Yesterday I went to the grief counselor session ready to tell her: I have no hope anymore- it’s gone. I have no faith. What do I do? How do I go on with this pain? I cried in the car on the way there and told Joe who was driving me that it was just too hard. I told him what I was going to tell her. Somehow when I emerged from the session- I felt hopeful. “Oh, she’s good…” Joe said. I guess so.
When I went in I’d thought of two ways to explain what had happened this past week.
1) I told her, “You know how in high school they teach you in health class or they have those special programs about drugs or suicide? Well, I remember them saying, ‘You think once you’re dead you’ll get to see everyone being all sad for your death and you’ll feel better- but hey, guess what- you’ll be dead. So you won’t see it!’ I remember them saying that, and can relate that to what I’ve been doing but in a reversed way. I think I’d been imagining that Dan could see me going through this (maybe he can, maybe he can’t- I don’t know yet), but I think I’ve been imagining that he could. I’ve been being really “strong” (as much as I can)- doing all the “right” things, because I wanted to make him proud. I was waiting for him to finally emerge, pat me on the back and say something he often would, “good girl.” But when I realized that this would not occur, just as in the above example you would lose your desire to commit suicide realizing you won’t see what’s going on after your death- realizing Dan was not seeing me alive- I didn’t want to go on living. At least not this way…not this “strong.”
2) Second and similarly, I realized that I’ve always been the “good girl,” the straight A student who knew all the answers. So perhaps even in this intense pain- I’ve been coming up with the “right answers.” That’s how I was able to write the other sad widows on the forums and tell them, “But your husband would want you to go on- think about how you can honor him that way.” Right answer, but not too helpful or genuine or real at this stage of my grief. Even the posts that I’ve been writing- people tell me they’re devastating but beautiful and life-affirming. But in order to go on now in this process, I must push that aside for a while. Readers- I hope you won’t mind. I will let go of hope and all that stuff so that if I find it- it will be genuine and real. I would like to find it, but I will not head towards it with that goal in mind. It’s a scary kind of letting go. I told the counselor that I was thinking about a class I took in college called “Faith and Doubt” and the premise presented by Feurbach- the father of Atheism- that if Christians are going to keep saying something is true no matter what kind of argument you come up with- that makes our belief unfalsifiable. Nothing makes it false so that takes away from the truth of it. I want to leave the doorway open for it be false. I will let it be falsifiable. I will go forward in grief with no agenda to prove hope. Doubts are just as important as faith. I wrote a piece in grad school about my own faith. I said that my doubts were like scaffolding- and that they didn’t bother me that much because “one day I know they’ll all come off.” I hope that analogy is still true. I hope what I build in the search, what lies underneath the scaffolding is sturdy and beautiful- but I may not know for a long time. Right now- the emphasis is on the process- on the building- not the end result.
During the session, she told me that it seemed I’d moved from focusing on Dan and if he was alright- to focusing a little more on myself- which led to regrets and intense pain surrounding the reality of my going on without him. I asked her flat-out, “So when will this end…I can’t take the intensity that much longer.” Of course, I knew she’d have no answer. She did say my analytical mind might be both helpful and detrimental- but that it might help me move more quickly…but she also said that the whole first year will be tough. She asked again if I felt the need for anti-depressants- and said I might want to think about taking them during the holidays. “The holidays will be very hard.” She said that I was very strong to already be coming to counseling so early. Good for me.
There was one surprisingly hopeful thing that I found before I even went in to the session- while I was just standing outside the building on busy 57th Street. The office is in a hotel and I saw a lot of tourists hanging around the street there, looking perplexed as to where they should go how they often do. But you know how people with the right accents always seem cooler and more glamourous? Well, since I was little really- I would look at other people and imagine- what if right now, i became that person? What if my life became their life? But I would no longer be myself- but truly them. Hard to imagine i know. I could tour NYC and head back to England or France with my family- they look like they have money and I could be a different person. So, I asked myself this yesterday- thinking especially given my situation- that I’d welcome a completely different life. I’d welcome leaving myself behind and stepping into someone else’s shoes. But you know what? I did not. Without hesitation, I knew that this is where I must be. I hate my journey right now, but it is mine. I don’t understand it- want desperately to change it or fix it, but I don’t wish to disappear from it. Very, very strange fact- but it was my genuine thought.