Choosing to Live in the Darkness of Grief

Updated: Mar 11

by Donna Fitzgerald.

Daring to Share Conversations With My Soul February 2020 Edition

Welcome to the Monthly Perceptions of Donna Fitzgerald!!

Donna is a mother of two wonderful adult children who have moved forward with their own lives and paths. As the author of Chapter 6, From There to Here: Calm in Daring to Share, Volume 1, Donna shared her journey as she bravely sought calm amidst the chaos of struggling through a deep and dark storm. For years, Donna wrote what she calls Conversations With My Soul through daily journaling in order to determine who she is and how she could find the calm she yearned for. She is now inspired to share these heartfelt reflections from the past in hopes that her words will make a difference in the lives of those who choose to listen to her voice.

Following is Donna's February 2020 Blog Post Edition of Daring to Share Conversations With My Soul

Editor: Diana Reyers

February is the month of love. Valentine’s Day is when we celebrate those we love with special gifts and notes expressing our love for their presence in our lives. I feel guided to tell a story of love, but it is a lost love through the death of a partner, along with the grief so deeply felt that life will never be the same.

My story is about a dear friend, Sandy, who lost her husband ten years ago to ALS. We were brought together then when I also lost my husband to the same disease. I volunteered my time supporting families living with this horrible disease to cope with their daily reality. Over time, we remained supportive friends with a common journey, but very different outcomes.

My story is quite different than Sandy’s. I loved my husband with all my heart and lost my best friend and father to our children. I came to carry his memory within my heart in a different way. I found courage and beauty in our walk together and the lessons I learned. He taught me to never give up, to see the humor in every day, and that life is a precious gift. I learned to exercise and treat my body with respect because I don’t know when my mobility might be taken away. I live a life guided by his memory and that provides me with hope and a positive future.

Sandy’s story of grief is the total opposite of mine. It is the side of grief you don’t always read about, the one when you can’t find meaning, and the loss and grief are paralyzing. She lives with a heart that is broken beyond repair. Through our many conversations over a cup of tea, we have shared both our stories with each other. In a recent conversation, she wanted me to write about her journey, as painful as it is because she feels that others need to know that not everyone moves through grief to find the light of a new day. Sandy is locked in the darkness and the depths of wanting to be with the one person who shared her heart - as she says, two hearts as one.

She loves her family and friends deeply and knows we all want her to make it through to the other side – to the light. She also wishes for us to come to terms with the reality that sometimes a broken heart can not be put back together and will only feel whole again when reunited with their other half; in her case, her other half is John who already resides in the world beyond her stay here on earth.

I am sharing her experiences as I have over our many conversations. This is my gift to Sandy knowing her health is deteriorating daily. I want her to be a part of the telling of our story. Sandy hopes that by sharing how she feels briefly in this blog, others may gain a new understanding and a compassionate heart when encountering those who cannot move past through their grief and sadness. The compassion will come from knowing that It is not because they don’t want to move forward, but because the pain and loss are just too deep for them to rise above it.

Sandy was a caregiver to John and his elderly Uncle Alex for a combined eighteen years without a break, vacations, or respite until recently. She ignored her own needs putting her husband’s and uncle’s health ahead of her own. Sandy made a promise to John that he would die at home which he did on December 8, 2009. She fulfilled her promise to him. She managed this all while, simultaneously, providing care to Alex who also lived with them during that time. Sandy lives with her own feelings of anxiety, agoraphobia, and self-doubt, but during these years of caring for those she loved, she found the feeling of purpose - the purpose to care for these two special men in her life.

Sandy never got over John’s death and she continues to grieve and cry tears every day since his passing. Nothing has changed within their home, even his voice on their voice mail remains. As she said to me recently, I finally realize I am living with a dead man’s memory. Each day she moves through, she experiences the same emotion and sadness she experienced when her greatest love lay dying at home. After he passed away, she still had her uncle Alex to care for and focus on with the help of some home care assistance. All this time she lived within complicated grief, punishing herself because she survived. Sandy feels she is not worthy of life. She does not see the qualities she holds within her, the beauty, compassion, humor, generosity, her music ability, and so much more.

Before John became ill, he took care of her and she was very dependent on him and his love until his death. He was her buffer to the outside world. She only allows a few people into her life. She always tries to push me away because she doesn’t feel worthy of friendship and she doesn’t like to be vulnerable or ask for help. She believes it makes her weak and that she can’t let people see her fall. She feels she has to do everything perfectly or others will notice her imperfections. These are deep-rooted emotions and thoughts formed throughout her life creating long-standing patterns and untruths that she cannot seem to shake.

When Alex died a few months ago on December 13, 2019, at the age of ninety-one, her caregiver role ended with his death. She can no longer put energy into someone else, including herself. She is left to live in her home alone with her grief, loss, and the deafening silence. She wakes up every day disappointed that she is forced to face another day. The world is just too big to manage alone.

Sandy’s health is deteriorating with all the grief and sadness held within her body and expressed through rivers of tears. She writes cards to John on every occasion and has for the past ten years – they are placed in a box named, Cards to Heaven. She has not been able to let go of his presence and wishes her nightmare on earth will end one day soon, and John will carry her home to be with him.

Grief has two faces in our lives. I live every day with the memory and lessons held within my heart to experience as a gift knowing my husband is a thought away. Sandy experiences her grief unique to her as she holds on so tight to John and everything that is a reminder of their lives together. Sandy won’t experience closure and be at peace until the day she leaves her physical world to be reunited with her dear John.

I love in life, Sandy will love in death; it is expressed uniquely by each of us as individuals to the best of our ability.

I close with Sandy’s last Valentine’s Day card to John.

My darling John,

It is Valentine’s Day again, this is the tenth one that I have been without the love of my life. Johnnie, you were my best friend and still are. I live in this house day and night crying for you. Every moment of every day is torture for me. My heart hurts so bad, I can’t even describe the pain. My heart is literally broken. I just exist here from day-to-day. It breaks my heart that I can’t pull up from the despair of losing you. How can I when I loved you so much? ALS destroyed our lives. It is horrible living here without you. These walls are closing in on me. It hurts so deeply. I love you my darling with all my heart and soul. I want to be with you. I will continue to live this way, the pain will always be here.



Sharing this blogpost is #daringtoshare