Wednesday, February 6, 2013

It's That Time of Year

Four years ago this month my mother went into the hospital for what was supposed to be a routine appendectomy.  She came out with a diagnosis of cancer.  Six weeks after her diagnosis, following a long battle with alcoholism, my husband took his own life.  To say this is not my favorite time of year is putting it mildly.  I prepare myself as much as possible for these upcoming anniversaires each year.  I try to stay busy and focused on other things.  But the thoughts are always there lingering in the back of my mind, and I know they will eventually come forward.  Sometimes I can tell when they are about to surface, so I do what I can to brace myself.  But at other times they come crashing in without warning and knock me for a loop.  That's exactly what happened this past weekend.  Things were going along very smoothly, and I thought this year was going to be different, maybe even easier.  I couldn't have been more wrong.  Without warning, all of the memories and feelings associated with this time of year hit and hit hard.  I have no idea what caused them.  Was it a song on the radio or a picture I came across?  Was it a sound or a smell?  Was it a trip to the gym or to a particular restaurant?  Was it something someone said?  I have no idea.  I just know it happened, and this time I wasn't prepared. 

Although I wasn't prepared for this to hit when it did, I at least recognized it for what it was - a "grief spasm" - which I have written about before.  According to the book Experiencing Grief by H. Norman Wright a grief spasm is "a normal, sudden, unexpected, upsurge of the emotion grief," and the best way to handle this out-of-control feeling is to "acknowledge it and wait for it to end."  I'm not sure how well I handled it this time, but at least I didn't go completely off the deep end.  I'm sure I said some things I shouldn't have said, did some things I shouldn't have done, went out when I should have stayed home, stayed home when I should have gone out, spent too much time alone, or spent too little time alone ... who knows ... there is no right way to handle it.  All I know is that as quickly and unexpectedly as it hit, it ended in much the same way.  For almost three days I felt as if I had gone back in time to when this all started.  I questioned everything and everybody in my life.  At one point I wanted nothing more than to pack up and run away so the memories couldn't find me.  I even went so far as to tell my son that I wanted to move someplace new where I could start my life over.  I didn't do anything drastic though, and on the third night it was as if someone flipped a switch, and I was okay again.

I doubt very seriously this was the only one of these episodes I'll have this time around.  After all, I still have the anniversary of the events in March to go through.  I can hope though that maybe it just came early this year and won't come again.  If it doesn't I'll be extremely grateful.  But if it does I know I'll get through it just as I have every time before.  And in the meantime, I'll try not to drive others crazy, scare anyone with my wild ideas, or run off to another country to live!

"You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself 'I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.' You must do the thing you think you cannot do." ~Eleanor Roosevelt

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