Today I was going to have gone to see my niece Hanna in her spring play, but I woke up this morning sneezing like mad, and even if it's allergies rather than the cold I thought at first, it wouldn't be a good idea to drive 130 miles there while either sneezing or under the influence of antihistamines, (The non-drowsy antihistamines do zilch for me.) So I let them know I wasn't coming, fed the critters, and went back to bed. When I woke up again in the afternoon, Gizmo had not finished his food and was not able to move properly. It seemed as though he had had a stroke. He hasn't, and at the emergency vet's, he's doing better - staying overnight and getting IV fluids, antibiotics, etc. But right at first, when I tried to see what was wrong, I was just saying shit, shit, shit over and over again. Because today is also exactly 8 months since the ventilator was disconnected after the organ donation people were finished - technical date of Steve's death. And I was already a bit teary-eyed. But, I had been thinking about writing a post about what I feel like now, and so I think I still will.
Here's the thing. The grief isn't any less - I still wake up every day thinking how unfair it is that I'm still alive and Steve's not. I still find that something brings me to tears every day - including writing this post. But what is, finally, diminishing to a detectable extent is the panic and anxiety that goes with the grief. Although I still wonder, every day, how I'm going to manage without Steve, I also notice, every day, that I have managed to muddle through. When I'm driving, I'm no longer so greatly distracted by thinking that "last time I was on this road. Steve was driving" or "I didn't used to have to drive here; Steve always did it." By now, I've driven most places I go to by myself several times, and I so I feel like I am doing the driving, not waiting for someone else to be in control. I still hate having to do it alone, but I am recognizing that I can manage most things. Maybe not the way Steve did them, maybe not as well, but I am managing. And that lessening of anxiety and panic is, I guess, a "feeling better."
There's still stuff not getting done, but I am managing to remind myself every day that I will get to it, even if it's more slowly, and/or less often, than I should - I will get it done. When I hit obstacles, I will manage them or work around them; I've figured out several work-arounds for things that I can't possibly do myself already, and have ideas percolating on several more. I finally found a charity that would pick up the brown recliner sofa for free - Goodwill around here doesn't do free pickup any more; they contract with College Hunks Hauling Junk, who charge a discount rate but nonetheless charge. I had offered the damn loveseat on Freecycle a couple of times, and while a couple of people expressed interest, they never followed through. And nobody was interested in buying it on Craigslist. But some internet research finally found a web site that will show one who picks up donations for free, in a given ZIP code. (Yes, Salvation Army still does, but I am not in the mood to give things to that brand of religion.)
And, while the vet bills from Gizmo's emergency today means I'll have to put it off for a couple months, I've found a company that will refinish the pink bathtub in white, reglazing it, so I don't have to buy a new one and pay a contractor to remove the old one and install a new one. The reglazing will be quicker, cheaper, and will feel more acceptable, because I really hate the thought of throwing out a perfectly good fixture where the only fault is extreme ugliness. I think with the tub white, and I can get a new white toilet installed (much less expensive to remove and replace than a bathtub), then the rest of the bathroom, including the peculiar sinks, will seem much less awful. So there's a plan for that, even if deferred a bit.
Baltimore County sent Steve a jury duty notice, so I got more copies of the death certificate last week and tomorrow I'll mail them one to explain why Steve will not be answering the notice - I'm sure they wouldn't just take my word for it. I have to get more copies of the "Letters of Administration" also - the estate execution stuff - to finish up some other stuff, and I haven't done that as fast as I should have, but at least I know I have to do it and how, so it's progress, if slow.
So. "Feeling better." No less grief, but less panic, and that does make life a teensy bit easier. I went to a grief support group run by Gilchrist for 6 weekly sessions, and that did help, too, talking to other people - I hadn't thought it would, but it did - certainly did more for my peace of mind than NOT going to one, if anybody else is wondering about whether they're worth it. The people in the group decided we'd keep meeting occasionally for lunch, to continue to talk to each other, so we're having lunch tomorrow at Panera. There are 6 of us, and 3 of the others are also in the 55-65 age range as I am, and the other two not too much older. That was a coincidence - it wasn't planned specifically to be a "young widowed persons" group or any other specific age range, so it could have been all older people my parents' age - the age where, forgive me for saying it like this, one starts *expecting* people to die. Most of the groups that are for "young" people are for up to age 50, and most of the rest tend to be seniors over 65, so it was a bit of serendipity to have a group turn out to be people in the neglected middle-age range. Anyway, as it turns out, it is a great relief to be able to talk to other people who are going through the same thing - even if it's not identical, we have more in common than not, just by the fact of losing a spouse. Some lost theirs to long, drawn-out illnesses, one other person to a sudden event like mine. There are people left worse off organizationally and financially, and people not as badly off, but we all have the struggles with those things - even the people who had a couple of years of their spouse battling cancer find out, apparently, when it's over, there's no way you can have remembered to take care of everything, and there's no predicting what details will pop up out of the woodwork that it never even occurred to you could exist. Everybody turns out to have SOMETHING in their bills, paperwork, or housekeeping that they didn't know had to be taken care of ahead of time.
There was going to be a very depressing paragraph here, about what we also have all learned about illnesses that can't be detected or prevented, about how even early treatment doesn't stave things off forever, but after writing it three times, each time was more depressing, and I decided to leave it out. Even my attempts to summarize it in a sentence are depressing. Let's just say, we all beat ourselves up about what we might have done to prevent things, or save our spouses, and we all need a long time to realize that the should have/could haves are (a) likely not true, and (b) definitely not useful.
So that's the update. I'm coping. I'm still lonely and sad and heartbroken. I would still like someone to come live in my spare room so I have some help. I'm still alive. It's still unfair - and it's still true that there is no such thing as "fair." If there's a pattern in all that, I haven't figured it out yet.