A different kind of loss
Grief is usually associated with death. Of a parent, spouse, child or friend. But there is a whole other kind of grief. Grief for the person who’s still there.
I’m talking about the overwhelming sense of loss and despair felt by those who still have the person they love, but have lost them to stroke and/or disease. Yes, they’re still there. Except they aren’t. They may be unable to respond, trapped by illness, in a body that can’t indicate the slightest emotion. Rage, sorrow, envy, remorse, shame, love, even humour not even mirrored in their eyes. And yet, who are we to say they aren’t all present, just not accounted for? By the sufferer and the sorrower.
Then there’s the other kind of loss, where the person you love is also there but, this time, semi-present, thanks to a stroke. That's what happened to my husband. And this is even harder. He was once, and still is,greatly loved. A man who relished company, conversation and companionship. And still does. He knows he’s not what he was, but can’t explain just how or why. He tries and, because speech is difficult for him, he cries. When this happens, he can be easily diverted. A kiss. A simple “I love you”. Promise of a treat. Any and all of these make him, apparently, “forget” what was causing such sadness. But do they. Or is he just trying to make things easier for those he loves, too?
But he can’t make anything easier. He’s now a child. I've acquired a fill-in- the- number-year old son. One with whom I cannot truly share my thoughts and feelings. One with whom I will never again share the things we loved to do. Enjoy a good meal and a glass of wine. Read and discuss books, movies, theatre, music. Make love. Hike, play tennis or golf. Explore different countries, try out different languages, cultures, food. Share old friends and make new ones. We can’t even live together. Life now is a series of visits.
What do I do? There are some options. Grief counselling or therapy. Support groups. On-line this and that. But try and find one that deals with this. They’re all about death. Death of a parent, spouse, child, friend, even pet. Social workers, community services, various religious groups are all ready and eager to embrace the experience of finality. But this demi-ending, this limbo, seems to go unacknowledged anywhere, by anyone. And so, I try to endure. For those of us, like me, without family, this means days, weeks and specially week-ends of mourning. A sorrow so overwhelming can only be shared by a very few, very, very close friends. Grief takes over just when you think the worst is done. Out of nowhere, apparently, a thunder storm of tears. A paroxysm of grief, just to remind me that I must go on. Must continue to visit, love, console All the time with a smile on my face. Offer an encouraging word and hug. Promise a treat. My reward? The knowledge that my love is still returned. A hundred-fold.
Is that enough? It has to be.