Do you remember the board-game, Snakes and Ladders? It was a simple game where the players would roll the dice and see how many spaces up the switch-backed game board they could go. On some of the squares that the players would land, there would be a picture of a ladder extending up the game board. The player could then move their playing piece up the ladder to whichever square the ladder ended on. Thus, you could be propelled forward anywhere between 10 to 60 spaces. On other squares, however, you could land on the head of a snake, in which case you would slide back down the game board to wherever the snake's tail was, and thus you would lose anywhere between 10 to 60 spaces.
I liked playing this game because it was a game of chance, thereby meaning that as the youngest in my family, I had a chance of winning; probably the only game I ever had a chance of beating my older siblings or parents at.
Snakes and Ladders is the closest I've come to finding an appropriate metaphor for my journey of grief over Kim’s death. Each morning I wake up, and I wonder what kind of square I will land on that day. Will it be a neutral square where I'll sit where I am, and the day will pass with either a sense of numbness or relative peace? Will it be a day where I will find a "ladder," and I'll feel like I'm making some progress in finding a new normal and some new meaning; an advent of joy perhaps? Or will it be a day where I land on a "snake," find myself once again losing a grip on life, and sliding back into what feels like ever-deepening pits of sorrow and despair.
What I’d like to do over the next couple of weeks is begin writing about some of this journey I have been on since Kim passed. As I reflect back over the seven months and two days since Kim died, I can see four or five chapters to this short story.
My first blog entry about my journey with grief will be on the shock I experienced throughout the spring and summer. For some reason, I used to think that shock was a bad thing. I’d hear that someone was in shock and believe that it was something they needed to overcome, or maybe it was a sign of weakness. However, I’ve come to see that shock is the natural response of the body to survive a situation that is too painful to experience in full. I can see now how much of the spring and summer were spent in shock, and my body and emotions were taking a bit of a summer holiday from the hard work that it subconsciously knew it would have to do.
The second chapter of this mini-series will be on Kim’s memorial. I felt a growing fear and anxiety in the week leading up to it. I felt that something was going to change, but I could not put into words what that was. Then, the Monday morning following her memorial, the realization of what that anxiety was hit me, and it felt like a dark abyss opened up in front of me.
The third blog entry, Lord-willing I get there, will be about the ever-deepening darkness and numbness of October, precisely the complicated emotions over finishing up my book, Thanksgiving, and dealing with some challenges and unpredictability related to my health.
The fourth entry will have to do with the season I am in right now (hopefully, I will still feel up to writing about this in a week or two). The last two weeks have seen a reprieve of the dark emotions. Some self-realizations during this time have even brought some glimmers of contentment. This all has to do with the little things of life and beginning to take a few tentative steps into the unknown.
And lastly, I will give an update on how I am doing when I finish this series. I can’t begin to imagine how I will be feeling at that time, so I’m not even going to try.
As I have alluded, I have not written any of these entries yet. I have a sketched outline in my notepad and a couple of quotes I might use, but that is it. I can guarantee you this writing is something I want to do, and I intend to do it, but I don't know whether I can do it. One part of grief is that it is unpredictable. I plan to write two blog posts a week, but I can’t promise that will happen. Part of getting a look into my journey with grief is also having to journey and wait with me. So, if I all of a sudden go silent, you can guess I woke up one morning and stepped on a snake, thus sliding back down into the emotional paralysis of sorrow. On the other hand, if I wake up tomorrow and hit a ladder of excitement, well, then maybe all five entries will come out in one week (I can promise you this won’t happen).
Some of you may not be interested in this, or maybe it won’t be healthy for you to read it, and I understand that. I am doing this more for myself than for the reader, so there is no pressure to read this or follow along. I am putting this out there to document some of what I have been going through, and if there is someone else who is going through a similar kind of loss, then perhaps there is something in my rambling that can help or be a companion for you.
I will hopefully see you next week with my first blog entry into this mini-series on my journey with grief.
George Keulen's Blog
Welcome to my blog, where you will find general ponderings about my life: Of living with cystic fibrosis and a double lung transplant, being an advocate for person-centered care, being a widower, and of course, reflections and news about my book, Big Breath In.