As strange as it sounds, there are days when I wish I could go back to Day One of the grieving process and start over. It’s not that I want to re-live those first horrible weeks – because I don’t – but I wish that I’d given myself the time I needed to just sit and grieve. As I keep working on the glitches that came with Frances 3.0, I realise that I never really gave myself the time I needed to get used to the fact that Frances 2.0 doesn’t work anymore. I didn’t give myself time to test drive the new version before taking it public.
Note: This post was originally shared on my “widowhood” blog, “Frances 3.0: Still in Beta”.
Being the main breadwinner in our marriage meant that I needed to go back to work – and being the head of my department with a major project just getting underway meant that I couldn’t take time off to take care of myself. So I muddled through it all, throwing myself into work when what I needed most was to take care of myself. I tried to keep thoughts of Paul out of my head so that I could focus on work, but couldn’t focus on work because the thoughts of Paul kept jumping into my head. In the end, I never gave full attention to grieving or to work.
My lack of focus and attention at work was understood and several people eased my burden by taking on extra work to help see me through. There was someone to help review things I wrote, people to manage timelines and details that I couldn’t quite comprehend, and people to remind me that I’m the only one who will notice if it’s not perfect. Thankfully, I still have support at work and people are very understanding – especially given the added misery of staff cuts, which added even more stress to work.
But while there were people to help me cope at work, there wasn’t anyone at home to take on my grief. And so it just sat there under the surface without getting the full attention it needed, and often getting intentionally shut out so that I could focus on work – or just get through the day.
It occurred to me a few days ago that I’ve yet to have a period of time, other than the first week after Paul died, that I’ve been able to just turn off the rest of the world and grieve full-on. I’ve taken a couple of three-day weekends but took my work with me. Even the week I travelled to England for Paul’s services there I was checking emails and editing documents for work.
I’m starting to realise more and more that I’ve neglected my own needs these past few months, and it’s really starting to show. I wish I had the luxury in the early days to just take a few weeks to grieve and to mourn and to take care of my own emotional needs instead of trying to fit my emotions in around the practicalities of life and work.
I pushed my grief aside so that I could just make it through the hectic pace at work. I pushed my grief aside because I didn’t have the energy to deal with it along with everything else on my plate. And I pushed my grief aside because I was afraid to confront it. But it’s still there, waiting for me; begging me to take time to focus on it.
In two weeks, I will finally be taking a much-needed holiday. I will not be checking work emails nor will I be taking any work with me. For the first time in my professional life, I will be completely leaving work behind on a holiday. (Heck, I even checked emails on our honeymoon a couple of times because I was in the middle of a big project at the time!) By the time my trip starts, it will have been seven months since Paul died – and I truly do regret that I’ve waited so long to do this for myself.
I feel that I’ve lost a very important part of the process; a part that I can never get back. It’s not that I didn’t grieve, it’s that I feel I didn’t give myself the time needed to just “be with my grief.” While I am looking forward to finally having that break from reality, I am very aware that it won’t be a substitute for what I neglected in those first few weeks. So instead, I’m now looking forward to a bit of relaxation, a bit of an escape from my reality, and a bit of a stroll down memory lane with others who are also grieving for Paul. I am certain that there will be time for me to sit and reflect on my own, and time for me to cry and laugh with friends and family.
When I return from my holiday, I hope to be refreshed. I hope to have been able to clear my mind just enough to have a better idea of what I want to do with my life. And I hope to be able to spend a little more time on my own needs and emotions and to be able to focus on my grief a bit more. I hope to be able to embrace my new “normal” and to be able to start taking a bit more control over my life and my future.