Though I could not–would not–believe people when they said the death of my husband would be less wrenching as time went on, I have come to see that, indeed, there are no longer those sudden, uncontrollable sobs while driving alone in the car, or waiting in line at the supermarket. But no one told me that I would find the months nd years of living alone almost more painful than that early anguish.
I recently heard an irish author say, “Sadness comes like a mouse; grief is a rat.” And I thought, “Yes, that’s exactly it!” The loss of one’s life partner, different from the loss of a parent and even of a child, is uniquely traumatic. Few of us go through our adult life sleeping with them, sharing our inmost thoughts and fears with them, creting countless daily rituals with them, or living on the equal basis that constitues a good marriage. The shock of the loss, the memories of the hospital and the death–these are the gnawings of a rat.
But the mouse! That mouse is the quiet sadness that pervades most of what widows and widowers do, even when, in the attempt to “go on,” we distract ourselves with volunteer work or physical exercise or activity with friends. I believe that no one can prepare for othe days of watching TV and having no one with whom to share one’s reactions. No one can prepare for countless meals eaten alone, with only the radio or TV filling in the silence. Yes, one can invite friends as often as they are able to come, but at the end of the day, or the end of the visit, they go home and the house is again silent.
That mouse is the sadness we feel living with a pet which unfortunately cannot share thoughts and ideas, and which doesn’t know how to allay our fears about the future. I believe that the mouse of sadness is the BIG part of grief and something that doesn’t heal.
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