Grieving is the same everywhere. Another entry in Joe’s Journal.
I have just come back from a vacation/meet the relatives visit to Ireland. This was my first trip back since my wife died. She was also Irish and came to Canada with me 36 years ago, just after our honeymoon. My close relatives and friends had their first opportunity to confirm that I was not only on the road to recovery but I was the same person they had known. When this happened, it allowed them to treat me like normal and I to act normal. The first statement from everybody was ‘you look great’. Translation: you look like a normal person. This confirmed what I had always assumed; that people need to see you to confirm your stability. To save myself from a lot of awkward conversation beyond this, I avoided discussion on the death as I knew most people could not handle it. Only a few people can handle a sentimental discussion. The trick is to recognize who they are and not to over burden them with it.
I also learned that no matter what the form of death your spouse dies of, the remaining spouse experiences many of the same issues. This I learned from speaking to a school friend in Ireland whose wife died within seven days of my wife: both from very different circumstances; mine from long term cancer and his from a tragic accident which killed her instantly. Unlike my wife, his wife had no health problems and they were just starting to enjoy her early retirement. Our year of grieving had been very different. I cannot comprehend his instant loss, nor he my 5 years of waiting for death to come. Nevertheless, we both appeared to be at the same stage. We had both come close to the acceptance phase. That is, we have accepted that our wives are not coming back and that we will not be able to talk to them again.
We both talked about the loss of a friend, partner, confidant and just somebody to talk to about normal everyday things. Coming home after a bad day or any day and not being able to unload your daily burdens is difficult to deal with. As the saying ‘goes a trouble shared is a trouble halved’.
Not being able to share history or past events is a great loss with no obvious solution. When your partner was around history did not need to be explained. She is and will be the only person to whom ‘one word and one look’ could bring back all the emotions of an event so that it could be re-lived. That opportunity is lost for ever. No one can duplicate those events and times because they are in the past. On meeting this old friend, we both were given the opportunity to talk about the happy times and the enjoyment we had had with our wives. But only I was there to listen to him, and he to me. We both knew that they needed to be said and that we needed to talk about them, without confirmation, rationalization, explanation, sadness or embarrassment.
We talked about the happiness we shared with school friends, the women we chased, the rugby games, the crazy, simple, fun things we did when we were young and most importantly, the camaraderie.
All in all, it was a successful trip! Finding a person who I can share memories, experiences and release locked up memories, feelings and emotions with, is a rare thing. While it is a good thing, it reminds me that new friends, both now and to come, were not there in the past. So they do not have the ability to release these emotions. But I am thankful for the time with old friends and new, as some memory release is better than none at all.
I leave you with a lesson now: the cost of Success! Nothing is gained without a cost, ha-ha! My old friend’s last statement was that I should come and stay with him the next time I come to Ireland. UH OH, he knows I don’t need accommodation in Ireland; I have loads of relatives in Ireland!! And then he added, “I have never been to Canada. My wife and I had traveled everywhere except Canada, so don’t be surprised if you find an old friend on your doorstep.” I won’t be surprised when he does show up and he’ll be welcome – to share old memories and make new ones.