Posted by: James Atticus Bowden | March 30, 2014

Understanding Grief. Part 2: What I Say

What I'm Supposed To Do

What I’m Supposed To Do

Part II: What I Say
The good doc said reconciliation is healing. I have to relate my experience of loss to a context of meaning. Huh?

Then, I’m supposed to convert my relationship of 41 years with my wife from presence to memory. Ugh.

I have to develop a new self-identity to heal. I have to become a new man. A different man.

[Long chain of loud expletives.]

The one thing that I must do to heal is precisely what I don’t want to do.

I’m 63 years old. I don’t want to be a different man. I don’t want a new self-identity. I especially don’t want to convert my relationship with my wife from presence to memory.

Death sucks. Death of a spouse totally, absolutely and completely sucks. It’s far worse than I ever imagined – and I’ve experienced death of deeply loved ones.

I had the best parents – who had the most wonderful love affair of a marriage – then Daddy died when I was 29 and Mama died when I was 36. But, this is a completely different experience. Their deaths were tough and sad, but nothing like this.

When my parents died I was still their son. They were gone to Heaven – not present – and became memories in this world. But, their absence didn’t change who I was.

My wife and I were an ‘us’. When she died, ‘us’ died. But, I’m still here. I have the same thoughts and feelings. I have the same memories. I’m in the same relationship with her. But, she is in Heaven – not present – so we can’t be us. And, I can’t be me when we aren’t us. Because being me has been being us for 41 years.

Nellie is part of me. I’m part of her. Remember the Bible verse from Nellie’s memorial and burial ceremonies, “I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine.” Part of me is dead and gone from this world.

Healing means my life is under re-construction. Death sucks.

I could choose to not change. I could refuse to be a new, different man. I could refuse to reconcile.

Then, I’d make a lousy Miss Havisham. This life and my family isn’t Great Expectations. God has a purpose for every person through every season of life – from birth through death’s transition out of the body into the rest of eternity.

His Will, not mine, means what I want – and as much as I want to NOT become a different man living with memories instead of the presence of Nellie Katherine Kyle Bowden – doesn’t matter. I’ve learned many, many times that my wishes and wants don’t matter. Either the Universe doesn’t care or the Good Lord has a plan. Choose one.

Who is this new, different man? I have no clue. I only know how to be me. I’ve had a lot of practice. I’ve got it down.

My daughters say I’ve been a rock since their Mom had her first stroke. That’s a generous, humbling compliment. A rock that cries every day. A rock that feels sad, missing, and hurt. A rock that’s unable to express what those emotions and thoughts mean in their overwhelming complexity of color, context, shape, scope, depth and every other dimension other than to simply speak their labels – sad, missing, hurt.

This rock can think of things to do. Places to go. But, I have no clue – saying it again – how to be a different, new, re-constructed man and for my wife to be memories, not presence.

I know how to do all that other stuff in the Doc’s book. I know how to read and follow The Book.

Nellie wrote “God never wastes our sufferings” in her well-worn Bible. Okay. Got it.

God won’t waste my suffering. He has a plan.

I can do my all old duties and relationships – except be husband to Nellie. I can do my job – “You will read and write.”

Live life one day at a time – from rising to resting. I can do that in Him.

In Nellie's hand on the first page of her Bible

In Nellie’s hand on the first page of her Bible


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