Giving up the darkness in my life  

A few days ago, I had a conversation with my grief counselor, who also happens to be an Episcopal priest. Father Joe, as he is affectionately known, has an abundance of wisdom combined with immeasurable compassion and a keen sense of understanding the human spirit. I told him I knew this was his “busy season” as he prepared his congregation for Easter in April. He said it’s a time of year when religious people focus on giving up one of their favorite things: coffee, soda, hard liquor or beer, desserts, or candy. He said what challenges people, however, is to give up those things that make them miserable, like self-doubt, anger, envy, or anything that keeps us in the dark. Those things he said are the immovable objects that prevent us from seeing the light.

His comments triggered several thoughts that, to me, correspond to grief. Grief can keep us in the dark but also make us feel comfortable. Yes, that sentence is an oxymoron. How can grief be both foreboding and comfortable? For me, grief was that thing that always hit me unsanctioned and unexpectedly and made me completely vulnerable. Yet it can also be a crutch. It can allow us to hide away from others, to be removed from living life, and to be somewhat comfortable in a place of darkness. I revert back to my friend  Father Joe’s comments about giving up those things that keep us in the dark. Let me mention a couple of them.

Self-doubt: the idea that I cannot do it alone. The idea is that it is too hard for me to travel the road without my spouse. Somehow, I feel I don’t have the support to be on the ride by myself. My friend Fred Colby wrote about listening to your late wife after she passed. She is still a part of your life and, after many years, still speaks to you and can offer the answers you want. I often talk to my late wife for advice. I can hear her tell me how to proceed. I know her well enough to know she would always provide sound advice and continues to do so. In grief, I believe you have to give up self-doubt. Don’t let it cripple you.

Anger: I have experienced this on several occasions. From being angry after my wife died, becoming angry with God, to being angry when I sit in a restaurant alone and notice a couple laughing and enjoying a meal. When I sit alone in the movie theatre and watch a couple hold hands and joke with each other, with time, I have learned to let it go. I am ok flying solo. I know I have the tools to do the job, and my co-pilot is always with me.

Envy: Yes, I wish she was still with me. I regret she missed the grandchildren’s birthdays and all the holidays. I wish we could share another intimate dinner, spend quality time together, or visit the beach and watch the sunrise. I can spend my life wishing and hoping to do those things again, but I know it will never happen. It’s a journey and a process we must go through as we learn that by giving up certain feelings, we are moving forward in life. The worst thing that happened to me allowed me to grow and be a better person. I tried to be the best husband I could be, and my wife made me a better person. She would want me to continue to strive to be the best person I can be. It requires giving up those things that prevent us from becoming the best version of ourselves.


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