Surprising moments of upset

One of the hard parts about grief is not knowing when it’s going to hit. I can be going about my day quite happily one moment and the next moment I have tears streaming down my face. I never know what’s going to trigger those tears and I am often surprised by what does or doesn’t cause me to become upset. Today was one of those surprising moments of upset.

Note: This post was originally shared on my “widowhood” blog, “Frances 3.0: Still in Beta”.

In the early days after Paul died my 25-mile commute to and from work was filled with tears because it was a time of quiet reflection when my mind just couldn’t stop thinking about how much I miss Paul. Now, my drive time has slowly started to become what it was in the past: a time to process the day’s events or to think about upcoming plans. I can make it from home to my office without a single tear shed most days.

Before Paul died, we would drive in together once a week so that Paul could take advantage of some of the paved trails around campus as he trained for his marathon. On those days, Paul would drop me off in the morning and pick me up in the evening in a parking lot across the way from the garage where I normally park. In the morning we’d both get out of the car and he would give me a hug and a kiss before driving off. In the evening he would be standing next to the car waiting for me; waving excitedly the moment he saw me. Then we’d give each other a hug and kiss before getting in the car to drive home.

I forgot about those moments until today when I had to stop off at another building on campus on my way to my office. I didn’t think about the fact that it was the parking lot where Paul and I kissed so many times until I was returning to my car and a couple was standing by their car. They shared a kiss and a few words before he got into the car and drove away and she started to walk into the building. And I started to feel a wall of tears building. By the time I made it to my car the dam had broken and there was nothing I could do but cry as I realised that I will never get to share another kiss with Paul again.

I’ve seen couples kissing and holding hands many times since Paul died and it never bothered me until that moment. I suppose that’s because just a few months ago it would have been us standing there kissing and I find myself wishing I could just have one more kiss in a parking lot somewhere.

It’s moments like this that I find the most difficult because I didn’t anticipate it. Most of the time I can plan for the things that may upset me, and because I’ve planned and come up with ways to cope with the emotions beforehand I do “mostly” OK in upsetting situations. It’s when I least expect to be upset that I find it hardest to cope, taking what began as a “good enough” day and turning it into a day where I struggle to keep my composure. Because we all know that once a dam has broken a bandage won’t stop the wall of water, and after that initial flood there will be a constant stream of water for quite some time.

The bad side: My Friday has all but been ruined. The good side: I rarely have the same breakdown moment twice, so the next time I see a couple kissing in a parking lot it will be more likely to bring a smile to my face as I recall our own kisses rather than make me cry. And I really do like to smile at the happy memories…

Join the conversation!