This has been quite a tough week. Last Wednesday (the 10th) would have been my 31st wedding anniversary.
The main thing I've learned about grief the past year is that it isn't at all linear. Let's face it, hardly anything in life is. Some of the best reading I've done on grief this past year came from Doug Manning, and his writing has been absolutely spot on all the way. If I had to sum up his advice in a single sentence, it would be this:
Of course, the Kubler-Ross model is helpful, if not taken too far, and I suspect Kubler-Ross would agree.
One of the factors that I think makes grief difficult to predict (in addition to the fact that we're dealing with people) is that personal anniversaries occur in some random fashion throughout the year, and are unique in nature to the individual. For instance, Sue and I had most of our major milestones from July to October, which means that they have mainly fallen at the end of the first year since Sue died. I went through 9 months without any major "couple" milestones, then suddenly, here are a bunch all in a row.Anyone checking in with me the last few months might be tempted to think that I was "getting over it" and so didn't need as much support.
After nine months, I am somewhat better prepared for them, but this past week I have found myself reliving last September's vacation to Hawaii quite vividly. I was at a funeral on Saturday and found myself reliving snippets as I sat in the service. Today, I even watched the video of the helicopter ride for the first time - Sue and I never had time to watch it together before she died, and I just haven't felt like going there until now. It's quite unremarkable (apart from the scenery, that is) - but there are some shots of the cabin interior showing the passengers once in a while. No hint of the trauma to come so soon.
I think I realized all of a sudden this week that, with the arrival of September 10th, the clock is ticking rather loudly on the countdown to October 5th, the day Sue collapsed. It's three weeks away, then the anniversary of the memorial service is another three weeks after that (and my birthday, too), then the UK memorial service three weeks after that.
One of the other snippets of advice out there that I have found helpful is not to make any big, irrevocable changes in your life for at least a year. I am fortunate in that I have been able to do that - circumstances have not forced me into anything. I know that's not the case for a lot of the suddenly widowed. Being forced into selling a house and moving because of a sudden change in financial circumstances would be absolutely awful.
It's because of that advice that I have held onto the cats. Sue loved the cats. I tolerated them for the most part. It is, I think, a testament to what one will do for someone you love. Sue and I got our first cat in 1984 when our friends cat had a litter of three kittens. The mother was absolutely psycho - easily the meanest, nastiest, most vicious cat I have ever encountered. I think it thought it was a tiger or something. It always seemed to want to bring down a wildebeest. Anyway, Sue and I got Freddie when she and my friends plied me with enough beer to get me to an "oh, alright, if that's what you want" stage.
Freddie lived until 2003, a ripe old age indeed, after which she was replaced by Biggles and Hillary (with a brief excursion into the ill-fated young Merlin...). Cleo the stray came along in July last year and stuck around more because of circumstances than anything else. A year of living with the cats persuaded me, however, that I'm really not a cat person. So... with an imminent trip out of the country for over three months, I decided that now was the best time to move the cats along. I can't say it was easy, but deep down, I know that it's for the best.
I think I was convinced when my cleaning lady came round and I saw how different they are with her than they are with me. There was a sort of rapport with her that they just don't have with me. Also, for the past year, I've been one person looking after three cats, where before it was mostly two of us looking after two cats. I know that I'm just not at home enough to provide the kind of attention three cats need (and indeed, it's not something I'm that interested in anyway.)
I put the word out a couple of weeks ago, and in the end, Cleo was adopted by a lady from my church, and Biggles and Hillary are at the Seattle Humane Society, where they should be adopted in fairly short order. If anyone local is interested in adopting them, the details are:
Seattle Humane Society
I have to say that the couple of days after I took Biggles and Hillary in were probably the most traumatic of the last few months, but despite it being really hard it still seems to be the right thing in the long run.
I appreciate your thoughts and prayers and continue to solicit them as I prepare to travel to Cambridge for the next few months.