Everyone grieves differently.
As mentioned in Early Days, I instantly started to grieve when we got the Bad News. How did I grieve? Did it help me?
The Cancer Council mentions that grieving can begin before someone dies. It is called 'Anticipatory Grief'.
I had watched so many wonderful people in my life, die from cancer, before my wife was diagnosed with cancer.
I had watched carers around the person dying, living in what looked like a numb and 'lost state'. It was not a judgement, just my observation and my interpretation of their situation. I did not want that to happen to me, when my wife was dying or had died.
I had unconsciously decided I was going to fully embrace anticipatory grief! I was going to prepare myself for grief and grieving. I wanted to be ready for my son. I wanted to help my son with their grief too.
Unbeknownst to me, (weirdly and fortunately), it was going to be thirteen years before my wife died from the aggressive cancer. That is a long time to grieve. We lived every day of those thirteen years as though it would be my wife's last day.
Approximately, two years before my wife died, my father casually said to me, outside a cafe, that I needed to see a counsellor.
For the first time in thirteen years of being a carer for some-one with cancer, I was exasperated, "When I am going to have to time to see a counsellor! I work! I go to hospitals! I look after our son... I get no time to myself!" (Awkward 🙄)
Poor Dad. I knew he was right: I needed to see some-one who could help me with my anticipatory grief.
I remembered that I did not want to be any angry widower at the end of this horrid roller coaster ride. So I found a counsellor who suited my style which was a 'bring it on' style (Don't beat around the bush with me. If there is something I can do, teach me and I'll do it). She is a blessing and an amazing human being!
Now that my wife has died, I have found many positive ways to work through my 'man grief':
I could not explain or understand my grief (I still cannot). I found certain songs and music really resonated with my grief. They helped to 'laugh at my grief' and because it is very therapeutic to cry!
In the Early Days I used to play my 'Grieving Songs' in the car on the way to work: to help me to cry, when my wife was not around and my son was in day care. Chasing Cars was one of the songs which reminded me of what life was like before this ugly cancer was making our life too complicated. It was such a relief, just to cry on my own.
Also, I wanted to be able to cry without anyone's pity, without anyone's concern and without my wife consoling me. My wife had her own grief and mortality to deal with.
My wife and I cried together at times. We did not hide our emotions from each other. We just couldn't grieve all the time together.
Rather than waste our time wondering about the 'why' and 'how' about the cancer and death, my wife and I decided not lose any sleep over it. Live in Denial. I realised that there was just The Fault in the Stars that brought us together. We were allowed to be happy but cancer was something out of our control. Something we could not change. So when I am grieving about how much I miss our life together, I listen to this song, indulge it for a little while and then get back on with living.
I can now acknowledge every time that grief comes in many, many Waves for me, especially when I least expected it. I used to think that there would only be one huge tsunami wave of crying and that it would happen after my wife died and that it would be it! Really?!😏I had no idea that the 'grief and uncontrollable crying waves' would keep coming again and again and again. I have now learnt to ride the crying waves and no longer try to stop it, nor force it down.
I miss talking to my wife everyday: Silly things. Funny things. Frustrating things. I like to talk as much as she did. "How is that We don't talk anymore," I thought? I know that it is not logical to think that. It just feels like that, after some-one you love dies.
People say to me, "How are you going, Paul?" I usually reply "Good". Mostly I am good. Occasionally, I imagine my wife thinking, "You're a Bad Liar, Paul!"
It frustrates the crap out of me that I cannot understand my grief and how to stop it. I spoke to my counsellor once about it:
"Why can't I control this? Haven't I had enough time going through thirteen years of hell, while it was happening. Don't I deserve a break? When this going to be over?" 😕
"Paul, how long did you know your wife?" said my counsellor.
"Twenty six years," I replied.
"And were you in love?"
"Yes. Of course," I said.
"Then, why would you think it would take a short period of time for your spirit to accept her death? And your Mum died six months previous to your wife's death. That has got to hurt as well."
"Yes. Good Point!" 😲
Now I just expect grief to be part of my life and not fight it. I know that it will rear it's ugly head when I least expect it: On good days, on bad days and on boring days. Accept it. Deal with it when it happens.