I don’t have to check a thermometer to see if it is freezing outside, I know it by the pain in my wrist and elbow. I used to laugh at the jokes and talks from older people when they would say they could feel a storm coming in their bones, but now I have joined their ranks.
When the warmth of Summer begins to fade, I pack up the bathing suit and make sure I have ice packs ready. The leaves fall and the chilly rain begins; that’s when the dull ache begins to creep back. As the gray clouds begin to crowd in threatening to rain on the leafless trees waiting for warmer days to begin, the ache turns to true stabbing pains. A reminder of past injuries ushered in on frigid winds as the Seasons change.
I’m learning that the grief of losing someone behaves in the same manner.
The pain eases a little in warmth and you can almost forget it existed. Everywhere around you things are growing and thriving; then the Season changes.
For me, the bleak coldness came in the middle of renewing a membership to a store. I hadn’t had to change it since right before I got married to Brian so it still bore my old last name. I hadn’t given it much thought. I stood beside Brian and the herd of children we lovingly call a family and waited for them to get everything changed over and include Brian on my account. The store representative looked up in my eyes and said “So, I need to take Dan off the account. Will he not be using the card anymore?”
I had to pause because those two little sentences were like an block of ice had just been placed on an old injury. I wanted to scream at the man who was now paused with his little mouse on the computer waiting for confirmation to click Dan’s name away, “He’s dead. Of course he won’t be using the card anymore.” Of course the man probably just thought I had won the card in divorce proceedings. Dan got the boat and I got the store card. I just stuttered out a “yes” and let him think I lost the boat. There was no reason to tell him that what I had lost was my daughter’s father to suicide. He just clicked the box and inserted Brian’s name.
I floundered a bit with the ache of the old injury being renewed for a few more days and tried to find the warmth that would chase the pain back. Then I found a bag I had shoved in the back of a cabinet when I first moved into the house. It contained several documents from the hospital about Dan’s death, condolences cards, a book for children about the death of a family member and a pamphlet about how to deal with suicide. I might as well have moved to the North Pole and stuck my arthritic joints directly into a snow bank. The old injury exploded in pain.
How do we prepare ourselves for these moments the Seasons change and the cold brings the pain back alive? How do we find the strength to bring warmth and comfort back?
I ended up finding myself in an empty house as I was given some time by myself. I played some games with my friends on my phone and laid down for a nap with my dog. When I woke I ate some of my favorite comfort food, watched a movie and had ice cream. I lay beside Brian and allowed the warmth of self-care and love bring some of the warmth back.
The box that bore Dan’s name was unchecked a while back by himself. The pain of that action will likely never totally go away. Coming back to ache when the cold seeps in. Moments that the girls ask questions about him because they don’t remember him well, times that another widow finds me and I see the pain fresh and raw, instances where I look at an almost 15 year span of my life that I had hoped would be healed and are just gone.
If you are someone you care about has gone through a loss, please remember that sometimes that old pain might begin to ache again. No matter the sun that might be shining and the evidence of growth or new life, the Season can change in an instant. The clouds of memories may block some light and the wound feels new again. Contrary to some opinions, this is NOT dwelling in the past. Not a single part of us wants to hold onto the grief and we long for the warming light, but it finds us; the ones that have been injured in the past.
…and frankly…even the briskest temperatures can feel warmer when we stand in the light that our friends and family continually provide.