Living With Grief

Grief is different than I used to understand. I used to see grief as something that washed over me briefly, although sometimes intensely, when news of a death or failure or loss happened. There was that moment(s) of shock, followed by the moving through of the other stages of grief…denial…bargaining…guilt…anger…depression…acceptance…

Betrayal grief is different. There are the stages, although for me, I’ve gone through them again and again. There are moments and days and even occasionally – weeks – in which the grief retreats. So when it comes back, like a wave crashing over me at the ocean shore, I’m shocked. Sometimes it will happen as I drive down the road and ssswwwwhoooooosssshhhhh….I have the thought HUSBAND BETRAYED YOU – HELD ANOTHER WOMAN – WHISPERED INTO HER EARS – SHARED HIS BODY WITH HER –

And in that split second I am propelled into the realization that the grief is still present, still intertwined into every part of the me that is now me, and the new marriage that I’m living. It is a struggle every time…creates an immediate fight or flight response in which I want to choose FLIGHT as  I struggle to find my breath and to calm my heart beat and to see the present moment. Somedays it is followed by one of the other stages, and if so, I allow myself to sit there for a bit, to consider the emotion I am feeling, to express it. I let HUSBAND know what I am thinking – how I am feeling, and thus far, he receives it. He hears, he listens, he responds. He holds me if I can do that, or lets me be if I need that, but at least now, we are more in sync in this new dance than we used to be in our old life.

I get weary, though. Grieving. Wondering why it continues to nip at me, and haunt me, and sometimes stop me in my tracks.

So last week I was in DC on business, and got to Reagan International on Friday for the return trip. The airport was predictably crowded with a Friday early afternoon flight, and my gate was even more packed. I sat near the entry to the plane, prepared to settle down with a book, and a group of young men caught my eye. There were five of them, looking rather normal from different ethnicities ranging in age from probably mid 20s to early 40s. What caught my eye is that they were all in wheelchairs, gathered into almost a circle as they talked and laughed together. I watched them and was taken by the automatic way that there broken hands worked to open a soda, to send a message on a phone, to rip into a package of chips.

After a few minutes, I walked over to them…and asked them who they were and what they were doing. They all looked up, surprised, but very inviting and several began to answer…Sectionals…Wheelchair Rugby…vying for Nationals…

I sat with them until we boarded, and then on the plane, they sat all around me, too. During the next couple hours, I learned a little about some of their stories. One was shot. At 23 years old, he’d gotten in a fight in a bar, then gotten kicked out along with his opponent. He went to his car, followed by the other fighter who noted what his car looked like and the direction he went. The other fighter hunted him down on the road, pulling up next to him and shooting repeatedly into his car. He was left a quadriplegic. And now he is a computer science engineer working with NASA.

Another one of them had just turned 16, played linebacker for a local DC high school football powerhouse. Opening play of the game, he was hit, and his neck broke. He was left a quadriplegic. The youngest of the group, he is still in college majoring in fine arts. He laughed as he told me he would be required to sculpt this year, as he picked up his barely functioning hands, and began to strategize how he would make that happen.

Another story was a 25 year old named Joe, driving during the day, and then a terrible accident due to weather. He was left a quadriplegic. I asked him how the doctor tells you, what he says, how you respond, did you know. He told me that he knew he couldn’t feel his legs, and the doctor came in and hit him hard: You will never walk again. You will never be able to dress yourself, or brush your teeth, or eat without help.

BOOM.

But that wasn’t the end of the story, for any of them. Every one of these amazing men pressed into their pain, their limitations, their brokenness. They had to learn new ways to do old things. They had to learn to ask for help sometimes. They had to change course in the professional direction of their lives, or make great adjustments in how they were going to get there. But their brokenness does not define them. In a very real way, I could see it, but it was not who they were.

