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Slices of Life: Grief — episode 294

When I miss him terribly, so much so that my heart hurts, I take one breath at a time: Love in. Pain out. Right now it’s what I’ve got.

Jill Pertler
Jill Pertler

I’ve written about grief before (recently). I know that. Thing is, there are infinite facets of grief to talk and write about. Just like the infinity of grief.

No one wants to go through grief. And for sure no one wants to go through it alone. But grief is a lonely process. You can be in a roomful of people and feel alone, because grief is a beast that isolates — in the cruelest of ways.

I’ve recently become somewhat of an expert at grief. I’m practically a grief M.D., although it’s a title I never would have chosen. I wish I could give it back. But there aren’t any do-overs with grief. I’m living that out the hard way.

I suck at grief. I'm terrible at it. I never know what to expect from myself from one moment to the next. I wake up and think I might be having an OK day and then, whoosh! That good thought flies out the window and the tears fall down like rain.

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At first I couldn’t breathe. Literally. I was living breath to breath. Then, minute to minute, and task to task. Hours were too much to take on — still are sometimes. Evening seems incredibly distant at 10 a.m. How am I going to make it that far?

I don’t know the answer, so I breathe. Calm in. Fear out. Peace in. Anxiety out. Happiness in. Sadness out.

The days are long and the nights sometimes longer. Sleep is elusive, especially when everyone else who is normal is sleeping. There’s no one to call at 3:26 am.

Sometimes, on the best of days, my heart is calm and I feel like I can make it through the day. But not tomorrow. I can’t commit to tomorrow quite yet. It’s too far away. Too optimistic.

Some days are better than others. Some days start out good and turn bad. Some start bad and then turn good. There is no flipping rhyme or reason to grief.

I consider it a win if I shower. So far I haven’t missed a one. Winner, winner chicken dinner. How great for me. Exclamation point.

I also pat myself on the back each morning for making half the bed. The other half doesn’t get messed up anymore so there’s only half of that job to do. Sigh.

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Mascara is a thing of the past— an implement for optimists who don’t worry about tears washing it away before breakfast. Sunglasses, however, are a wardrobe staple, no matter the number of clouds in the sky.

Between my sunglasses and COVID mask, I figure hardly anyone will recognize me when I go out in public. Because of grief, this is a good thing.

I think most people have difficulties with grief. I’m not the only one who sucks at it. No one wants to win an Olympic medal for grief. No one. We’d give up the gold to have one last day, one last discussion, one last warm hand to hold from the precious person who is no longer here to give us any of those things.

Grief is, in a word, sadness. It is an overpowering, all-encompassing, horrific and terrible sadness. I want to make it through. I am trying, for myself and my kids. They still need me. But it is overwhelmingly difficult.

Even though I know my dear, sweet husband is now free and in a place where love is perfect and no one needs to experience pain, I miss him. He wanted us to remember the happy times so I attempt that. We had many.

And when I miss him terribly, so much so that my heart hurts, I take one breath at a time: Love in. Pain out. Right now it’s what I’ve got.

J ill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright, author and member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. Don’t miss a slice; follow the Slices of Life page on Facebook.

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