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!