Friends have remarked that they had no idea grief lasted so long for widows before watching me grjeve. Neither did I.
As much as I had feared losing Greg, I had not contemplated what it would be like to grieve. Nothing I observed from watching other widows prepared me for his death. Grief is something that can only be understood from the inside.
When grief came, it was physical and all consuming. I could barely lift my arms, eat food, think coherent thoughts or keep up with conversations. I was in shock - completely stunned. Life felt surreal, and so did Greg's death.
Those initial days, weeks and months of devastating loss are like nothing else. It is a wonder we can survive it. But we do. God gives us strength in our weakest moments, even if it is just the strength to continue to draw breath.
As time passes, grief changes. At first it is all-consuming. That time lasts far longer than anyone can imagine. There are times when you can't stop crying and other times when you are so numb that it feels like you may never cry again. There are gut-wrenching sobs, guttural screams, stony silence. There is confusion, anger, fury, despair, stoicism, fear... name an emotion and it is there.
The first year of grief felt like a constant attempt of my mind to reconcile the fact that he was gone. How could it be true? How can someone be so alive in one moment and gone in the next? Even though I had witnessed both his death and burial, I could not comprehend it. My mind knew the truth but my agnozined heart resisted it.
Grief was constant. A counselor gave me the analogy that grief is like a computer program running in the background. The window might not be open but it is still running. You might be thinking about or working on other things that are completely unrelated to your loss, but the grief "program" is still active.
That's exactly how it felt. Grief was a loud buzz in the background of my mind, using up so much of my ability to think, zapping my energy, and affecting each moment.
As I transitioned from year 1 to year 2, I had to grapple with the horrible realization that Greg was not coming back. There would be no returning to the life we had. That life had ended the day he took his last breath.
I had to grieve so much. Not just Greg but our life and dreams. Not just his death, but the pain and suffering he experienced in life.
Year 2 made me face reality and in that reality I had to reconsider every aspect of my life. Our life had been built based on our marriage- but our marriage was gone. It took two people to live the life we created but I was just one. Our rhythms, traditions, routines and celebrations were built on two parents and spouses doing it all together. But now I was a solo parent with a husband in the grave.
Tomorrow starts year 3. Time continues to March on and grief continues to change. It hasn't gone away and likely never will. It no longer feels like something that I deal with constantly but it is definitely something I deal with daily.
There is not a day that goes by that is not affected by Greg's absence. There is not a detail in life that I don't wish I could share with him.
I wonder what it will be like when I am ending year 3 and heading into year 4. Will I hit a fresh wave of grief? Will I feel more settled and grow more accustomed to living life without Greg? Will I have processed the hard things that I still can't let myself think about?
Only God knows and only time will tell.