Grief Is Like A Box Of Chocolates

Forrest Gump’s mother  was certainly wise with her iconic life lesson

“Life is like a box of chocolates you never know what you are going to get”  

I have found that the grief process has been exactly like a box of chocolates. Contrary to everything I’ve been told and read (about grief and its many stages) mine is so uncategorized and random.  I never know what attribute of grief is going to pop up  or when.

My 52 year old wiser widow self knows better than to expect grief to fall into a box of categories landing on specific goal months. However I do find it ironic that I am almost 15 months into this gig and I can’t make neither head nor tails of where the emotions are supposed to land. I guess, like  many things in life,  you have no idea what to expect when you aren’t expectant.

For those of you who have children do you remember the books ‘What To Expect When You’re Expecting’ and ‘What To Expect The First Year’? In 1991 my husband and I  read every single page. We anticipated each change my body would make. If a symptom did not coincide on the month the book said it was to occur?  We became worried and secretly frantic. Our 24 year old minds were captivated with the mind blowing prospect that this little person was going to be growing and as if on command “performing” milestones in utero. The reality was each pregnancy is different and some things occurred on said months and some didn’t.

Likewise when our oldest daughter was born we devoured the pages of  


‘What To Expect The First Year’   
because,  well, we had no idea what to expect!  If our daughter didn’t achieve the milestones the book said she should on the exact  time, day and month? We were full of worry and angst.  Our 25 year old young first time parental selves thought every single thing must occur according to schedule.

I have never gone through ”Grief In A Box’ per se or grief  in the appropriate order that Elisabeth Kubler Ross & David Kessler write about in ‘Five Stages of Grief’.  This is the gold standard of grief for our country. But it doesn’t fit my grief. And that is okay.

I’ve never felt anger. And that might be because my husband had a terminal illness.  ALS afforded  us time to fulfill bucket lists, cross t’s, dot i’s, throw parties, say ‘i love you’s’. I’ve felt betrayal and anger at my circumstance surrounding my family but never angry at my husband or God.  I have felt anguishing deep pain, heartbroken, empty, lonely, unmotivated, hazed, distracted and unfulfilled but never angry. And all of these feelings do not come at once. They come at random times. They may hang on for months or be fleeting after several hours. And it is not depression. Undoubtedly depression is a very real component to grief. These feelings are grief.

The hardest part of grief for me are the ever changing emotions. After 15 months the daily non stop crying has ceased but new feelings are now at the forefront. Things I haven’t felt before or dealt with before. I have a new found sense of independence. Yet the awareness that I am now absolutely unequivocally alone is luminous in every aspect of my life. I often feel a  sense of disbelief. It is as if a light has just been turned on and illuminated the fact that Robin is truly gone. I found great comfort, just as recently as six months ago,  being surrounded by couple friends and their families. I now find it an agonizing reminder of what is no longer.

And through it all I know that it will eventually all be well. But it is not well with me  yet. It is hard. I often think how much easier it would be  if grief came in absolute stages and steps. Then we would all be able to check off each emotion:  “done”…next.  Until then? All we can do is trudge forward. Know that we will never  know from one hour to the next what we are going to get in this journey called grief. And that is okay for today.

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Author: This Grace Filled Space

Wife to my college sweet heart for over 27 years, mother of two grown daughters, Eastern North Carolinian by marriage, learning to walk by faith as a widow post ALS with a Golden Retriever named Henry in a metropolitan world.

One thought on “Grief Is Like A Box Of Chocolates”

  1. My hope woven into this reply is that you are able to glean some morsel of encouragement. I am not a widow in any traditional sense of the word, but I know grief. The circumstances described will be strange, so not the norm. Those circumstances don’t make my grief any more or less than anyone else’s, just a bit different. Her and I met 16 years ago, while see was visiting family on the east coast. The following year we both travel back and forth half way across the country to spend time together. One year later I moved in with her. She was a veteran, and the widow of a veteran. She received a monthly payment as long as she did not remarry, so we never got married. We lived together for 11 years. October of 2012 I completed gender transition. She knew my plans when we started dating and was supportive throughout the process. I know it looks like a couple that is bound and determined to have hell as a finally resting place. What a scary thought. December of 2012 found me walking into a church for the first time in more than 20 years. I had come to the conclusion, right or wrong, that the way everything in my life had come together (a seamless transition, a great job, and someone I love and they loved me) was too good for there not to be an Almighty God involved. She eventually started attending church with me. Eighteen months later she was in a horrible car accident. The next six months was mostly spent visiting her in the hospital; she did come home for a few short weeks only to return to the hospital. In the midst of it all my oldest brother called me to tell me he had stage four cancer. One day sitting in the back of the church, having cried my eyes out, a young lady sits down beside me and asked “what can I pray for?”. I explain my brother’s situation, and we prayed. A month later I’m told my partner needs a quadrupole bypass, but she is so weak they think she will die. The surgeon came in to speak with me, a young lady, and she immediately asked “where do I know you from?”. “Church”, I responded, “you prayed for my brother fighting cancer, and this, this is the other half of my life right now”. A city of 1.2 million people and it was her, looking back my only conclusion can be that God was letting me know he was still involved. We opted for stents and my partner did really well. The day before, the social worker and I were talking about which rehabilitation center she was about to be transferred to. Then, on Dec 19th 2014 at 4 am I got the call, she had died of a massive heart attack. Two days later found me curled up in the floor, crying so hard my body hurt. Alone in a house full of enough prescription drugs and a gun, so overwhelmed with pain, I just wanted the hurting to stop. I prayed, “God this isn’t about her anymore, this is about me, save me”. A short time later that same day I was searching and came across a pastor (Steven Furtick) on roku that I had never seen before. I listened as he stated the name of his sermon, “There has been a change of plans” (it can be seen on Youtube). He tells the story of a pastor friend of his, who on that day, took his family to the grave of his five-year-old daughter who died a year or two earlier. I’ll never forget the words pastor Furtick spoke, “don’t you let the pain make you miss God’s purpose”. This was the moment I truly began to believe with my heart in God and His love and power. I moved back closer to home to be with my brother who died 17 months later. Since then, at nearly age 50, I have gone back to college with a major in Christian Ministry. The choices I have made trying to fill the hole my partner left in my heart has been a real learning experience. Recently, I had this thought, revelation maybe, that Jesus is asking why have I gone to other people showering them with love and affection hoping they will fill the hole left behind, why have I not poured that love and affection over him and let him fill the hole. I pray the Holy Spirit continues to do a work in my heart. Four years later grief has become like a call on a cellphone. I can pull it out an answer it or put it away, but knowing full well if I chose the latter it will call again soon. Anger, I’m certain there were times God looked down at me and thought wow she has sure got her pouty lip stuck out. Mostly I was angry at myself for clinging on to so many things that kept me living in the past for the first two years. Guilt was the worse for me. The would’ve, could’ve, and should’ve haunted me for so long. Forgiveness, of all my failures, found at the foot of the cross has been for the lack of better words freeing and hope filled. Finally, I’ll leave you with two of my favorite verses. Paul wrote, “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus”, Phil 3:13-14 (NIV). Paul also wrote, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal”, 2 Cor 4:16-18 (NIV). I hope to one day see my brother and my partner in heaven, until then I must press forward to that which God has called me. May God Bless your journey.

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