Grief and the Anniversary Party

“Whatever life we have experienced, if we can tell our story to someone who listens, we find it easier to deal with our circumstances.” Margaret J. Wheatley

 

Shortly after my loved one passed, one of my closest friends was to celebrate her thirtieth recovery anniversary. Before my husband’s death, I had been looking forward to seeing her celebrate this milestone surrounded by her family and friends, but now I was struggling.  

 

As the day approached, part of me looked forward to catching up with friends. However, as the thoughts entered my head as to why I would be there without my loved one, my grief seemed to intensify, and I went from feeling heartbreak to inconsolable sadness. 

I went from feeling heartbreak to inconsolable sadness. Click To Tweet

 

 Making the Journey

Since his death, I retreated to my home and isolated myself from others. I knew I needed to get out of myself, so I considered making the journey. For the last several years, I had been so wrapped up in myself that I genuinely wanted to be there for her. She had spent countless hours talking to and supporting me through my loved one’s long illness, hospital stays, and eventual death.  

 So, I made plans to stay with some friends, bought an airline ticket, rented a car, and was ready to be a part of this beautiful anniversary. I was anxious on the day of my flight and couldn’t wait to get there as I knew a special hug was awaiting me. 

 

This party was the first get-together since my loved one passed, and I felt that attending the event would help me feel connected again.

 

I can’t say that I had been looking forward to the party, but as my special friend could not be at his funeral, I yearned to feel the love and acceptance that only a close friend can provide. 

 I arrived in Orlando at 5:00 p.m., picked up my luggage, and rushed to get the rental car. The goal was to beat the rush hour traffic, so I could promptly get to the pre-anniversary event. It had been arranged that several people that knew her well would share, and I wanted to hear what they had to say. 

 A Shoulder to Cry On

When I arrived, I searched for her, and as I entered the room, I saw her looking at me. She had saved a seat next to her, and I instantly started to cry.

We hugged, and she said a few words of comfort. I laid my head on her shoulder as the tears swept over me. The intimacy of this moment and our relationship was apparent to anyone watching.

 I had been friends with this woman for twenty-five years. The long-term relationship fostered trust, honesty, and plenty of love. Through the years, I had shared my pain, joy, loneliness, and deepest secrets with her, so it only made sense that being around her, I felt an intense bond that I hadn’t felt since before my loved one’s death.  

 It had been forty-five days since my loved one passed, and I started to feel better because I was surrounded by many long-time friends whom I consider family. During the evening, I was able to spend a little time with my close friend, but our quality time would come during the following few days.  

 The Waves Were Calling Me to Sleep

As the evening ended, I found myself experiencing some reprieve from my grief. We made our way to the hotel, and I finished my day listening to the waves of the Atlantic Ocean, finding a little peace as I dozed off to sleep.

The following morning we got up early, took a walk, and had a lovely breakfast, killing time waiting for the celebration to begin. I tried to focus on why I had come all this way but couldn’t sustain the thoughts of celebration for very long. My grief drowned the symphony that the ocean waves provided, and thank goodness that before I knew it, it was time to go to the event. 

My grief drowned the symphony that the ocean waves provided Click To Tweet

And Now Time for the Party

As I walked into the venue, I saw many old friends. These friends were attentive and allowed me to share a little of my grief. A few of them joined me in shedding some tears. 

With others, I could see them grapple with what to say to a new widow and truly appreciated their attempts knowing that nothing would change how I felt.

 

The festivities began with serving food, allowing people to eat, mingle and share stories. That was preceded by a video of photographs depicting moments in her life with many people who had gathered in the banquet room. Afterward, people began giving toasts and sharing how much it meant to them to be there for her thirtieth recovery anniversary.  

I sat with friends and listened to the testimonials knowing how blessed I was to have someone so caring and loving in my life. I felt terrible for not sharing a lovely story. But I was overwhelmed with my grief and afraid I would ruin this occasion, so I didn’t say a word.

 

Knowing I was overwhelmed with my loss, the celebrant hugged me and whispered a few words.

 

I don’t remember the specifics, but she managed to make time during her party, which allowed me to feel a deeper connection to her on her special day.  

 As my trip ended, I was immensely grateful to have made this journey which allowed me to be a part of the celebration and to share my tears, hugs, grief, and love for my special friend.

 

Run Rosina Run

“Although you may get exhausted sometimes, you can still get over it if you have people around you who give you warm words.” Nayeon

One of my favorite movies from the 90s was Run Lola Run. It is about a woman who had to obtain 100,000 Deutschmarks in twenty minutes to save her boyfriend’s life. I remember the movie’s endless images of Lola’s flame-red hair blowing in the wind as she ran from one scene to the other. 

So today, as I sit and write about the last three weeks of my loved one’s life, the images of Lola running become clearer. During these three weeks, I lost twenty-two pounds, not because of a special diet. It was a direct result of all the running that I was doing. Not quite like Lola, but running just the same. 

Run, Run, Run

From the moment I opened my eyes, I would be running. I could hear it in my head Run Rosina Run. I would run to feed our cat, change the litter, get dressed, jump in the car, and speed to the hospital, making all attempts to miss the early morning traffic. Upon entering the hospital, I would stop in the lobby, purchase a bagel and drink, and immediately take a bite while getting into the elevator. I knew that if I didn’t do it then I wouldn’t know when I would have an opportunity for another bite. 

