After my husband Peter died over three years ago, living seemed insurmountable.  I could barely rise from my bed each day and function, with the heavy weight of the loss intensely crushing my spirit.  I wanted to be a child again and curl up in a ball, sucking my thumb for comfort, without any responsibilities and thoughts about my grief.  I wanted to act out like a toddler screaming my outrage in a tantrum, waiting for a comforting parent who would tell me that all was OK.  But I am not a toddler, I am an adult, and I had to be the one to take on the responsibilities, the bill-paying, the running of a house, and going back to work.  Thrusting me forward through my grief, while my inner child was screaming and my outer adult remained semi-operational, I learned that being forced forward to function, was part of the process.  By pulling myself through daily activities, I was able to find my way back to the living. 

Occasionally I did regress and my posse of friends and family came to take care of me and tend to my needs so that I could function normally.  They assured me it was perfectly fine to curl up in a ball and sob until my makeup made me look like Morticia Addams, with black lines smearing my face.  Those outbursts gradually abated and I began to venture forward and tackle the burden of grief which weighed profoundly on my soul. 

Do you remember in City Slickers, when Billy Crystal’s character, Mitch is alone with Curly, played by Jack Palance?  Curly is giving Mitch some advice about the meaning of life:

Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is?
[Curly holds up one finger] This.
Mitch: Your finger?
Curly: One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don’t mean s**t.
Mitch: But, what is the “one thing?” 

Curly: That’s what you have to find out.

For me that “one thing” is hope.  When you are in the throes of grief, you are looking for a lifeline.  You are looking for a rope to pull yourself up and out of the abyss of despair.  You are looking for a light at the end of the tunnel.  Yes, I know you have to process the grief, but you need all the help you can get to traverse the Herculean path. 

I got that hope from a widow, who three months after Peter died said to me: “I am eight months out and look, I am doing better!”  That simple gesture changed me.  The tunnel was not as dark, the rope was not as long, and the journey seemed to be something I could navigate.  Just telling me that things would get better was enough to keep me on the path toward restoration.  I knew that my life was forever changed, but this small kindness of hope was so beneficial to my process.

When I joined a support group of widows and widowers at Our House Grief Support Center, we gave each other the hope to go on.  Knowing that we were all there to support one other, engendered kindness and hope in our bi-monthly visits.  Many people who have experienced a loss obsessively start traveling, keeping frantically busy to avoid facing grief head on.  It will surely hit them some time, and not in a good way.  But I choose to plow through my journey of grief, and by making this decision, I choose hope.  I choose to move forward with my eyes wide open, though occasionally wet with tears.  I choose to grow and to hope and to embrace life again.  I choose to imagine that I am stronger than I ever believed possible, and that, in itself, is encouragement to the max.

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