not looking to be consoled, not sure why I am writing at all

hopelesslyemptyAugust 19, 2012

Two months ago, I lost my best friend/sister-in-law to MS at the age of 47. She was so wise and amazing and brilliant and funny. Without making a spectacle of it, she was unfathomably courageous. She found the MS utterly uninteresting and unworthy of entertaining; that perspective distracted others from the inordinate pain from which she suffered privately. And yet she was always concerned with the aches, pains, concerns and lives of others. She was witty and charming and somehow summoned the energy to be thoroughly involved in her kids lives, keep up on current affairs, always prepare new menus and plan her garden. She was fearless without being fierce, determined without being dominating, staggeringly beautiful without caring about beauty, imminently forgiving of those who fell short of being better human beings and ridiculously funny about those who mistook themselves for being important. I miss her so much, I have no words to try to explain the gaping hole in my heart. Her husband/my brother worked very long hours and travelled for work, so we sporadically lived together off and on for that last 16 years. I can't believe that there are so many more years ahead without her. I didn't realize how much time we spent together or talked on the phone or filled up each others days until I became the only one left. I feel so utterly empty.

Many of her friends, family and my own friends and family are always asking how I am, and until recently could say fine. I was doing curiously fine and was coping inexplicably well until the past couple of days, when I have suddenly fallen apart and now weep uncontrollably. i have nothing to say, don't wish to talk to anyone and don't wish to be comforted and don't wish to have closure. I guess that is why i am finding myself typing to strangers on a gardening site. The irony is that i have never gardened and am terrible at it, yet am trying to nurture her garden and plants.

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I don't think it's sad that you're talking to strangers. In some ways, that can be more helpful than dealing with immediate family and friends. There is something about someone knowing you only as a name and a situation that opens up your heart a little bit with the pain that you're dealing with. I think it's normal to feel empty and I think it's admirable and courageous to take on her gardening. Read some books, try some things, I think with time it will help you heal!

    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 7:19PM
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I read your post at one of my "sad" times. I lost my daughter-in-law Michelle (age 42) 5 months ago. I, like you didn't realize how much time we spent together until she was gone. I think my son; daughter and I are still in shock over her death. She beat breast cancer 3 years ago and had a clean report for 2 1/2 years. Cancer then struck back with a vengeance and she was gone in 8 weeks. Michelle never had much of a relationship with her own mother; they were estranged for quite a few years. When she joined our family I taught her to cook many, many recipes, how to can vegetables and tried to teach her to sew. She was a quick learner except for the sewing, burning up 3 machines before we gave up on that. Flea markets, garage sales, second hand stores we browsed endlessly together. I miss her every day. I lost my Dad 30 years ago and my Mom almost 5 years ago but their passing didn't seem so traumatic to me. I guess because everyone expects their parents to precede them in death but not their children. Every day Michelle comes into my mind and heart so quickly, remembering - "we did this together, we did that together". I find myself in tears a couple times a week and I talk to her telling her how much I miss her. One time I even hollered at her asking her why she had to go so soon. There are four children left without a parent when she died, they are all teenagers but they have seemed to snap back to their lives more quickly than the 3 of us. You say people ask you how you are, it's strange but no one ever asks me how I am. Maybe it's because I was the mother-in-law they don't think it affected me as much, how wrong they are! We miss her so much because in our minds we planned on her being with us for years and years yet to come. Talking to her helps me a lot, but there are still many tears and sad times when I miss her. Your post has helped me so much because even though these sweet people were not blood relatives they still hold a very deep place in our hearts.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2012 at 10:37PM
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Hi Deb_PA,

i am guessing it is just Deb but I am unfamiliar with the protocol for responding to a post. Thank you for sharing your story, though I am sorry you have a story to share. I think this space/place, whatever, is a place to exhale; where its okay to talk about the loved one that has passed, without feeling as though people are thinking "she is still talking about it; its been x number of months/years".

I relate to your letter/words/emotions about your daughter-in-law, and can imagine how completely blindsided you were given that the cancer re-appeared so aggressively and without restraint. As you were describing the talents/skills you shared with and imparted to her, I couldn't help but smile at the "tried to teach her to sew", as it seemed that whether the effort was met with success or failure, it was a shared experience that had residual endearing memories as a consolation prize.

In so far as how we all cope with losing mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, children and at what age everyone was when it happens, I think there is no rhyme or reason to grieving. I lost my own father when I was 8 and was bewildered, I resumed the day to day activities of school, sports, friends and life. It was when I was growing up that I desperately ached to know him more, to have his guidance, to know what he would think of me, and at different life points, (usually low moments) that I would find myself feeling as lost as the 8 year old without a father. I say this because your teenage grandchildren are all dealing with it in their own way, which may run the gammet from over-engagement with their friends vs. the remaining parent to not wanting to talk about the parent they have lost. One thing that maybe helpful while the memories are still so fresh is writing down memories about what your daughter-in-law Michelle was like - her values, hopes, dreams, experiences - things that she may not have shared with her children, but that they will very much appreciate at sometime later in their life.

I feel badly for you as I can sort of understand how strange it must be for you, people not asking how you are, as though they didn't understand she was as dear as a daughter to you. My mum is having a hard time as well but for different reasons. In an effort to comfort my sister-in-laws parents and the children, I don't think he understands the depth of our own mum's sorrow for her daughter-in-law.

For me, it has now been three months and I still want to talk about my friend/sister-in-law to people, not unlike the way I might talk about another sibling that lives out of state and doesn't get home often, but people look at me like "oh she's still not over it". I think that is why I am so grateful that you wrote, as I know that someone else "listened" to how wonderful she is and is in a similar place. It is a comforting thing to identify with someone else going through a similar situation, but again am really sorry you have to go through it at all.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2012 at 10:40PM
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