Today marks three years.
Every year just slices through you differently. The first year I was in shock. Nights crying in the cemetary.
Numb feeling on the one year anniversary. But also trying to just be there for the kids, anticipating their needs and planning for how they might be feeling. My thoughts were on them so much that first year. And every year after.
Year two brought so. much. pain. It was terrible. It hurt. The help we had was gone and the reality had sunk in. the kids were harder to read, holding their emotions in more. It was difficult. And on the day of the two year mark I found myself so angry. It was a surprising feeling for me to be that mad. Mad at him for leaving us, mad at him for not caring about us enough to care for himself. Mad for not thinking of our family. Pretty much mad at anything and everything. Which was uncharacteristic for me.
What does grief look like at three years?
Today I woke up teary and sick. Colitis in full 'hello I'm your colon... welcome to a sick day' mode. It feels like a match is being taken to my stomach--a distinct sign that I'm not sick, it's just colitis. My stomach, head and body hurt. Concentrating on anything today has taken every ounce of energy.
I woke up in full 'worry mode.' Worried about the phone calls or texts I might get from the kids today.
I worried that I might have to at any point drop everything and leave work. I was in full flight or fight everytime the phone went off. I worried I might have to drive several hours after work to the college. Or that I'd get a phone call from a friend or roommate about one of the kids. I full on woke up feeling s-t-r-e-s-s-e-d.
I tried eating a piece of bread for breakfast. It tasted like cardboard. I threw up later.
Didn't eat any lunch.
Had a dry mouth all day even though I guzzled water.
Had four crying breakdowns at work.
Got a visit from my son having a breakdown in my office.
Got triggered by a way someone was talking in a meeting at work and broke down in my office after. Well, I held it together until the meeting ended but then lost it as I was leaving.
Wondered if I went into the wrong career field at least twice today when I broke down and felt I couldn't help anyone and was seriously the worst counselor ever. Seriously though WHY on the days you are struggling with grief how does EVERYONE struggling with grief call or need you?
Lost my keys, found random pens and other crap in my pockets.
Couldn't drive to save my life---That's not such a new one but it was worse than usual. Decided to hold that good cry in until after work on my way to pick up my daughter and do not remember driving to her school. At all. I JUMPED when she got into the car!
Couldn't get onto a meeting after work to save my life. And I've used this app a million times for meetings!
I feel a lot more embarrassed to tell people this year that it's year three and I'm still a train wreck. I told maybe a couple of people that this was the day my ex passed away. It's like I should be able to get through the day, right? It's been three years, right? I have so much I SHOULD be excited and grateful for. A great husband, home, family and all I can do is just breakdown into fits of uncontrollable tears. I got mad at myself so many times today! For crying, for not remembering something, for struggling through a meeting even for not being able to get ONTO a meeting! I must have said "get your crap together" to myself at least 100 times today. I feel like I can for the most part move on and move forward but THERE ARE THESE DAYS that just slam me back so far and make me feel like I haven't moved forward at all. It's so difficult. I don't feel the typical widow grief...it's like this multi layered complicated grief and WORRY--mostly for the kids and how they are doing, what they need and all the things they have been through. You also mourn the person you once loved while simutaneously mourning the coparents you were and the father to your children.
One thing I've told myself over and over today is that it's okay! There is no time limit on grief. And because this was such a difficult and unique situation with many complicated layers, it's going to take time. I have to remember that taking that my own personal time to feel, heal and deal has taken a back seat to a pandemic and other major life events. I am going to need a little bit longer. And I have to accept that the pain and grief won't ever go away but I do have to forgive myself for these days.
As far as the colitis goes, I just rode the ride. I ate a small dinner and have to be okay with the reality it will be a couple of days before I'm able to eat again. It's also exhausting.
There are several things that have been frustrating to me this year. Sometimes as a counselor especially you feel like a hypocrite. Aren't I SUPPOSED to help people? Help people NOT deal with anxiety or depression? Then WHY do I STILL deal with these things? Why won't they go away?
I have to look back and see how much it's improved but days like today I just can't.
- PTSD: This. is. the. worst. 2am in the morning full on sweats. The images you can spend all during the day trying to erase from your mind that come back to haunt you at night when you have no control. The moment when you saw him look at you like you were totally dumb. When he came after me. The rage in his eyes. The stare downs in court. The anger. Telling me I was crazy when my gut was SCREAMING at me something was very very wrong. Trying to convince myself that I wasn't crazy. Revving his car engine behind me to intimidate me. The texts that caused panic. Worrying about what would happen if I stayed. Or what would happen if I left. I can do all the techniques in the world I've learned from my counseling classes but when one of these episodes hits, there is NOTHING you can do and you have no control of what you wake up to.
- Worry: I worry all the time. Most of mine is devoted to the kids and our blended family. And my husband's and my relationship. My work jobs. Basically just worrying about worrying.
- Feelings of Guilt: This year I've found myself feeling guilty. When I feel happy, it seems that something takes away that moment of happiness. Like I shouldn't feel happy. I should be worried about the kids. Or I just start to feel myself go numb to all feelings and emotions when I find myself happy.
- Exhaustion: This year has been exhausting. The fumes I've been running on the past few years are slowly running out. I never feel like I'm doing good enough, there for the kids enough or helping the kids enough. I am worn out so many more days than I'm not. I work so much yet I feel like I work so little when I look at the still massive and endless to do list I have left at the end of the day. My husband helps when he's here and as much as he can, but still so much falls on you as the sole legal parent. It just feels like the weight of the world falls on you. I just feel so weighed down all the time. I'm a massive perfectionist with sublists for my lists so I don't forget anything. I've become incredible at remembering the details so I don't forget the details. It's so tiring though.
Things overall ARE getting better slowly. But I have also come to the realization that I will never be fully healed. I have to learn to feel in those moments and ride the waves that come. Please know my heart goes out to each of you that are dealing with difficult things like this. Please feel free to reach out and share your story and your struggles. I would love to hear from you.