The Process of Grief for Guys Trying to Survive Loss

I started “Guys Trying to Survive” because I was (am) trying to survive a loss.  So, man, you may find yourself struggling, too.  Your lady is gone.  Death, divorce, disability, and on and on.  Much in life takes away.  That’s the way it is, and there’s no profit in being bitter about it.  Now your loss means you’re lost.  With loss, comes grief.  And grief is a process…

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Meat Grinder photo credit: amiefedora via photopin cc

Or rather a processor.

Grief processes a man’s heart like meat though a grinder.  But you can survive.  Anyway, what else are you going to do?  There’s no one or where to surrender, and suicide is a frightful cop-out and frankly, dumb.

I’ve been lighthearted as we’ve cleaned out the refrigerator, made a cherry pie, built enchiladas, and tackled the grocery store.  But trying to survive is a serious business.  As you tend to the needs of others, don’t fail to tend to your own mental health…

Or it will tend to you.

Here’s my catharsis.  It beats going to therapy.  Drop me a comment and you can have your own catharsis.

The Haze of Grief

After Dona died, I went into a kind of haze, an automation of tasks needed done and a forgetfulness of days that piled onto days.

For more than a year I remembered Dona’s actual death as fresh as yesterday.  The event now seems – as does much of my memory before her death – like some vividly recalled dream, some life I can’t quite lay hold of.  That’s the way of the brain.

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Grief photo credit: seyed mostafa zamani via photopin cc

I don’t remember Thanksgiving that year but I do remember the day after when I sat down to shop Amazon for Christmas, racking my mind for how Dona made a list for each person.  So I got out some index cards and went to work.  I don’t remember Christmas itself.  I sure don’t remember New Year’s.  Yippee.

I think I woke up some time in February.

The Denial of Grief

I kept waiting for Dona to walk in and for us to get on with our lives.

She never did.

I’d dream about her, good dreams because I’d have her presence if just for a moment.  In one dream the kitchen was a mess.  I didn’t care, because there she was.  She looked really good.  I told her I was so glad to have her back and healthy.

Then I stopped and said, “Wait, you’re not back, are you?  This is a dream, isn’t it?”

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Under the Stars photo credit: Adrian Kingsley-Hughes via photopin cc

“Yes it is,” said she.

And I woke up.

The Chasm of Grief

The first night after her passing, I could barely sleep.  As time went on, I slept, but sometimes I’d wake up in a cold panic.  Death does that to humans, stalks them with fear.  Nighttime is not a good time to deal with emotions.  I’d tell myself to go back to sleep.

I didn’t want to go to bed at night and I didn’t want to get up in the morning.  I’d look at the bed and sigh whether I was getting in it or out of it.  This passed… slowly.

Why is night difficult in loss?  Because night is a dark and lonely time and grief is a black, wailing chasm.

My mind would shut the door to all the limitless grief and allow it open only in short bursts.  Sometimes I couldn’t open the door even if I wanted to.  Sometimes I couldn’t get it shut.

I found odd ‘keys’ to open the grief door.  A song, a movie, a memory, a time of year, the door would fly open, the black chasm gaping.

The Anger of Grief

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Anger photo credit: Denis Collette…!!! via photopin cc

They say anger is a part of grief.  Anger at the one who died.  Anger at God.  Anger at self.  Simply plain anger.

I felt secure enough to be able to tell Jesus if I didn’t think things were fair.  I mean, He knows how I feel whether I tell Him or not.  Might as well go ahead and yell or cry or stutter around.  Suffering is going to be had in this life.  He’s quite aware of that Himself.

I wasn’t angry at Dona.  She herself had felt her body had betrayed her.  I was wondering though how to raise the kids alone.

Though I might have dodged overt anger, I did slip into a period where I had a very short fuse.  It’s not that men have long fuses to begin with.  But I found myself angry at the least little thing.  Then it would pass.

Weird.  But that’s grief.

The Acceptance of Grief

Acceptance.  The last part of grief.  Hmm…

You don’t ever get over a loss.  Time does not heal all wounds.  It scars them.  I lost my father when I was young.  I’m not ‘over’ that; it became part of me.  I’m not ‘over’ Dona’s death, but things are not quite so black now.  But the grief is a part of me.  I want it to be so.  The things and events we survive come into the sum of who we are.

And that is for the good.

The process is unavoidable.  I only pray the man I discover myself to be on the other side of grief is a better and stronger man that the one who went in.

I pray that for you, too.

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Comments

  1. Jeff May 14, 2014 #

    Thanks for sharing Drew. I believe God is using your experience with grief to help many others. Your video on the church website is the most watched video we’ve ever had. Thanks for letting God shine through your darkness!

    • Drew Ellenwood May 15, 2014 #

      Thank you, Jeff. I felt like I just rambled during the video. I’m glad some can make sense of it and of the process of grief. I post a link here if anyone would like to check it out or anything else on FBC,G’s website. Thanks for reading.

  2. Kimberly May 14, 2014 #

    I believe everyone goes through things for a reason. I with you had not had to go through this. I wish all of us had not gone through this, especially you and the kids. This blog will help someone else I am sure of that. I have prayed many times that you would take care of yourself as you are going through these stages. Don’t forget that sometimes you go back through the stages again as new experiences come up. We love you all lots. Call if you need to talk to someone.

    • Drew Ellenwood May 15, 2014 #

      Thanks, Kimberly. You are correct in saying a person can go back through the stages as new experiences appear, even as the calendar turn through the year.

  3. Michele May 14, 2014 #

    Insightful, relate-able thoughts as always.

    • Drew Ellenwood May 15, 2014 #

      Thank you, Michele. Ah, a world where we couldn’t relate to grief! But it is not to be in this universe. Thanks for reading and for commenting.

  4. Debbie May 14, 2014 #

    Drew you are such an inspiration. I pray often for you and the kids. Your words are always so full of hope. We love you guys so much.

    • Drew Ellenwood May 15, 2014 #

      Thank you, Debbie. You and David were such a great help at a time of sorrow.

  5. Matt May 15, 2014 #

    I might make you sad again. But even though she was my mother-in-law and not my mother, being the melancholy person I am, I ran through these stages as Lucy did.

    I remember being at your house and waiting for Dona to walk out of the bedroom or something. I kept waiting for Lucy to get a call from her. Things just felt so wrong.

    I had strange moments of utter despair when Dona would pop into my mind, even when Lucy was having a good day.

    I only feel a fraction of what you must feel, but I say this to tell you that I’m blessed to know you and to have known Dona and I’m proud to be part of your family!

    Thank God for the Rock of Ages.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Drew Ellenwood May 16, 2014 #

      Matt, thank you for your encouraging words. It doesn’t make me sad again at all, in fact, it blesses me to know of your care and sympathy. Many times, I think, people wonder if they should say something to a grieving person, afraid they might remind them of the sadness and plunge them into despair. In truth, a grieving person can’t be reminded of their loss. It is with them all the time. Now, they may be in a particular stage of grief that might be prone to tears, but let them flow! Tears wash out a heart.
      When anyone speaks of Dona, I never think, “O, that’s right, I lost a wife; I had forgotten.” Believe, I remember. So when you speak of Dona or of your own grief, it is on my heart like a tonic, and the gentle memories return in a good way. This is why, though grief is a solitary thing, sharing it together helps both parties.
      Thanks for reading and for your sharing. I’m proud of you. Lucy has good judgment.

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