The next day, HUSBAND and I went to watch Wheelchair Rugby. The players I met were joined by two additional players, one of which was a woman. When we walked in, they warmly greeted me…met HUSBAND…had us follow them to the gym where we watched two teams play as they told us the rules and explained some of the strategy. It was ASTOUNDING. The players are fearless athletes who play with every bit of heart and strength they have, never stopping until the last buzzer sounds. It was so exciting, so compelling, that we stayed for several hours and returned the next day to watch the DC team play in one more thrilling game.

DCRugby1

What I did not see from these exceptional humans was their grief stopping them. Of COURSE they wish they did not live life from a wheelchair and that they were playing able-bodied rugby. OF COURSE they would like it if they didn’t know an entirely new vocabulary related to level of injury. OF COURSE they wish they didn’t have to board the plane first because it is difficult to transition from wheelchair to plane seat. Every moment of every day, these people are living with the very present reality of the enormity that one move, one action, one second completely altered the rest of their lives yet they are living. No, they are LIVING – boldly, fully and with completeness.

DCRugby2

Grief sucks, no doubt. But it doesn’t have to take over. I’m overwhelmingly grateful to have found such role models to help me see this. Grief doesn’t have to have the last word.

 

 

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32 thoughts on “Living With Grief

  1. Wonderful way to look at our grief and ours is all emotional. The people you met in wheelchair not only suffer emotional grief but physical as well and they do move on in a positive direction. So can the betrayed and it is difficult some days. I’m dure these men and women go thru bad days as well. Thank you for sharing this enlightening outlook of grief We can get thru this !!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. So glad you see. They just wear their brokenness on the outside, all the time, but it doesn’t win. I felt like this picture came along at just the right time for me…when I wanted to wallow in grief again…and we CAN get through this – !!!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Thank you for this post. It certainly puts things in perspective. My son is in a wheelchair but he never complains and never gives up. His ambition is to be a paralympic athlete. I know he will do it. Having a child with disabilities made me more aware of others who are less able. They never cease to amaze me. The fact that you showed such support for those guys would have meant so much to them. You have the kindest heart x

    Liked by 3 people

    1. What a fabulous goal!!! A paralympic athlete! I found out from these amazing people that other countries actually pay their national team athletes…now I’m on a quest to understand why the US doesn’t, and what we could do to change that. I hope your sweet boy achieves all his dreams!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ours are not paid either they have to find sponsorship. London 2012 did so much to help change the way that the world persieves disability. My son is also autistic with global development delay but I always tell him that he is special and unique and we celebrate the things that make him different. He is happy and that is all that matters. You are right too wheelchair rugby is very physical but it’s brilliant to watch. They certainly don’t take any prisoners!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. It is indeed inspiring, to meet/ or read about people who just don’t give up, no matter how extremely hard circumstances they meet, in life… I know it is not really the same, but it is along the same “train of thought”, I believe.. What I am talking about is, that when the pain of what I have been through, gets excruciating, I sometimes think about my best friend, who didn’t get to live anymore, at the age of 33… then, I am suddenly filled with gratitude, that I am HERE, I have a chance, still… I can do this, I can move through the pain, to find hope again….

    I am very touched by this story you shared and it is very inspiring…. I believe all of us do possess this kind of strength as these brave people you met… it is just a matter of finding that strength… I am glad they gave you some hope! take care! Thanks for sharing, xoxo

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Grief is something I’ve become very familiar with in the past 2 years. Various forms and causes, all still grief. I love that you found these young men to help remind you that grief is not the end. I know I need these reminders from time to time as well.

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  5. Wow, what a powerful and beautiful post. You took my breath away and had me in tears (in fact lots of your amazing posts have me in tears)

