Monday, November 12, 2007

A Bad Trip

I've often wondered how we as widows/ers can explain what we are experiencing to outsiders. You know, those people we affectionately refer to as, "Don't Get Its" or DGIs for short — the ones who ask you, "well, it has been a week, haven't you moved on yet?" :-P

Now, my personality is such that, generally, people don't presume to tell me how I ought to run my life, so I have pretty much avoided dumb comments like these. But I know of many widows/ers who have been on the receiving end of such absurdities. I don't believe the "helpers" say these things to be mean. I have a rule: never assume malice when simple incompetence will suffice. They simply don't know what they don't know. And we should be happy for them in their ignorant bliss. Well, most days anyway... ;-)

The analogy of a bad drug trip relates our experience to them in a way that they might understand (not that I know anything about bad drug trips ;-) After Deb died, and for a long time afterwards, food didn't taste right, colors seemed off, and even the experience of time seemed distorted, almost like everything was delayed by a quarter second or so. For me, the bad trip feeling lasted for almost a year. Emotionally, I was all over the place. I could be almost euphoric one moment and plunged in the depths of despair the next. There's a reason they call it "the roller coaster..."

The drug analogy is helpful for us as well so that we can understand what is happening within our bodies. There's a section in a great book called I'm Grieving as Fast as I Can, which explains that, when we were married, we had become emotionally, physically, and chemically dependent on our mate. Our mind was flooded with endorphins (an opiate, similar to morphine or heroin) just by being around him or her. When our spouse died, we literally went through cold-turkey withdrawal symptoms. I can remember a month or so after the funeral feeling that my skin was literally crawling, like it was separating from my body. Sleep was impossible. "Drying out" was hard work, and it left me feeling exhausted. Thank goodness it finally ended, although it took a little over a year for these symptoms to ease.

I don't mean to scare those of you for whom it has only been a few days or weeks since your love died. However, I do think it is important to know that it will likely get a lot worse before it gets better. I have learned that our bodies know how to grieve, and we will grieve, like it or not. There is good news and bad news here: the good news is that our bodies know how much grief we can tolerate at one time; the bad news is, that tolerance limit is waaaaay deep in the red line and far, far beyond our comfort zone. Sitting in the front pew with my son at the funeral, I had no idea just how much I would be stretched and tried in the months to follow.

There is good news in the bad news: now that I have passed through the acute grieving stage, my tolerance for emotional stress has been reset to a level incomprehensible to most people. Stuff that drives other people batty is now like water off a duck's back for me.

If you're going through the traumatic part of grieving right now, hang in there! There is light at the end of the tunnel, and it isn't the 4 p.m. freight ;-)

1 comment:

obakesan said...

a nice post. As one trained as a biochemist I can only but agree.

There is however also the spiritual side, and we are not wholly just chemical reactions (although ask me on another day, see if I agree).

Part of my spirit was bonded with Anita, and that is something I can't ignore.