When you find out death is imminent, your brain shuts down and a fog like cloud covers you. Maybe the cloud is there to somehow help protect you. Maybe your brain quits so you won’t have to remember every painful detail. You’ll still remember enough to keep you up at night for months or even years and for your gears to spin and spin until you think your head will simply explode because no brain can ever process the extreme, overwhelming thoughts and feelings that now fill it and will continue to fill it with no end in sight.
You feel sick all over, like a horrible flu. You’re so weak that a simple gust of wind could turn you into dust. Your stomach is terribly ill. Your chest is so tight, and it burns like the fires of hell have lit within it. YOU ARE SO HEAVY. The weight on your chest and brain feels like two elephants standing on you. At least if they were stomping, you’d get a second of relief. Every breath is more painful than the next. If you could just stop breathing, maybe you’d find peace. The peace doesn’t come.
Your hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes start falling out. You haven’t enough life in you to hold onto them. Your toenails may fall off too. Sores and scabs may start covering your skin. Are you scratching and you don’t even know it? Are you dying too?
The fog becomes deeper and deeper. Then, it is final. Your Love is dead.
How can she be dead? You don’t want to face that this is real.
You do what is necessary for the arrangements. You really haven’t a clue what is going on around you. The finality hasn’t kicked in. You are in shock. You are in disbelief. You are scared out of your mind. So your mind just goes away. You remember only the most important things… survival things.
You can’t remember to shower, let alone the name of your neighbor or friend.
As the days go by, you start to feel different. Your brain is still consumed with overwhelming thoughts. You analyze your entire life. What led you to this point? You search for reasons for the pain. What did you do wrong? You spend hours and hours researching. You need to know what killed your Love. You need to know what you could have done differently. Even if there is nothing you could have done, you find a way to blame yourself… to hate yourself. BECAUSE YOU ARE HERE, AND SHE IS NOT. You don’t deserve happiness. Your life will be filled with pain because you could not save her, and you come to believe you should suffer for your failure. You are irrational. Your emotions won’t allow you to be logical.
It is guilt. It is shame. It is blame. It is anger. It is confusing. It is frightening.
IT IS REAL NOW.
You search for answers in your faith. You seek counseling.
Slowly, the elephant steps off your chest. Still returning at times you least expect it, but you are not so weighted down anymore.
You still have to remind yourself to shower and to breathe. Your brain starts to awaken after a while. You become frustrated with all you can’t remember while under the deepest fog of pain and suffering.
The nights are still hard. Your brain still goes into over-drive when you’re alone with your thoughts. You dump everything in your mind on the few people you feel safe enough to open up to. These precious few allow you to vomit your emotions because they know you need it. These are the ones you’ll never forget. You will always want them in your life because they tried to understand. Understanding is so much of what you seek. You are this way because you know death.
As you dig deeper into your faith, you come to know God in a different way. You learn that the greatest day in your life is the day of your death, the day you go HOME to heaven. You no longer fear death. It is the only way to be reunited with your love. Death does not “part” you. It seals you together for eternity.
You’re confused how to live until that day. You search for a purpose, a reason to keep moving through the days until your own glorious homecoming. The immense cloud of sadness still lingers, but sometimes the sun shines through. You work toward letting the sun in more and allowing the cloud to become smaller.
The tears still pour at times, but maybe not every day. You are scared that your entire life will be sad, confusing, lonely. You’re scared you’ll feel like THIS forever. You still want to live a long life because you love your family and want to show your LOVE the world, as she is always with you.
Maybe your heart will always be heavy because you carry your LOVE in it.
Maybe the cloud will never fully go away.
But the day your heart stops beating, you will hold her in your arms once more.
In the meantime, you’ll treasure the days when you can feel the warmth of the sun.
You hold on to the HOPE that death will continue to feel different (maybe even a little easier to bear) with time.
That’s how I feel nearly 11 months after her death. I hope this has been the worst year of my life and that next year will be better. I hope death feels differently next year. I hold on to hope.