Friday, July 11, 2014

Cognitive dissonance; healing and betrayal

I've written before about the complexity of grief. About its twistiness, its odd intersections, its self-contradictory nature. I am living in a state of cognitive dissonance. Because grief is what it is and I am who I am, I find the nature of the dissonance changes almost daily. Some days I'm torn up because I didn't do something while he was still here, other days it's because I forgot something - do I remember the shape of his hand? It changes.

These days, most of the dissonance comes from the inescapable fact that parts of me are starting to heal. This isn't to say I won't always miss Kevin, won't always grieve him - I will - but parts of me are beginning to scab over. I am no longer always an open wound. Much of the time I feel raw and exposed, but I am aware that I've laughed. I've thought about the future in some limited way. I have had days where I didn't cry.

I can hear some of you cheering, telling me this is great. And it is. It is also beyond comprehension, cruel, an act of betrayal. Just writing it down feels like betrayal. Part of me knows without any hesitation that healing is betraying him. betraying my love for him. That part of me wants to remain suspended in this pain, in this grief, because it's a connection to him. That part of me states, quite loudly, that if I move forward, if I let the wounds crust over, I am choosing to forget him and betraying the love we have for each other (ignore the tense issues. I prefer present tense for this stuff). That part is loud, powerful and angry.

Other parts of me know differently. They tell me that I can remain connected to him, even if I heal. That the love between us is so strong that nothing can end it, not even death. That, frankly, I will never stop missing him, but it is okay to move forward (not on, never on) and it is, after all, what he would want. Wants.

These parts battle it out every day. In some ways it's interesting, stepping back and watching them fight, but mostly it's just tiring.

I know healing takes time. I know I will eventually not be this sad all the time and that this is a good thing. I know that living my life fully is the best way I can honor Kevin and it is what he wants. I know these things. Equally, I know that I have been through something traumatic and any change is frightening now. Suspension is easier, in some ways, than movement. And lastly, I know that I will change. That my feelings will ease, that I will eventually scar over and become someone new. Similar but not the same.

I just hope that new Laura never forgets this one, that she understands that healing is not betrayal, that she can be tender with us both.

(15 weeks. I love you.)

(c)2014 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License


  1. I so understand what you're experiencing.I had the same struggles as I began to heal.
    Yes, you will scar over, be someone new and the same. And, for me, that was good and it was sad. I missed the me I was. Sometimes still do. But I've grown to love me as I am now, in some ways a better me, in other ways maybe not so much.

    Sending much love your way.

    1. Oh, thank you. I'm so sorry you have traveled this road, but your compassion, support and kindness have meant so much to me. Thank you.

  2. This reality is called 'both/and'. It is a very different reality than 'either/or'. Definitely more complex.....

    1. Barb, I REALLY like that distinction. both/and. Yes. With your permission, at some point I may blog about that.

  3. I lost my beloved husband one day before you lost yours. I've had some genuine respite these past 2 weeks. Good friends, good talk, good time in nature. I see this as a time of learning to live moment to moment & know it's all temporary. "This too shall pass" is a good mantra for me right now. It's what I need to remember when the grief comes pouring in & eclipses everything else. It's fascinating to see how it ebbs & flows.

    I've been experiencing some healing with friends. I think it gives me hope & helps me to feel 'normal' for whole minutes at a time.

    My new widow friend - G - reminded me of something I already knew. I tend to forget that grief is a process of being torn apart and then
    gradually reassembled to the point of Phoenix rising in whatever form it's going to take. I guess thinking of it like that helps me to trust the
    process even when I hate it. All we widowed people can do is stuff our pockets with Kleenex & carry on. Well actually
    we can do more and I think that I am doing all I can to deal with my situation. I'm going to 2 grief groups, I am reading about grief and talking
    about it and writing about it. Fortunately I have supportive friends who listen and love me. I am walking and swimming and
    doing my yoga stretches every day. I am getting regular massages. I'm helping my sis-in-law with her 7 year old grand daughter. I am
    meditating, crying, doing deep breathing and reaching out to other widows in my grief groups. I am
    connecting with people like you- people who've lost beloved partners who really
    understand. Most of the rest of the people have no clue. I see others in my grief groups
    who are stuck in anger and who are a year ahead of me in their losses but still stuck and wallowing in misery. That's part of the good that comes from
    going to groups- you see the whole spectrum. And you see that there are others who are much worse off than you are.

    A wonderful book I read is called "Transcending Loss" By Ashley Davis Bush.

    Here is an excerpt::

    "You cannot and should not sever the ties. Your loved one is in your heart, in your soul, and wrapped intrinsically into who and what you are. You will spend the rest of your life remembering, internalizing, and renegotiating all that this loss means to you in this lifetime. Just because the person is dead, it doesn’t mean that your feelings for the relationship dies. This lifelong stage of integration and reworking is called Synthesis."

    1. Shel, thank you for this wonderful, thoughtful reply. I LOVE your friend G's description of grief. We are phoenixes, aren't we. Just right now we're still charred.
      I'm doing much of the same stuff you are. I want to learn how to live in this place, this world where I am in love with a dead man, where I am in relationship with someone who isn't embodied. I love the idea of Synthesis. I'll look for "Transcending loss."
      Please write to me privately if you like. And if not that's okay too.

    2. True! When sometimes feeling better, sudden guilt of betrayal immediately kicks in. Do I enjoy my agonizing grief? Why my inner me does not allow me to feel better? Grieve! Grieve you must! Ohterwise your true feelings are questioned...


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