Dangerous Words: “I defeated grief”

I believe I have defeated grief. What does it mean to defeat grief? Ask one hundred people that question and I suspect you get one hundred very unique answers. I can describe what that means to me, but does it really matter what it means to me?

In its very basic definition it invokes the idea of duality. You either win or you lose, so if I have defeated grief, am I in effect saying that I won? I read an article recently wherein the author was taking exception to Sheryl Sandberg’s personal story of losing a spouse, as she shared in her book, Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy. Ms Sandberg is an American executive, currently COO at Facebook.

The author of the article took issue with Sandberg’s journey through grief, and was particularly bothered by the words used by Ms Sandberg in her book. Words Matter was the heading of a section in the article where she took issue how Sandberg described her journey with resilience, overcoming, recovering, and control. She suggested that if one followed Ms Sandberg’s advice you would view grief as a monster to be beaten. And that’s not how one should approach grief. 

I differ with the author in that I believe words DO NOT matter. At least, not in how we choose to define grief. My definition of pain in grieving is almost certainly going to differ from yours. I have only skimmed Option B and I must say I have little in common with Ms Sandberg’s path through grief other than to say that for me, grief was a monster to be avoided. I wanted to defeat grief. And I did.

In defeating grief, does that mean I have left Crystle in the past? Far from it. She is with me in my thoughts every day. I miss her fiercely and wear her wedding ring on a chain around my neck to remind me of her every day. At times I am overcome with sadness and I weep in her absence. I allow those moments to come and go. But I still feel I have defeated grief.

Words can be dangerous. Please allow me to carry the belief that I have defeated grief. 

The most important thing for us to do as we support each other in grief is to allow each of us to walk our own path. Whatever that looks like, we all have the right to grieve in our own way. The author of the article handled grief very differently than I would want to, at least in the words she used to define her grief. I support her in her journey, and who knows, if we take away the words, maybe we live our lives in much the same way.

For me, I defeated grief.

Moving On…UGH!

If you have spent any time with me, you may be aware that I despise—that seems so strong, but I really do strongly dislike the term: “moving on.”

If you have uttered these words to me, fear not. I hold no grudges or ill will, for you see, this is my issue, not yours. It is semantics, really. Splitting hairs. But those two words, for me, mean that I am leaving Crystle behind. And I am not ready to leave her behind. So, it becomes my interpretation of these two nebulous words that is the heart of the problem.

I have chosen to face the things Crystle and I did together as part of my ongoing healing process. When she first passed, I thought I could never watch another baseball game. Never attend another performance at Shaw theatres. Never return to Las Vegas where the two of us spent more vacation time than any other place on Earth. One by one, I have faced each. First, was baseball. Watching her beloved Jays. It hurt when they traded her favourite player this year, Kevin Pillar. She was a fan of Pillar long before he was known as Superman.

Then came theatre. Most of the time I attend alone, much to the chagrin of family and friends. The first time I attended without Crystle was last season. The theatre was packed, yet the seat beside me—well, it appeared empty to the naked eye, but I know she was there with me.

A few weeks ago I went back to Las Vegas for the first time without Crystle. On Saturday afternoon, I spent my time alone, intentionally. I walked the strip. memory after memory came to me at almost every corner. I felt joy and gratitude, not sadness.

I feel I am doing very well in my life after Crystle. I have structure in my volunteering at Hospice Niagara. I am keeping social. I see family and friends regularly.

But then it strikes, out of the blue. I attended another play last Sunday night, my fifth performance this season. Like all the others, I attended alone. But on Sunday night as I was walking back to my car, the urge came over me to reach out and hold her hand; to feel her snuggle into me as we scurried through he dark streets to our car. This hadn’t happened at the four previous plays I had attended. I could feel a lump in my throat. My gait quickened.

“Where did this come from,” I wondered to myself. Once in my car I just sat there for a few moments. I realized that this was okay. It didn’t mean I was holding on to any latent grief. This was normal for a man who was not ready to ‘move on.’ There will always be those moments when the desire to be with our departed loved one will overtake us. For me, I chose not to run from it, but to embrace it.

A smile came to my face as I drove away. I am glad my love for Crystle is as strong today as it has ever been.