I should probably start a few years before the story of my bereavement actually begins, and say that Andi’s cancer journey changed our lives in almost every way. But it never changed our love except perhaps to make it stronger. And as we traveled together through it all, I see us as becoming ever closer and our love beginning to take on an ever-growing spiritual character. We began to be bound together not only by our lives together in the material world but our spirit selves became more and more active and we became more and more aware of those parts of ourselves as our connection, spirit to spirit was strengthened and expanded as we lived through those times together.
I believe this profoundly affected the way we lived those years and the way in which we approached the end of Andi’s time here as her body failed and she reached the end of her life in the material world. We had a magnet with a saying on it that was on our refrigerator for many years and it said simply, “There is no death, only a change of worlds”. And in so many ways, it was our model for belief and acceptance of what was and eventually did happen to us both.
Late in April of 2016 was when the change happened. It marks the transition of Andi’s self to spirit and the beginning of my bereavement. Although we had talked about so very many things during her illness and especially during the time we knew that the end of this part of her existence was drawing near, one thing we never really talked about, mainly because we didn’t know about it, was grief. I had no idea of what was coming and wasn’t ready in any way. When it crashed down upon me, I was totally unprepared for what it was going to be like. And I suppose, from talking to many others during their own grieving, that it is true for almost everyone the first time they experience the grief that accompanies the passing of a spouse or partner with whom they have shared a life and a love.
So what I want to write about is our grief journey. About the things experienced and the things learned along the way. In many ways, my grief was a life altering experience. The world as I knew it ended that day and it was like an unwilling rebirth, a starting over, a phoenix moment in my life because all that I had lived for was changed forever at that point.
I am also a scientist and a retired Geology Professor, and so in addition to grieving, I also was driven by my nature to observe and even to document what I was experiencing. I have kept a number of journals throughout my life and I began a new one that day. I started writing every night and recounting and remembering all I had experienced that day before I went to sleep . I ended up finding this to be not only a documentation, but also a very healing and helpful part of my grief journey so I kept at it and except for a day here and there, I wrote every night along the way and still continue to do so.
This then is our journey as I remember it, as I wrote about it, as I experienced it and what I learned from it and during its unfolding.
It contains many things and places that seem very outside the normal way I experienced the world before the change and over the years I have come to “suspend my disbelief”, put my scientist brain on hold and realize that the world is much larger, stranger and much more complex and interesting than I ever knew or realized. I’ve experienced things I intellectually knew about but didn’t really believe deep inside, and I’ve had to change my world view in many ways to accommodate the new things I’ve seen and heard and experienced, things that don’t fit nicely into the world as I knew it but could not and can not be denied in their reality.
The journey also contains many things I had to learn and relearn about living in the every-day world, about reordering my thinking and learning to make new relationships and new ways of spending my time. Learning to fill the empty spaces in my days and nights and learning to live with the loneliness and sadness and then finding ways to over come them is a big part of what I did and want to share. It turned out to be a time to re-evaluate everything in my life and a time to reluctantly recreate myself as I found my way through the grieving and learned to slowly live again and “turn my grief into gold” so I could remember our life and our love outside the grief and sadness of having that part of who and what we were come to an end.
My goal is to share this journey and hope that who ever reads this can find some things that resonate with them, its not a manual for grieving, its just a story of how it was for us and what I learned along the way. Since we all grieve in our own way and our own time, there will no doubt be things that you agree with, that you need to know at that moment and also things you don’t agree with and don’t necessarily want to know. It’s all ok. If you find things that help you in your own grief journeys that is why it’s here and why you found it. It’s my goal to promote hope and healing in our community of bereaved spouses and partners and share my journey in the hope that it will make your journey a little easier.
I want to also say that I’m not a grief counselor. I’m just a fellow traveler who wants to share what I learned in the hopes that it is helpful, especially in our changing world. I don’t really have solutions, mostly just observations and things to think about, many of which helped me in my growth and healing. Being a retired professor, I can be somewhat pedantic in my presentations but it isn’t my intention to tell you “how it is”, only to present what I’ve learned and experienced.
As a grief survivor, I have been honored to be able to help others by initiating and becoming a facilitator of the Hope and Healing Widows and Widowers Bereavement Support Group at the Community Grief Center in Greeley, Colorado.
If you are feeling overwhelmed by your feelings of grief and loss, I urge you to contact a professional grief counselor and allow them to help you to understand and manage what you are experiencing in a healthy way.
The layout of this Blog is fairly non-linear. It isn’t going to be written chronologically. The Blog Topics are groups of ideas that seem to me to belong together. The order of the posts is entirely what feels right to me on any given day and seems appropriate to things I believe you might want or need to think about or know as you move through your bereavement. But, it is also pretty open ended and doesn’t have to be read like a novel or a text book. It’s neither.
This is just a series of topics and ideas to think about and see how they make you feel and so, you can read them in any order you want. Just look at the Blog Topics Headings when you find this Blog or follow along as I create it and if you see something that seems like you need to hear it that day, go for it and see what you can learn.
Finally, I want to talk about the images included in the blog. The images were photographed by me and the words associated with many of them were written by Andi. We continue to pair my photos with her words to bring you images of thoughts and emotions we have felt and lessons we have learned throughout our lives together and during the new journey we have been traveling these past four years. We are learning new ways to continue to communicate and share our creativity as our spiritual journey together moves us into ever more amazing places.
With hope and healing,
Howard and Andi