When I was in the tunnel of grief, as I refer to my long period of mourning, there was the chatter of the outside world around me, but I was, simultaneously, in my own world that was like a translucent circular tunnel. I was living a dual existence in those days. I could be a part of the things I needed to be a part of, and I’m sure it appeared to others that I was doing “just fine”. Actually, however, I was closed off from the outside
world, in my own house of horrors, dreading each new day, the same grim day, everyday. I was living a shadow existence. I was present in the real world but not really……present.
It was during this period, early on, that I went back and forth with the if I’d on-lies. If I’d only insisted that my husband stick with a more restricted diet, if I’d only monitored his diet more closely, if I’d only this, if I’d only that, and the list goes on and on. I really felt guilty for not having been able to foresee this terrible tragedy and, therefore, I told myself, forestall his fate. After all, I was super wife and should’ve known. I did this for a long while, blaming myself for “not knowing”.I even felt badly for not having anticipated the very moment it would happen. When I awoke on Jan.’09 and found that Chuck had already passed away, I felt guilty. I kept telling myself things like,”….had I known I would’ve stayed awake”….. “I would’ve held his hand”……. “I would’ve held onto him”.
I have since come to know that at some point all individuals will have to take responsibility for their own fate. I know on days when Chuck was alone especially in the beginning of his illness, he went back and forth in his own mind trying to figure out how he ended up with a life altering cancer that would eventually take him out of here. I also know he never blamed me. He was watching actor Patrick Swayze in the throes of his own bout with pancreatic cancer one evening, and he expressed to me, sweetly and softly, that he didn’t understand why Patrick was so angry. Later he told me that he didn’t feel anger for his circumstance, and he’d had time to make peace with his illness on his own terms.
The road that I traveled with Chuck was not the same road. We married and were on a journey together, but we had our own individual paths to follow as well. As human beings we have choices and we have to deal with the consequences of every choice. I eventually relinquished the idea of trying to be the all-knowing intuitive spouse, who should have been able to save her husband’s life and make the bad things go away. In life old ideas have to pass away in order for new ones to emerge. If that doesn’t happen life becomes stagnant and within that period of stagnation negative thoughts about past resentments, disappointments, and regrets can build up and fester. If these issues are not dealt with they can seep into our lives and create even bigger challenges.
When it comes to my thoughts of regret at not having been able to save Chuck, I am finally over that. I had to realize that there are many things that aren’t under my control. I now understand that we as humans always do what we want to do out of comfort, fear, insecurity, defiance, obligation, feelings of abandonment, wanting to be heard, etc. Whatever the underlying reasons, we all make choices based on our needs and comfort level, even if those choices are not the best. In the end the results of our actions are what we must own and live with, as we are truly the captains of our ships and the masters of our own souls.
Navigating a grief journey? Need help? Read: Brave in a New World: A Guide to Grieving the Loss of a Spouse https://tinyurl.com/yat78aje