After his surgery, every organ began to fail. Click To Tweet

After his surgery, every organ began to fail. But the problem was that his kidneys were the first ones to go. Due to this, he was only allowed ice chips which I saw as cruel and unusual punishment. So before entering his intensive care room, I would put away all signs of food and drink.

Run Rosina Run. I would run in and out of his hospital room when the doctors or nurses performed procedures. I remember feeling guilty about this because somehow, I thought I should stay and support him while they did some uncomfortable and inhuman thing to him. But these procedures would give me a few minutes of reprieve from the horror of each day. I would take the elevator to the lobby, have a bite of my bagel, walk outside the hospital to smoke a cigarette, call a friend, and sob over the inevitable not-so-happy ending to our love story. 

One More Thing, One More Thing, And…

These escapes would last around 15 minutes, and then Run Rosina Run would enter my thoughts. Trying to be compassionate and not wanting to add to his discomfort, I made a point not to speak of food, the smell of food, and only drink when I was out of the room.

Even with all the running most days, I would return home after 10 p.m. to discover that I still had a partially eaten bagel and unfinished bottled diet coke at the bottom of my purse. Now I had to deal with the rest of my obligations – take a shower, wash clothes, pay a bill, return phone calls, check emails, play with his cat, unwind with music or TV and finally put myself to bed to do it all again and again.

So why was I running? Why had Run Lola Run infected my life? Click To Tweet

So why was I running? Why had Run Lola Run infected my life? What was the purpose of my running? In the movie, Lola was running to obtain money to save the love of her life. However, it didn’t matter how much money I had in my life, as none of it would save my loved one’s life. My Ron would not make it no matter how fast I ran. Run Rosina Run. There was no saving him. Run Rosina Run.

The Answer is Obvious

As I think back, I question why I was running, but the answer is obvious. I was running because the clock was ticking away. There wasn’t much time left for us to be together. Not much time to share the things that were important to us. Little time to hold each other’s hands.

Did he know how much I loved him? Did he know how important he was to my life? To our children’s lives? Did he hear what I was telling him? When he decided to stop all treatment, did he hear my words, letting him know that I would support him and that we would be alright? 

The day my Ron died; the running stopped. Click To Tweet

The day my Ron died; the running stopped. The weeks, months, and years of illness left emotional devastation that would take me some time to recover. Run Rosina Run hit a brick wall, and there would be no running for quite a while.

In the movie, Lola saved her loved one, but in my circumstances, only one person remained to be saved. So, at his death, I allowed others to step in, be of service and save me. I had been running for so long that just stopping felt unnatural, but the exhaustion eventually won out, and I lay down and slept. As time passed, with some support, love, and therapy, I finally started to feel better. Run Rosina Run didn’t have to run anymore.

 

Grief and His First Love

“For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone.” Audrey Hepburn

Forty-two days after my loved one passed, I left my home in the northeast to attend a special celebration in Florida. I wanted to be at this anniversary party for my close friend. However, as a new widow, I sought the tenderness, compassion, and unconditional love that I knew that many of the guests would be able to provide.

Nothing Could Touch Me

We stayed on the beach, sharing a condo overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. The view was beautiful and the ocean air felt healing. I took the couch to sleep with the sliding glass doors open and heard the waves in the evening. Nothing seemed like it could touch me here, not even the despair and separateness I felt before arriving. I needed some time to be, breathe, and feel a connection to the God of my understanding.

 

On that beautiful morning, I sat on the balcony, letting my breath carry me into a place of peace when my phone rang.

 

Glancing at the face, I saw that it was my loved one’s ex-wife. I knew that I was grieving, the sense of loss I felt was overwhelming, and the last person I wanted to speak to was an ex-wife.

The last person I wanted to speak to was an ex-wife. Click To Tweet

I summoned all the patience and tolerance I had and answered the phone. Instead of my head telling me that it would be unpleasant and trying, I allowed my kind and loving God to open me up to whatever was on the other end of the phone.

I listened and I found myself letting her kindness and thoughtfulness touch me.  I don’t remember what was said as the conversation was short. However, it was clear that it was an act of compassion that didn’t need to happen but did. She went out of her way to let me know that she was thinking of me. She expressed her kindness and shared her most profound regret for my loss.

The Mother of my Daughter

 

This woman was the mother of my daughter. She was my loved one’s first love, high school girlfriend, and ex-wife.

 

What I know is that this woman was most certainly experiencing her own sense of loss, and she still took the time to call me. This act of kindness reminded me not to assume anything about what an ex-wife could or would do.

I ended the telephone call grateful for the work we had done through the years to put aside the wife/ex-wife thing and do what would be best for our children. And on this day, of all days, it paid off.

 

On this day, I was reminded not to project or deny someone an opportunity to practice compassion and empathy no matter who they are. I know today that kindness is not just relegated to family and friends.

I am incredibly grateful to that special ex-wife whose kind and gentle words provided an unexpected reprieve in the middle of my grief. For that, I am extremely thankful.