Even though we didn’t have a great marriage anymore and I’d thought about escaping him many times, I was hit by a huge fog of grief when he died.
The trauma of his illness, the violence of that illness in his last three days, and the feelings of not knowing who I was were the beginning of a surreal fog that is a common thing that protects grieving people when they need to make decisions and deal with all the things.
I had to call people and tell them. And explain to them that he didn’t want a funeral or memorial service. Honestly, I was grateful that those were his wishes. I couldn’t have planned it. Our older daughter wouldn’t have gone.
All the people who loved the public version of him mostly respected those wishes. I told them that they could do something for themselves or their groups. The people who worked with him had a luncheon in his honor and invited me. These were people I’d known for many years. And that fog rolled over me even deeper at that event–listening to them share stories of shenanigans and how much they loved and respected him just made me wonder why he’d been able to love and care for these people in ways he never showed our children and me. In a room full of fifty people, I was completely alone in my fog.
That fog grew denser as I realized that my grief was about spending more than two decades with a man who didn’t love me for who I was but spent all those years trying to make me want he thought I should be. I grieved for what we should’ve had but didn’t.
I grieved that one of my closest friends had been widowed the year before. She had a beautiful marriage to an amazing man, and it wasn’t fair that she lost him. They’d had what I always wished I could’ve had. Even her in-laws loved her in ways that mine didn’t seem capable of after their son’s passing.
In a way, my former in-laws helped me realize how emotionally abused I’d been. Their own form of narcissistic and demeaning ways of trying to control me unlocked years of suppressed memories. More grief fog set in as I realized I was no longer treated as part of their family. (Now, I realize that was partly because I set healthy boundaries that they didn’t like.)
I shed so many private tears in that multi-layered fog that my tear ducts became painful.
I couldn’t read books, except for parts of the widowhood books that my widowed friend sent me. I’d start a book and put it down before I got to the third chapter. I still haven’t fully recovered my drive and love for reading, which is terrifying as a writer who should be reading a lot more books than I am managing. I feel as if this is the last of my residual “widow brain” or grief fog. I want so much to be able to read books like I used to.
For me, the fog has mostly dissipated. Sometimes, I have trauma flashbacks when I go through things and realize how his actions showed how little he cared for us, his wife and kids. Sometimes, I write a blog post about what I’ve been through and feel that fog build again. I’m at a place now where I can find sunshine to burn off the lingering haze.
Widowed people do come out of that fog but on their own timelines. It’s so important that we find ways to be kind to ourselves and each other while we navigate that fog. Sometimes the visibility is zero. And that’s okay. Sometimes it’s patchy, and we get stuff done and feel human before it rolls in again. That’s okay, too.
If you’re navigating that fog, go as slow as you need to see the path.