“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.” – C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed
I miss Tim every day, but I am rarely lonely. To me, loneliness is a toxic state that leads to bad choices. People compromise when they’re lonely – they panic. It’s too easy to reach out to those you know are bad for you, and there’s this quiet fear in the background of loneliness. A little voice that says, this is how you’re going to be forever and although I do hear that voice I try to use it as a brick to build a fortress of independence versus a cavern of loneliness. I’m not always as successful as I’d like to be, but I’m rarely lonely.
There are exceptions. Thursday evening last week I had a nagging sore throat, and by Friday afternoon I felt the heavy cloud of a head cold and left the office early to go home and retreat to my couch. Prepping for a weekend of self care and rest, I settled into a routine of Mucinex, water, green tea, naps and The Great British Bakeoff.
Between trying to get comfortable, constantly blowing my nose and ten hours of Mary Berry saying Scrummy!, my mind sank into the dark place. Something about being sick brings out the loneliness in me. At first I thought it was the absence of someone around to take care of me. Swallowing razor blades and not being able to breathe out of your nose has a tendency to morph into I’m going to die alone and no one will take care of me.
As I stumbled out of bed after a night of feeling sorry for myself, I realized my sick-induced loneliness had nothing to do with being alone. Slowly walking towards my kitchen for water, all I wanted was to hug someone. Even though I’ve never been a super touchy feely person (going so far as to being referred to as an ‘ice queen’… which I dispute… but I digress), when I was married whenever I was sick I would sidle over to Tim for a hug.
“What? You want physical affection? What’s wrong with you?” he’d ask.
“I’m sick,” I mouthed out, nose stuffy.
“Aw, poor little sicky,” he’d respond and hold me as long as I wanted.
That interaction is what I craved all weekend, and the one thing I couldn’t have. The lack of it made me feel lonely.
By Sunday I
was stir crazy had run out of episodes of The Great British Bakeoff, so I ventured to the horse show to watch for a bit. Even though there would be no Tim hugs there, I knew a different kind of family awaited me. My old trainer would be there to give me a hug and catch me up on all the things in her extremely patient, never riled I have at least fifteen kids showing today but let’s chat for a minute anyway voice. My barn friends would be there, and we could complain about the open ring, look for the lamest horse in the hack and act like judges as we watched medal rounds. I’d see competitors I knew and clap for them honestly. I’d take pictures. It would all be glorious predictable and among many things – not lonely.
Five hours at the horse show picked my mood up out of the sludge, and the fresh air opened up my sinuses enough to come home and read a book instead of collapsing back into reality television. I opened up A Grief Observed, which is something I’ve been meaning to read for over a year now. It’s a short book, made from C.S. Lewis’ journals he wrote after losing his wife to cancer. Usually when I read books on death and grief, I sit there sobbing as I turn the pages… but last night I read in earnest and kept my pen busy as I underlined sentences and highlighted passages. I read that book not like a sad tale of grief, but a study of healing.
My favorite passage, which I’ll end this post with, is one where Lewis compares the grief of losing someone to an amputation. The thought being, that people assume you’ll just eventually “get over it.” I’ve written before that losing Tim is something I’ll never get over, but rather live with… however I loved Lewis’ metaphor here. Essentially, an amputee will heal from losing a limb… but that limb will never grow back. An amputee might have phantom pains, miss their limb, run around on crutches or get a false leg to appear as normal as possible. All sorts of states and emotions, but they will never be a “biped” again.
I won’t either. I’ll never be completely whole, but I will function and move forward with a bit of a limp. I’ll heal from a cold, and remember what it was like to be hugged when I was a poor little sicky.