Tuesday, June 23, 2009

How it is, how it was.

There is something about connecting with others who stand in similar shoes that is both comforting and heartbreaking. Over the last couple of weeks I've been loosely communicating with a few other young widowed parents in the NYC area and when I heard from the first one, it was as though the initial wound was reopened. Somehow, despite the relief of knowing that there are others out there that are living through the loss, hearing that others have suffered as I have is devastating. I was at once sobbing, overcome with relief that there were others nearby who understood, but yet it's heartbreak all over again - as though I've lost yet another dear friend. And when I was told yesterday about a site, Young Cancer Spouses, I flew to it as though my life depended on it. Sadly, its content is unfinished and minimal, but what is there brought me back to last Spring and I instantly found myself weeping inconsolably. The site is geared towards those enduring the struggle right now, and had I known about it or ever been able to find the time for it last year, I would have clung to it with all my might. What was so jarring was that it described every situation, scenario and relationship dynamic so accurately for couples affected at such a young age. Had I known it was there, I wouldn't have felt so alone. Because your world becomes so intensely complicated, it's just not possible to explain to others - you have neither the time, nor the energy. And it is then that you recognize how precious time truly is. You do not want phone calls, you cannot afford walks, and the breaks you're encouraged to take - do just that. They take. They take away the time you have with your other half. And you are consumed with the fight; the regimens you must adhere to, the emergencies you have to navigate, the risks you're forced to take when you have no professional medical advice right then and there, the precautions you adhere to diligently, the unexpected problems you plan for in advance. The desperation and love that goes into every single move, every recipe, every everything. Love is so wonderful that the thought of losing that beautiful, special person fuels you with a devotion so intense it's indescribable. So as I near my one year anniversary of Alan no longer holding my hand, I find myself in moments reliving and feeling as raw as I did last Winter and Spring. In a way it's a comfort, as it turns back the clock, but then the grief swells and I'm reminded of where I am, and what day it is.

It has been observed that when elephants grieve, the mourning is widespread. Friends and family and fellow elephants from other herds, with no connection to the one who has passed, come to comfort the dying and visit remains. They often stand over the sick and rub them with their feet, feed them, rock back and forth above them. When the sick one dies, they mourn, some so saddened they refuse food themselves and die shortly after. When they pass a carcass months or years later, they still stroke the bones with their trunks as though to comfort or perhaps to remember to whom those remnants belonged. That is what I feel when I hear of others who have experienced similar loss - even if I don't know them, I mourn for them as well. And I sense that they too, share a similar compassion.

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