Trust Me As I Grieve

We continue this month with a little help from our grief-friends.  Today we have a post from Laura Abbruzzese, a child development professional who lost her partner, Jeff Metz, suddenly at the age of 48.  Laura’s words reminded us of the experience of so many grievers who find themselves getting well-intentioned advice from friends and family, but are left simply wanting to say “please, just trust me as I grieve”. 


A passerby saw a monkey in a tree holding a fish.  And the monkey said to the fish, “but I saved you from drowning!”
(From The Yamas and Niyamas by Deborah Adele, 2009).

The Yamas and Niyamas are yoga’s guidelines for ethical conduct. One of the five yama’s is Ahimsa, or non-violence. According to this practice, “nonviolence asks us to trust the other’s ability to find the answer they are seeking…the violence we do to others by thinking we know what is best for them is illustrated in the [above referenced]  story from India”  (Adele, 2009). Like the monkey that thinks he knows what is best for the fish, he is taking away exactly what the fish needs to survive.

I recently passed the 14 month mark of losing the man that I love. I feel very strongly that I have done well and have made the best choices that I could during this time. I am proud of my resiliency. I have made a strong effort to live my life and stay positive. This essay is about the misunderstanding of grief by people who have not experienced this kind of significant loss, yet offer advice about moving on with life after death.

I know it is done with love and the desire to see me live out the rest of my life without this heavy burden of loss and tragedy. I already know that this burden will always be with me – nothing will ever change that. But I have to tell you something else. Something important. Here it is: you cannot create a road map to a place you have never traveled. There is no road map for my journey and I am figuring it out as I go. All I ask is that the people in my life trust that I am doing everything I can to live my life and go forward without my favorite person.

If you have never experienced the sudden and tragic loss of someone you love, I am afraid it is not your place to tell me when it’s time to move on. A little more than a year after his death, being told by some of my dearest friends that it is time to stop grieving nearly destroyed me with anger and sadness. They asked, “When are you going to take his belongings out of the apartment?” They said, “Stop posting memories about him on social media!” They said other things like, “don’t let it define you”, “you are not getting any younger”, and “maybe it’s time to stop being sad”. Okay, point taken. However, one thing I have learned through trial and error is that it is not possible to just stop the grieving process. Still, as a favor to my friends, I can continue to travel this road alone inside my head where you cannot see it or feel the discomfort it may bring. I understand how you may not be ready to appreciate the window of experience I am offering you.

I guess you are right, not everyone needs to know how much it sucked last weekend to go through the closet and put his most worn clothing into a plastic bag for donation. And I still have more closets and storage spaces to go though. I cried for every shirt and every pair of jeans I folded and placed into a bag. I smelled each shirt to see if it still had his scent. I found one that had a faint scent of his cologne. I kept that shirt along with all my favorites and put them in a storage bag to keep. I labored over which ones to keep and which ones to donate. But point taken, I will no longer share this kind of experience publically so as to make anyone else uncomfortable.

I do have to mention that if you have gone through a divorce or loss of a relationship, please do not compare that loss to the death of a partner. It is not the same. You still have the luxury of being angry with an ex-spouse or partner. You have the luxury of ignoring emails or even finding them and yelling in their face or slapping them across it if you want, because they are still alive. It is different. It is painful and awful. I have been though that kind of loss too. I have the experience to tell you that it is not the same. As much as I would like you to recognize this, I would never wish my kind of pain on someone that I love. So, I am also happy that you cannot understand.

I also want to tell you that you are only judging my place in grief by what you see on the outside. You see that I am holding on to the most precious pieces that I have left of him – his clothes, his books, his writings and artwork, his golf clubs, his pictures and my memories. These things do not hurt me or make me sad. They comfort me and make me feel safe and connected to him. You do not know what transformations have taken place for me on the inside. You do not see how resilient I am and how well I have done. For every negative or sad thought I have, I combat it with a positive mantra. I have developed a great deal more understanding and empathy for others. I run almost every day and use that time to shift my thinking to peace and acceptance. I am making plans for the future and he is coming with me. He will always be part of me.

I miss him and so I will cherish all my memories and possessions that remind me of him and our life together. It does not mean that I am not moving forward. He was the biggest part of my life and I am not going to suppress that. Suppressing only makes it ooze out in negative ways. No, I am going to carry it forward with me. Maybe I am sad some of the time, but I am also able to be happy. Let me figure this one out on my own. Let me be sad if I need to be sad. Let me keep his things for as long as I need to keep them. This is not something that needs to be rushed. It will evolve in the way it needs to evolve. Trust that I am doing what is right for me.


