physical aspects of grief


Meltdown is a rather apt term for what happens when all the problems of life coalesce and rise up like a tsunami, sweeping away the carefully crafted facade and barriers that allow the grieving to function in the world at large. There is no warning for a meltdown.

Bottomfeeding lows, as I call them, are felt days, and weeks even, off. The irritability and hypersensivity that evenutally give way to a distracted out of body feeling, the insomnia which is more annoying than panic-inducing, the tears that stop at the back of the throat..most of the time.

The meltdown stalks quietly on the heels of lows. It waits for that something extra. A trigger that is new, so it’s still sharp and cuts deeper than the dull blades you’ve become accustomed to.

I had a meltdown this last Friday night. I should have suspected it was coming. I had been feeling way too damn good for someone closing in on the first anniversary of her husband’s death.

Good being relative it should be understood.

I seriously doubt anyone but me would think that a week and a half of killer insomnia (not the usual barely five hours a night but the wicked head-kicking 3 or less stuff) and a near thought paralysis constitutes a good week. However, given the circumstances I was pretty happy that this was all that was wrong.

It started last Friday when I read an obituary in the paper for my friend Meg’s father-in-law. He had a stroke before Christmas and hadn’t really recovered. I knew the reason I was reading about it instead of hearing it from her was that she didn’t want to feel I needed to come to the visitation, and truthfully, I really didn’t need to, but I did need to.

Does that make sense?

It was as much to show support for people who are as near to family as you can get without making it legal and also to jump a first hurdle.

Firsts are those things that haven’t occurred since before your spouse died and vary according to the individual.

My first after Will died was Valentine’s Day. Not a terribly important holiday for us and so it passed with only mild trepidation and discomfort on my part, but it seems that the last first of the first year without him would be a visitation. It was hard but less so than if it had been someone I knew well and loved…like say my father who is quite ill with a progressively terminal illness.

It was one of the worse meltdowns I have had in a while. Since I have had two more. I am sleeping less, as impossible as that sounds.

I feel like I did the week he died. As though I might hit the floor at any moment. Worse though I am driving everyone crazy with my craziness. Almost as though I am daring them to turn their back on me.

The last thing I want. I lost my “friend” too. Pushed him too hard. But he is somewhere I can’t go right now even though I would like to. Even though I know it could never last. So, I think it is time to pull back. Retreat and hole up. Rest up.

I think there is more coming.


I am developing a phobia in regards to money. Finances. In the past I have been almost anal, okay really anal, about paying bills on time, balancing my checkbook, and keeping important tax relevant documents together.

Bills are still being paid. I balance my checkbook when I have to be paying bills. I have the feeling that some of the papers I need to give Fran, my poor tax preparer, are buried in the spare bedroom…somewhere…I think. Read Full Article


Today is the anniversary of Will’s death 11 months ago. The first year is almost over.

In most ways I am ready for it to be over too. I am tired of the restrictions that being less than a year out from his death have placed on me because in some ways I was farther ahead of those widow/ers who are blind-sided by their spouse’s death.

In other ways I was just as vulnerable and unprepared.

I was talking with a widower friend who is farther out than I am about my aversion to the newly widowed women in my daughter’s children’s grief group. The hollow eyes and blank yet tragically mournful faces made me want to run from them. I wondered aloud if I had looked like that.

“Of course you did, honey,” he told me. “We all do.”

I guess. I must have. I know people avoided me who didn’t actually run.

Truthfully I remember very little about the day to day of the first 4 months. Partly because I was buried by a brutal schedule that was killing me as much as it was providing me with a template for surviving. Mainly though, I was not paying attention to anything out of sight. If it was not in my line of vision, it didn’t exist.

I remember events from that time out of order too. I couldn’t tell you what happened first or next or last. It just happened. Things just happened and I rolled or didn’t or was so deep inside myself that I didn’t notice or didn’t care if I happened to. Five months brought the beginning of the descent to a bottom that I alternated between snuggling into like a favorite blanket and clawing at like a cat in a sack.

Between 8 and 9 months the discontent and searching began and really haven’t ended. Except….except that the feeling that I should be getting ready for something, someone, someplace?

I am shedding. Possessions. Ideas. Beliefs. People. In the emptiness…..because I needed more emptiness….comes….well….people, though most of them are not real but virtual and virtually necessary in ways I can’t explain.

Possessions are not being replaced at the rate of loss which is encouraging. New ideas and beliefs are being explored with no promises. When I think about it “no promises” is the current running theme of my life. Not sure how good or bad that is.

I haven’t cried today.

Don’t have that impending meltdown feeling that the widowed come to know so intimately.

I do have that fight or flight chest pounding, constricted throat, short of breath feeling that is reminiscent of a panic attack.

In some ways, I would rather cry. And I hate to cry.

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. A day of people.

I seek people out more these days but still wonder why I bothered when I am around them in large numbers. I still make them as uncomfortable as the newly widowed mothers make me.

Tomorrow night I will put out my daughter’s Santa presents….by myself. I anticipate tears. I think I will stop here. Christmas morning will take care of itself without any preconceiving on my part. Thirty days to go.