I should have been ready for it. After all, I listened to Michele; her talk on “What the Grinch Taught Me About Love.”  I left the Camp Widow West conference with confidence in my position. I’d been feeling like I’m not doing grief right. Like I am falling short in measure. I still grieve inconsistently with highs and lows, sporadically with varying intensity, daily. Powerful intense emotion is just under the surface still dominating from time to time and I can’t hold it back.

It’s not that I want to hold it back. No. I feel that if it’s there I need to be with it, sit with it, and muddle through it no matter how unwelcoming inconvenient or depressing it is. We are close companions, Grief and me. There is no point in pretending or denying we inhabit the same being. Grief came when Dennis left and hasn’t let go of me and I’ve learned never will.

The depth and magnitude of Dennis, his love, is in my DNA. He is part of who I am. That comforts me. I don’t have to defend it, explain it, share it, or squelch it. He fills part of my heart. His place within the chambers of my heart belongs to him alone. That doesn’t void my capacity to love again. In fact it enables me to do so. I hold that place for him. Grief is the expression manifested because of the loss, be it in the gamut of emotions from anger, laughter, tears or quiet reflection and introspection.

I made these resolves as a result of the conference. We widows talked of the expectations of others. When someone is leading with the question, “So how are you?” Or remarking, “I’m so glad you’re better now,” I don’t need to have the assumption that I’m failing grief 101 because I’m not feeling “better.”  Life continues and I immerse myself in it, but that doesn’t negate the shadow of grief ever present. Better is not a word I could ever apply to my life without Dennis.

So when I mustered the courage to post hundreds of pictures of him and us and even make personal commentary on some, I was stunned when one of his friends asked, “So how are you?” His question was pleading for the expected answer: better.

I couldn’t appease him. I told him so, that he’d like me to say better but I couldn’t. I don’t have a word for how I am now. The English language isn’t equipped with many words that hold several meanings at once. The only one that comes to mind is bittersweet. The words in this quote circulating among widows on fb comes close to giving voice to what some widows bear.

“To love life, to love it even when you have no stomach for it and everything you’ve held dear crumbles like burnt paper in your hands, your throat filled with the silt of it. When grief sits with you, its tropical heat thickening the air, heavy as water more fit for gills than lungs; when grief weights you like your own flesh only more of it, an obesity of grief, you think, How can a body withstand this? Then you hold life like a face between your palms, a plain face, no charming smile, no violet eyes, and you say, yes, I will take you, I will love you, again.” ~ Ellen Bass ♥

People who have loved and lost by no choice of their own have a heightened sensitivity. We purpose to live and love.

So though well meaning family and friends want to eliminate our suffering, what we need most is time, space and assurance that they’ll let grief have it’s place alongside each of us. Expect it to be there with us.