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Being a Widow

My experience of dealing with grief as a widow


About Jane's brain tumour journey: Astrocytoma.co.uk

The ball of grief

30 January 2012

Today is 7 months since Jane died. I have been extremely busy with work and my university applications and I have hardly had time to cry and grieve for the past 4 weeks.

I miss it.

Grieving, missing Jane, it is all I have left of her. I still love her but she is not there to love. So the only emotion I have left in relation to Jane is grief. Note how I am not saying I only have bad memories that make me cry. I have plenty of happy memories. But these do not evoke actual actute, physical feelings. Like when you look at someone and your heart skips a beat. Or when you wake up in someone's arms and you just feel utterly at peace and it brings you to tears. I don't have those feelings when I think of the past. I have happy memories and I can remember how I felt back then and those thoughts can make me smile. But that is like hearing the echo of a sound: you recognise it, you appreciate what the original sound was like but it is just not the same; it is a less powerful copy of the original.

And so the only physical, acute emotion Jane still evokes is grief. But at least it is an emotion. So I don't want to let that go.

This does not mean I want to spend every day, all day crying, thinking and dreaming about Jane. I think of Jane all the time, even when I don't know I'm doing it. Last week, on my way to my first Biology exam, I opened my mouth to sing along to a song in the car and without any warning at all, what came out was a cry and tears. No warning; I wasn't feeling sad or thinking about Jane specifically. Just like that I burst in to tears, my mind flooded wiwth memories of Jane and the overwhelming emptiness her death has left me with. Then I walked in to the exam room and forgot all about it for a couple of hours.

So what place does grief take in my life. I will use an analogy that isn't mine but is the most perfect illustration of how grief works.

Imgine a glass jar and 3 balls: a large one, a medium one and a small one. The ball is my grief and the glass jar is my world. The way people, including me, expect grief to go is that initially, like the large ball in the jar,mit takes over my entire world. It leaves no space to breathe, do or think of anything else. Then after a while, maybe after the first year, the grief shrinks. The ball is now a medium size and fits in the jar with some space around it. My grief is less, I have space to do other things in my world. After a while more, maybe after 2-3 years, the ball is now a small size. It fits in the jar that is my world easily. I could even ignore that it is there some times if I want to.

Does that sound familiar? Does that sound like your idea of grief? It certainly was my idea of grief before I lost Jane. Well, it is bullshit.

The ball of grief does not shrink. I don't want it to. It is the only thing I have left of Jane. What shrinks when you lose someone is your world.

So imagine this: at first, the ball of grief only just fits in the glass jar that is my world. There is no space to breathe or think of anything else. After a while, I am ready to expand my world a little. It is not the ball that shrinks, but the glass jar that goes up in size. As I venture out in to the world again, as I meet new people, do more things, the jar expands. There is now more space around my grief. It is still the same size but my world is bigger. As I continue to grow my world, the size of my loss, the grief, stays the same. But it DOES get easier to move around it.

Eventually, my world has expanded enough for my grief to not be in the way of everything I do all the time. It is not the grief that has shrunk, but my world that has grown. And that is the only way I can work around it, give it the place it deserves and still have a life beyond grief.

The original explanation of this is by Barbara Monroe.

So I will keep doing what I am doing. Growing my world. New job. New career. New friends. New place to live. Whilst inside me, the grief stays. And finds its own place in my world. But it will never get smaller.


Julie said...

In your experience, is there a process of 'distilation' that occurs? By that, I THINK I mean that the size of the grief constricts (lessens), but becomes more pure, more focussed.

I like Monroe's concept. It helps me to understand something I have no direct experience of.

Dutchcloggie said...

I don't really know. A few days after writing this I am not even sure this is how I feel. It appears to change on a daily basis. I mean, maybe my grief does get smaller. Maybe instead of Grief, I should have said Loss.

Anonymous said...

I wish grief was like a ball, one that I could kick, very hard and as far away as possible. But I don't see grief as a ball, I feel it like a giant bean bag. Not the one you can comfortably sit in but more one that is suddenly all around you. It appears out of the blue and puts you down. I have only lived with it for a year but I hate it, not for being there, but reminding me of my terrible loss at different times of the day. I can see it has a function in the process of mourning, but does it have to be that intense? My bag of beans does not fit in that jar, not even your big one.

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