Laura Abbruzzese is a native of Chicago, IL. Laura lost her partner, Jeff Metz, suddenly at the age of 48. They attended the same high school in Westmont, IL. They met again in 2012 when they started dating and became domestic partners shortly after. Laura is a child development professional and also teaches child development at the local community college. She lives in her Chicago apartment with her four cats, Zola, Luna, Tilda and Junior.

 

Reference

Adele, Deborah. (2009).  The Yamas & Niyamas: Exploring yoga’s ethical practice. Duluth, MN: On-Word Bound Books LLC.

October 27, 2017

31 responses on "Trust Me As I Grieve"

  1. Thank you Laura for sharing. Thank you to all of you who have shared your own stories. I lost my mom 3 months ago. Reading your comments helps me to know that everything I’m feeling is normal, expected , part of loving someone so much…… you’ve reassured me that I’ll be ok…. that I don’t have to feel rushed to ” heal” so others can feel comfortable around me. Thank you! God bless you all.

  2. most people are afraid to die………………………lose your child, only child, and you will be forever looking forward to death. With all your hopes and dreams for your future- gone in that instant- you are now afraid to continue living.

  3. And , If you have never lost a child………your only child———-then keep your opinions, advice and platitudes to yourself.

  4. On Nov 12th 2016, I lost my husband of 43 years. I also know what some one is going through when losing a “partner”. To this day, I can still hear my husband say” You can’t be mad at me when you go to sleep, what if something happens and we don’ t get see each other again?” He worked nights and I worked days… Anyway we would ALWAYS give each other a kiss on the check before went left some where. Taking care of him at home was good and bad. Watching him fade away broke my heart, but looking in his eyes and seeing he knew he was at home to die like he wanted was a comfort as well. I too have had to “move on”. Recently sold our house (40 years)! Reading all these blogs have given me great comfort. I now know its ok to have highs and lows that other feel the same way! What really “freeks” me out is when I picture me saying ” my husband died 20+ years ago”. I start to panic and hear myself thinking do I have to live that long without him…. I think of my kids and grandkids, and pray to God that I DO!

  5. Hi I have lost my husband 3 weeks ago 🙁 and it was just too sudden. He was 47 years and was in heart failure which lasted only 1 year- there was not much pain or suffering therefore I had no idea that his passing on would be so soon.

    Loretta, I also tell them what they want to hear ‘I’m okay’ and they say ‘stay strong’. But what does ‘stay strong’ really mean—- do not show your grief and pain to others? Do not break down in front of the rest of the family, ‘cos you are their backbone? Then comes my question of questions….. now that my backbone/strength/friend/love of my life is no longer here whom do I turn to????

    I empathize with Laura, as I have also been through a divorce many years ago and now the death of my husband (married 22 years this year). But with due respect to her feelings I unlike her have no desire or need to hang on to his material possessions in order to keep his memories alive. I believe myself to be a practical person and feel that his clothes, etc. can be put to better use by others than just lying around in the home and this gives me comfort.
    But my motto is: ‘To each her own means of grieving’

    And the answer to my question of questions is GOD to whom we can converse with about our innermost feelings and not be ‘judged’. I believe that prayer helps us through all our difficulties.
    I say to all of us who have suffered some form of loss, STAY STRONG, WE WILL EVENTUALLY GET THERE!

  6. Laura,

    I don’t know your type of loss but I know my own….and I too live with the delicate balance of what to share and what not to. I love talking about my son and sharing cherished memories of him….he was such a light in this world! But he was fighting wars we knew nothing about and three years ago he made the pain-filled decision to end that battle. Unlike many who suffer loss I no longer get advice or expressions of companionship….it’s just too hard for people to fathom how this could have happened to our loving family…..if to us, perhaps it could happen to them as well.
    So we who have unwillingly come to know suffering can willingly grow stronger from it. It is isolating and lonely and sometimes even hopeless, but we have a saying in our forever changed family, “Have the best day you can have.” That’s how we approach every day…sometimes it’s not much and some days feel absolutely victorious! I haven’t written such things in a very long time-thank you for touching that place in this mom’s heart that still dares to believe that God is good and where there is breath there is hope.

  7. Thank you so much for sharing this article. It really resonated with me. I lost my husband suddenly and unexpectedly in 2013 and he was 52. I am so sorry that people have judged you on your journey. I hope you reconsider posting on social media as it is your page for your thoughts and if they are offended, they need to deal with that. You shouldn’t have to. I feel very fortunate for the support I still receive to this day from friends. I have the same saying posted to my computer screen about dancing in the rain. That is what this journey is about. Take good care.

