A Brief Encounter of the Grief Kind
Outsider – person interacting with the widower
Mourner – widower’s external (observable) presentation, behavior, voice
Griever – widower’s internal (private, hidden) thoughts, voice
An encounter at fifth month from the date of her death…
Outsider: Hey, I’ve been meaning to call you. Glad to run into you today. This COVID stuff has been so crazy and I’ve not been out much at all. But anyway, how have you been?
Mourner: I’m good.
Griever: It’s been pretty bad. Things have died in me. My body is moving but I think my heart has stopped. My mind? I don’t know where it’s gone.
Outsider: Oh, I’m glad to hear it. I was hoping you were alright.
Mourner: Yeah, I’m making it. It gets rough sometimes, but I guess that’s to be expected.
Griever: You wouldn’t believe what it’s like on some days. I don’t show it or talk about it when I’m out, but when I get home and close the door, I wrestle…I mean I wrestle with myself, my thoughts, my doubts and regrets, this anger and restlessness and exhaustion…I crawl into a ball. I wrestle with God. The quiet, the silence, the…stillness in the house get to me. I get cold. Nothing feels right in the house. I keep pacing. Sometimes I wish the dams would break so I can cry and cry, but the tears don’t come easily. Some nights, I wonder why I’m still here.
Outsider: You sure seem like you’re handling it in stride. I’m not sure I’d do as well if it was me.
Mourner: Well, like I say, it gets sad but what can you do…you gotta keep going, right?
Griever: Sorrow, constant dusk, voicelessness – these are my companions now. I never felt like this before. It feels so…heavy. I mean I’ve heard of a ‘heavy heart’ after loss, but this heaviness is so odd…it just lies there. I can’t make sense of it. I feel stuck all the time. I can’t move anything inside; my thoughts and emotions are…it’s like they’re mummified. Only thing that moves are images of her in my head.
If I told you I’m stuck in my loss, what would you do? What would you say? What help could you possibly offer me?
Outsider: Right, right. I mean when I lost my cat, Clementine…had her for like 12 years…it just about wrecked me! I mean the house seemed so empty…
Mourner: Your cat? Oh…ok.
Griever: I feel sick. I’m sure your cat was special to you, but I don’t want to hear about that right now. Please. My wife died! The person I gave myself to the most is gone now…for good! My child no longer has a mother. I tried to deny what happened; I mean, she was in our living room one day and then the next day…she disappeared. The hospice people tried to warn me but I was deaf to their news. I know they were trying to help but the way I heard them was that I had to abandon my hopes. Maybe that’s not what they were saying, but that’s what I heard at the time. I knew she was not doing ok but…
Outsider: It’s crazy but sometimes I can still hear her meowing.
Mourner: Yeah, I’ve heard that can happen.
Griever: Crazy? Yes. Just last week, I swore I heard the toilet flush in middle of the night (about the time she used to go, like clockwork). I mean, there are shadows I catch going down the hallway or turning around the corner. Who am I gonna tell that to? My son will think I’m nuts if I tell him. I mean, it doesn’t scare me…it’s just…quiet and strange in the house. She used to laugh and her laugh would ring in my ears…I used to hear her gabbing it up from the other side of the house! Now, there’s barely a sound. I recently stumbled across some videos of her on my phone. I watched it. It was weird, like some sort of disconnect…like she’ll be back home from an outing or something. Sometimes I worry cause I can’t exactly recall the sound of her voice.
Outsider: Anyway, how’s your son holding up?
Mourner: He’s ok. You know, he’s got his family to take of. He loved his mom. It’s a big loss but he’ll be alright.
Griever: I’ve little idea how he’s doing. I mean he stops by every week. He’s a bit like my wife, and me…he holds things in. Honestly, I don’t have the energy these days to really talk, to really engage, with him about how he’s doing. I know I should but it’s just not an easy thing to bring up with him. Plus, I don’t want to bother him. I mean he doesn’t mention his mom, really. I don’t want to push that. Still, it’s nice when he comes around and we just sit around for a minute or two. He let’s me be. He doesn’t have to say much at all…I just enjoy his company. I don’t know how to comfort him, though. I don’t know if my presence is any comfort to him. What am I to do for my own grieving child?
Outsider: Can’t imagine what it must like, I mean, with them expecting their first and all…a girl, right?
Mourner: That’s correct. She’s due in a couple of months.
Griever: I never dreamed it would go this way. I always thought my wife would outlive me and I was good with that. I so want her to be here…she was so looking forward to being a grandmom. I feel badly for my son and for the little one; my son grew up with both sets of grandparents and he has so many fond memories of them. I hope the little one has her smile. I’ll try my best to tell her all about her grandmom, how she loved her even before birth. Someone told me the other day that I am now the top historian of my immediate family. I’ve got to start writing down my memories…
Outsider: So what are your plans?
Mourner: You know, that seems to be a popular question (fake grin). I really don’t know.
Griever: If you’re thinking of asking me next whether I’ve thought about remarrying, don’t even start. It’s a struggle just to plan for tomorrow, let alone some distant time in the future that I may or may not have. In fact, I really don’t feel like looking too far ahead right now…future plans don’t interest me right now. What I do catch myself doing a lot is looking back…how things were, things my wife and I talked about and planned, things I told my wife, my promises to her, our family and life together…all those years…I just keep looking back. I get some comfort and some sense of peace when I realize the wonderful times the Lord granted me with my wife. I get so tired being asked about my future plans…it’s not even been a year! I miss her.
Outsider: Sure, I mean, yeah. It’s good to take it slow, right? Well, good seeing you. You take care and we’ll talk later.
Mourner: Yeah, thanks. You take care.
Griever: Slow is right. Whether I like it or not, everything has slowed down since she died. Seems my world is in slow motion and everyone else is moving so fast. I once heard someone say that she couldn’t understand how the world keeps turning when hers has stopped. I sort of get it now. I’m just trying to find my way through…
About the Author
Paul Moon is husband to Esther. Their children are Samantha, Christopher and Andrew. Paul studied psychology and mental health counseling, and has a PhD in adult education. He is the author of Lost? When people we really like die, a book for children, and Grieve, published by Centering Corporation. Paul tries to serve others through counseling, teaching, co-learning, and becoming an attentive audience to their stories.