even be comforting and make me feel closer to Michael. Other activities are just the opposite. Hopefully, you’ll be able to enjoy the things you did with him as time passes.

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  5. Whether it’s a partner or a parent, a friend, co-worker, etc, etc, it is still a tangible loss – a feeling of being cheated out of the possibilities? Rewiring hopes and plans for the future? To acknowledge is the first step?

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