Time Not Healing

Dear Michele,
My late husband and I met late in life – in our 40s, both divorced with 2 adult children each. We were fast friends, and it gradually developed into a fully spiritual connection, with all the parts that one wishes for in a relationship – chemistry, attraction, similar interests and views, very similar spirituality and experience with organized religion, same life challenges survived – you name it – we talked almost every minute that we were awake until he died of a sudden heart attack. I have been doing all the recommended things for mourning – going to mass, praying, meditating, reading everything I can about the process, trying to stay active and busy, joining a grief support group, counseling, both with a priest and my psychiatrist. I sense that you’re going to tell me that it’s going to take time to heal – I know that.

Granted that time is a real factor, I live in the present moment – and it’s really lonely and scary. I know I’m not ready for any kind of relationship or commitment, but I ‘d really love a companion to do things with. My life is in such limbo, all I really have is the here and now, and it’s just not working. I’m losing my sense of who I am, as I’m losing contact with people around me – and nothing I do seems to help. I’ve been holding on for nearly a year, but I’m losing ground. Perhaps some day I’ll look back at this time as a great opportunity for growth, but that’s not here yet. With so much emphasis on living in the present, what does one do when the present is so miserable? I feel as though I’m losing precious moments in my life because I’m not strong enough to inhabit them. And I’m really tired of my own company – and, yes, I volunteer, but you can’t really drop all your woes on the people you’re trying to help. I can distract myself for short periods of time, but that’s not a solution – it just postpones those times when I’m alone yet again and confused and scared and missing my husband and our life together so badly, because that’s the last time I can recall being happy. I’m truly grateful for all the great things in my life, but an attitude of gratitude doesn’t help when you’re home alone on the umpteenth Saturday night in a row.

Do you have any advice at all, besides just holding on and waiting for things to get better?

I would be so grateful to know if I can have someone just for a companion, to talk to, and do things with, and get out of my own head for a little while. Is that really inappropriate?
Time Not Healing this Wound

Dear Time Not Healing,

I can hear the tremendous amount of pain you are experiencing. And you are right, you are doing everything I would suggest to you. You are in that unique place where time does not heal all wounds. When that happens, there are no simple answers.

I don’t know if you will find this comforting, but the amount of your pain is a mirror to the amount of the love and affection you had in your relationship. After suffering through a divorce, I can imagine that you are acutely aware of the incredible gift of true love. Your heart is breaking because you have been separated from the person that was your best friend, your lover, and your partner. You lost not only him, but also the life and the future that you had together. When we lose someone close to us, we also lose the person we would turn to in times of trouble. I can hear that you are struggling with finding peace and any sort of calm, as it can be harder to find these things on your own.

One reason your grief may not be lifting is from the reflected grief of losses in the past. The grief in the past prior to your relationship with your husband may not have been completely processed, and so now the leftover psychic material (a.k.a. “baggage” that we all have) is getting in the way. This may be hard to hear, but you may have more to mourn beyond the loss of this relationship. I do understand living in the present is a good way to avoid anxiety about the future, or remorse about the past that is no longer serving us, but for you it may mean reaching into your past could help to bring healing into your present. I’m not sure Jesus talked much about our modern idea of “living in the present.” He, and the New Testament writers, talked a lot about our hope for the future, our striving for salvation at the end. They talked about an accounting for our life, certainly bringing to mind the significance of the past. And, scripture clearly tells us that our tears will not be wiped away until the last day. Meaning, suffering is real and ever-present on this side of heaven. Even Saint Paul cries out about the “thorn in his side” that Christ did not remove.

I do not know what God has planned for this time in your life. There may be a lesson about self-care or independence. There may be a lesson about how to reach out and connect to others. I don’t see a companion being inappropriate, but does this companion have to be of the opposite sex? How do you feel about developing more female relationships? Do you struggle with feeling close to friends?

Of course the most powerful thing I, or anyone, can offer you is my prayers. There is no ticket out of the grief. If you find yourself continuing to fall deeper into despair, be sure to reach out to the priest and psychiatrist you are working with. Bring the cries of your heart to the feet of Jesus on the Cross. There is great meaning in His Passion; there is significance in suffering, otherwise He would not have ordained it to be so. It may be that your purpose now is to find the meaning in your pain.

God Bless and my deepest sympathy,

Michele Fleming, M.A.