  8. Beautiful and wise post. I lost my partner of 25 years 10 months ago. It wasn’t sudden. He had metastatic cancer for three years. He was 68 and I am 64. I’ve found that almost no-one wants to talk to me about my grief and loss other than to ask how am I going, which I agree, most people don’t want truly answered. As many more don’t even ask that question. Many of my friends are single and I know have no idea what I’m going through. But even those who are partnered just can’t go there and don’t really understand or want to.

    I also have four cats, Tippy, Silvertail, Soxy, and Billie, and they give me much joy. I found I don’t want to leave the house much or for long as it is where I feel safest and happiest. My partner did a lot to make our house and garden the beautiful refuge it is and it is full of the 100s of books he bought and loved and still many of his possession, including clothes, tools, papers, letters, etc.

    I still have his ashes in an urn. I haven’t wanted to fulfil his stated wish which was that they be distributed on the farm where he grew up which is about 12 hour drive from where I live. One of his sisters has been nagging me about doing this but I’m not ready for that and make no apologies for it. It also comforts me to have them here in the house, and I might never do it. I know he wouldn’t have minded.

  9. This is everything I say to those who are not allowed to grieve in the way they need to. I am fortunate that I have a wonderful support network of friends and family who do not mind me saying James’s name or talking about the good times or the awful times after cancer started to take him. Anyone else not comfortable with my grief or those who flinch when I say his name, well, I just don’t see them very much anymore. Thank you for sharing!

  10. Love your article. It is spot on! I have a plaque that says “We can’t always choose the music life plays for us but we can choose how we dance to it.” I read this everyday and it helps me through the day.

    • I have a similar one. “Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

  11. I feel very alone in my grieving. I wish more therapists would understand our experience. When I told my therapist I don’t talk to my brother because he’s dead, she looked really sad and a little shocked. She didn’t understand my journey of grief so I never felt that I could get anyone who understands. Thank you for writing this. We are on our own journey. And we really are doing our best.

  12. Thank you for sharing your story Laura. I lost my husband and best friend 7 months ago. I have been getting the same reactions from people, so I stopped sharing my feelings. When people ask me “How are you?” I realize they do not really want to know.

    • Hey Linn I lost my person 7months ago as well. I miss him daily but I’m not in the fetal position anymore so I’m turning the corner I like to say to myself. Keep going don’t stop no matter how others feel because time is all we have and what ever u do with that time in healing your heart take it. The stillness in time is whats worse don’t worry god will guide u to comfort.

  13. I lost both parents nine months apart a few years ago. I’m still grieving. I just turned 32 and everyone thinks I should be healed and moved on now. I don’t talk about them as openly as I did because other people put their expectations on my grief and I could not listen to it anymore. They don’t understand that all my hopes for the future like Dad escorting me down the aisle, Mom holding her grandbaby, and family dinners with stories of childhood are gone. Beautiful article.

  14. Some say there is a common roadmap to grief. Not so! Although many of us understand and empathize, this is your journey to take and you will travel in your own good time. Love and blessings along your path, Laura. Thank you for sharing.

  15. Thanks to each of you, for teaching me how to be a better friend to someone who is grieving

  16. From February 1978 to May 1979 I had three of the greatest losses in my life. My father and two brothers all died within those months in separate tragic ways. I still have days where the pain of loss is extremely intense. I am now 60 years old but the 39 years gap since the losses sometimes closes in as if the losses were just yesterday. I too, as others have mentioned, endured mindless though well intentioned comments. The best thing I have done to perserve the memories, continue healthy grieving and to show empathy for the grief process is to volunteer as a facilitator for groups at a children’s grief center. I recently held a Yoga Workshop titled Yoga for Grief to assist people in their grief journey with ways to find comfort as they travel through life with their lifelong losses. I was also able to provide funds for the non-profit organization Common Ground through the donations I collected. I continue to live my life as productively as I can at any moments but honor that some moments are very difficult no matter how many years have lapsed since the untimely deaths.

  17. “… if you have gone through a divorce or loss of a relationship, please do not compare that loss to the death of a partner. It is not the same.”

    Thank you! I attended a grief class, and one of the class members (who is now a facilitator!) told everyone how divorce is worse than death. ?! I was very offended and wanted to tell that woman, “How DARE you tell me that your divorce is worse than the DEATH of my SON!” Incredible. Also incredible was that the facilitators, although they didn’t agree with her, would NOT speak to her privately about how inappropriate her comment was. (The woman held some kind of special status within the church that hosted the grief class.)

