Grief isn’t anything like I imagined. I imagined it would be more straight-forward, like it is in movies – your husband dies and you cry constantly and fall to pieces and hide under your covers with the shades pulled tightly closed. But it’s not like that at all – at least not for me. I don’t have the luxury of doing any of those things, mostly because I have kids, but also I think because movies aren’t real life.
The first few weeks were the strangest. I felt adrift. I think I must have been in shock because there was just a sort of numbness, like I’d been dipped in Novocain. I knew Casey was gone and I knew I was sad, but I didn’t cry much and I continued doing all of the things I had to do. I was a machine. And the part that bothered me most was that I wasn’t reacting the way I was supposed to. People would cry and I would wonder why I couldn’t, hoping they didn’t think I was cold. I could feel them watching me warily as they waited for the inevitable break and I hated them for it. I hated myself more though.
And somewhere around week five or six, something switched. It felt like coming out of a fog and into a nightmare. But I couldn’t wake up. Everything was hard – taking care of the kids, going into my bedroom, cleaning the house, socializing. And I was overwhelmed by the number of people who wanted to help me. I couldn’t keep up. If I closed my eyes, I’d imagine I was dragging myself across the ground, nails digging in, trying to get to something (or someone, I suppose) and I just…couldn’t. And the harder I tried, the more I’d hurt. And the more people offered to help, the more isolated and anxious I would feel. And how could I possibly explain to people that while I was grateful for their offers of help, that I needed them, I couldn’t accept it because everything made me feel terrible, including that. I realize how little sense that makes, but what part of any of this makes sense?
Then a few weeks ago, I felt something settle a bit, like maybe the worst of it was over. I was wrong. If I didn’t cry enough in the beginning, I’m making up for it now. I can’t stop. Now I cry rather liberally. I also yell. And scream when I can’t do normal things like open a drawer. Sometimes I hit walls. This month has been hell because on top of grief now there’s COVID-19 and I can’t stop reading articles and watching videos about it. On the worst of my trips into the rabbit hole, I’ve convinced myself that either a) I’m going to get sick and die and leave my children without either parent, or b) the economy will collapse, there will be another Great Depression, and we’ll all be homeless and without air conditioning (there will also probably be another Dust Bowl situation, but I’m not sure how or where that factors in). And yes, once I realized I was spiraling into unhealthy places on top of my grief, I got myself some help, so we’ll see how that goes.
My birthday was last week. Casey’s is April 4th. Our wedding anniversary is April 12th. I knew this time would be hard – I anticipated that. What I didn’t realize was how hard it would be. I didn’t know how much I’d struggle. I didn’t know how lonely I’d feel. I didn’t know that I’d think about him constantly, but that at least once a day I’d remember in a very concrete way that he’s gone and it would feel like someone punched me in the stomach. I didn’t know that Charley would ask for him all the time and that I’d have to explain why he couldn’t come hold her hand. I didn’t know that I’d feel so angry with everyone. I didn’t know I’d get jealous of my friends who have healthy husbands. I didn’t know that depression doesn’t mean you can’t get out of bed. I didn’t know that I’d wish I were invisible so people couldn’t ask me how I was doing or ask how we were holding up. I didn’t know I’d resent them if they didn’t. I didn’t know I could feel so many conflicting feelings. I didn’t know anything about grief at all. And I wish I didn’t have to. And I wish my girls didn’t have to. And the only reason I wanted to write this at all was to offer insight or support for people struggling like I am.
I’m not always unhappy. I laugh and dance and play and run and enjoy people and things and life, but there’s always this undercurrent of sadness and guilt. And please spare me the “Casey would want you to be happy” platitudes because it doesn’t change how I feel. I am devastated and joyful, lonely and fulfilled, vulnerable and strong, broken and resilient, and frustratingly confused.
I don’t have a clever sign-off line. I wish I did. I wish I felt more like me. But I lost a piece of myself three months ago and I’m still piecing together who I am without Casey.