Every Wednesday

Every Wednesday I will post something about grief. Sometimes it will be a reflection on an aspect of grief’s landscape. Now and then I will share from my own journey of grief, because in the sharing of our stories we find strength and build a community of people that support one another.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Dancing With My Demons

“I loved her not for the way she dances with my angels, but for the way the sound of her name could silence my demons.” Christopher Poindexter

To tell you the truth, I loved Evelyn for both.

I didn’t celebrate life well before I met her, nor did I fully acknowledge my negative side. Deny and deflect were my modes of coping. I was dependable and dull. I got work done. I was disconnected from emotional highs and lows, from positive and negative feelings, as well as from the energy that each one brings.

I floated in the middle, which is like living in the neutral zone in Star Trek, between the Romulans and the Federation, watching life go on around me. Evelyn worked to get me in touch with both sides, although it took her death to crack the negative one open.

She handled her demons. For her last ten years, she struggled with various ailments and seldom felt physically good, seldom slept very long, but she would not give up her fight to regain her health. She tutored children with learning problems when she had the energy, and continued to care for people who were suffering.

Then she died and I had new demons to fight. In my first year of grief, I doubted everything good, and doubted my ability to handle the emotional tsunami of grief.

What were some of my demons? One that haunted me was that I didn’t save Evelyn from dying. Because I didn’t think her dizziness the night before her heart attack was anything to worry about because we had just been to the doctor that afternoon. Because Ev felt good enough that evening to go to her theater rehearsal. Because no doctor had ever said anything about her heart being a problem, and because she was in her 40s. Because who dies in their 40s? But saving her was my responsibility, and I failed.

Another demon was that we were working through a relationship problem, namely that she wanted to know what was going on inside me. Sharing emotions had never been one of my strengths. She knew this and wanted to help me, and willing to endure yelling if it would loosen me up.

Another demon was that I did not get to say my last words to her, or to hear her say what she wished for me in the future. She knew me better than anyone. Now she was gone with all her insights and compassion, and I could only guess what she might have said. We didn’t have any parting messages prepared because we expected to be together for 40 more years. This demon is called the “What if.”

Another was feeling that my friends wouldn’t like me if I continued to complain about grief. I’ve always tried to be pleasant and considerate. With grief, I couldn’t, not if I was going to be honest.

Then there were all the demons packed inside grief — Guilt, Anger, Sorrow, Depression, Loneliness, etc. Ev would have been the person I went to to help me deal with them. To other people, they may just be emotions. To me they were hammers. I worried that I’d revert to my introver and shut everything down.

And yet, although she was not here to guide me, Evelyn had taught me that demons don’t have control unless I let them. Sometimes the demons I feared were only illusions that I created to protect myself. If I invited my demons in and faced them one by one, I could figure out why they kept coming back and poking me in the ribs. The demons were alerting me to what I was ignoring,

I made friends with my demons and invite them to dance.

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