    My husband and I were talking about this exact subject a few nights ago. I was talking about my own experiences of grief. The most profound was the death of my child, a beautiful tiny little girl stillborn in June 2000. I never in my life thought it would be possible to feel that level of grief and heartache again, how wrong was I. The pain of his betrayal far outweighed what I felt then, not because it was worse than her death (nothing could ever compare to that) but because after a death there is eventually closure. We move on with happy memories, photos, keepsakes, which we can share with others. When there is a death people will talk and comfort each other, it is out there and everyone can empathise in their own way because we have all dealt with the aftermath of death at some point in our lives. Betrayal grief is different; because betrayal is sordid, dirty and rips people apart from the core. The grief is mostly hidden away from the outside world and there are no happy memories to take away from it, photos lose their meaning and everything is just covered in a dark shroud of shame. Betrayal is cruel, unnecessary and achieves what?? We have to grieve a marriage that was never there and a person that was never who they claimed to be. We have to learn how to rebuild ourselves from the inside out and like these awesome inspirational men and women have to learn how to function (albeit very different) again in our new normality with our shattered hearts. I am in complete awe of these men and women and their strength and courage, it definitely humbles.

    I am proud of who I am becoming, I am proud of my strength and kindness. I am proud of you and all of the other amazing, strong people who share their painful journeys in this blogosphere, even though I don’t know any of you and am too shy to comment most of the time, you all have a special place in my heart. You’re an amazing woman.

    Much love x

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Serendipity…thank you for your amazing, thoughtful, insightful response. I’m so sorry that you lost a precious baby. I can’t imagine that pain. And I appreciate your defining the difference in the betrayal grief. I am so thankful for these precious, strong people here, too… Don’t be shy – you have much to give us all. HUGE HUGS.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. My husband and I also experienced the death of a newborn baby and I too felt that grief worst than anything I’ve felt up to the betrayal of my husbands affair. In fact the triggers are similar in that the seasons are triggers for both now and I deal with both every now and then. I found similar healing in both. The emotional ups and downs. The what ifs. I also had no control or choices to make. It just happened unprepared and shocked.
      I too thought grief was sadness from deaths or accidents …what most of us think as grief. Even when my father passed, I grieved less for him then I grieve now. It’s wierd and not being able to share your husbands mistakes with others makes it harder. My husband is key in healing ironically and he needs me more now than ever and that helps but it doesn’t make the grief less, just helps soften the blow.
      We have to find an upside to this and go that route to get thru this and appreciate our lives again. I definitely look at other couples in different ways now knowing that 50% of married couples over time will experience infidelity, I’ve read. You can’t prepare for this and most think it won’t happen in their marriage. Yea, right

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Your words…such insight. I find compassion for other couples and families in a way I never did…impacted by betrayal whether they know yet, or not. You’re right…we all must find the upside because there is one, or maybe two. That’s what keeps me going. HUGS.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Opensesam, I am so sorry that you have also lost a little baby and have had to suffer betrayal. They are definitely very tough life experiences to go through.

        I do get comfort knowing that I/ALL of us will come out of this so incredibly strong, I feel my strength grow every day. I am like you and many others in the fact that I always look at couples now, especially the loved up ones and wonder, have you been cheated on, are you cheating or are you the other person, pretty sad really. Wishing you love and strength on your journey x

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Grief sucks, no doubt. But it doesn’t have to take over. I’m overwhelmingly grateful to have found such role models to help me see this. Grief doesn’t have to have the last word.

    Love this. I am in the grieving stage right now. I take comfort in these words. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Grief is real, and from what I have experienced and observed, must be dealt with. If we give ourselves permission to travel through it…to really examine it and hold it and run it through our fingers…then we can finally let it go and move on. It’s when we try to pretend it doesn’t exist, or we gloss over the reality of the impact that it hangs on and on and on… Hugs to you!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. wow SS. This one made me cry. What a moving post. Thank you for sharing. Great perspective. @serendity71 and @opensesam My heart goes out to you both for what you have endured. I recently lost a parent and have just learned that my other parent is terminally ill…and the pain from this doesn’t even come close to my mashed up heart and soul from this affair. I do not wish this pain on anyone…but the OW. (Unfortunately I am not in the forgiving place for her and am hoping KARMA will take care of her for all of the persons she has hurt from living her very selfish life.) Forgive me…I am trying. This post does help me to NOT GIVE UP and get sucked in…so thank you again!!

    Liked by 1 person

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