    Aside from the above, I wanted to comment that I also know how private my grief has become. I lost my young adult son 6.5 years ago, and I know that it is society’s expectation that I speak no more of him.

  18. This really touched me. I too reconnected with an old school friend in 2012. We had the most wonderful time together till this August when I lost him to a sudden and unexpected death aged 48. It is such a hard road that is different for each of us. My mantra to everyone is that I am ‘ok’ or ‘fine’ while inside or when alone I am crumbling.

  19. Beautiful, well written story of your life. You have written words that so many of us have wanted to say and have felt in our heart and soul. I lost my sister two years ago and my daughter three months ago, both to cancer. My mother died 25 years ago and I still remember that my Dad wanted all her things packed up the following weekend. Too soon. People say it is the memories that keep the person alive but it is also their belongings, their personal stuff that gives you comfort when you hold a sweater they wore or use a coffee cup they used. Thank you Laura.

  20. Oh you hit it on the mark! I lost my husband 7 months ago, people keep asking me how I am, I just tell them okay, and they say “oh that’s good and walk away”. That is what they want to hear, so I keep saying that and like you keep my feeling inside.

  21. Everyone’s comments are so touching and I’m sitting here crying while I read them. Love and healing to all of you.

  22. After I read this I cried like it had just happened. My partner was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer 13 months ago and died 8 months ago at age 54. It’s hard to believe it’s already been that long. I have a friend who lost her daughter a few years ago and she has been there for me and helped guide me. No one else understands so I keep my feelings to myself.

    Joe and I had only found each other a couple years before he died and it makes me angry, heartbroken, devastated and so much more that we were both cheated out of a second half of life together. I’ve started stringing together a few good days, but then the bad ones reappear.

  23. Sitting here crying. You’ve spoken my heart.

  24. Thank you for sharing and I am so sorry for your loss.I lost my father suddenly when I was 20 and he was 60.Now I am 56 and lost my mother 3 years ago to pancreatic cancer.She was 91 so had a long life but it is still so painful as she was the closest person to me.I still cannot get rid or donate of her clothes.I am still healing and I am a nurse who took care of her.I still need time and so really related to your article! I have many memories connected to her clothes and they comfort me.Many people do not understand this so thank you so much for your article.I am crying as I write this.One day at a time.Take care.Things slowly get a little easier but not every day or week.

  25. I just posted your article on my facebook page with the following:

    Another eloquent article I could have written verbatim. Minus minor details – very minor ones. Same same.
    My journey. Do not advise. Do not impose. Do not wish for me. Do nothing other than listen and say, “Yes, I am so sorry”.
    Thank you.
    Rant over.

  26. Dear Laura,
    Your story made me cry. I totally identify with what you are going through. My daughter died mysteriously…The investigation thus far has been a joke. Her wedding gown and clothing are in boxes. I cannot dispose of them yet: I need to find out who killed her. I am reminded of my beautiful 36 year old daughter every time I get out of the shower. I see the caesarian scar, but my “baby” is gone! Someone decided she should not live anymore. no one has said I should get rid of things…that is heartless and they don’t understand. I was sorry to read that you were treated that way. I will grieve until I can get closure of what happened to her…until then I refuse to throw anything out of hers. I too smell the last clothing article she wore. It helps to remind me she was alive and not to forget her… 💔

  27. This really resonates with me. I also lost my husband suddenly now nearly three years ago. I am on my own path, and he will always accompany me. I talk to him in my journal and my imagination, and he helps me with life’s hard problems. I find that I can relax and feel more freely myself with people who didn’t know both of us. None of my former friends have any idea of what my thoughts and feelings are like, nor will they until they lose someone beloved, which I wouldn’t ever wish for anyone though we will all know it.

  28. This was a very comforting article for me to read. I silently said to myself “she gets it”. I have been traveling this path of grieving for 5 years now(maybe longer since my husband Chuck had Alzheimers and I felt like I had a double grieving process). I miss my friend in so many ways but especially his bizarre sense of humor. I am doing the best I can, but realize it is a slow slow process. Yoga (especially restorative yoga) has helped me on this path, but some days I feel as if all I can do is hang on.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  29. Beautifully stated; nine months ago my husband died suddenly, and it is a solitary journey, understood by only those that also have lost their best person. If I hear, “At least you still have__________” one more time I might scream. I know it is well intentioned but as my son’s girlfriend put it, I have a whole bunch of cups; work, friends, children, grandchildren. But I have one empty cup that can’t be filled with the others. Mostly, I realize this may take some serious time and I will learn to live without my sweet and kind and funny husband.

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