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Sacred Absence

A Pilgrimage of Love, Loss & Grieving Well

“Perhaps for now it can be enough to simply marvel at the mystery of how a heart so broken can go on beating…” 

  -Jan Richardson, Blessing for the Brokenhearted

WE to ME

I had a different kind of revelation today as I walked with Cyon along a pond in a local Wildlife Area. No one was there, which was nice, so I let her off the leash to roam around within my sight. As I watched her sniff and run and stop to sniff again, a thought hit me out of nowhere. I said it out loud to Craig through my tears. “Our life together is over. There is no more ‘Craig and Cindy’”

Up until now, I have grieved that HE is gone. I have sobbed countless times that I want HIM back. I have felt his absence every time I see HIS picture or any object that is HIS. But today my heart sank even further with the thought that the LIFE we had is gone, never to return. It’s a subtle nuance. But when you are surrounded in your home by the things you both looked at or shared every day, there is a tendency towards the familiar, and the WE remains to some degree in your psyche.

So again, through tears, I said to Craig that my job now is to put you AND us into history as graciously as I can. Not that I could ever forget Craig or our life together…our marriage created the best the parts of who I am. When you are with someone for 34 years there is nothing that isn’t intertwined with your own life. Even though I didn’t care for baseball and only saw a handful of games with Craig…I cannot watch any of the World Series this year. Just hearing the announcers would chip away at my already shattered heart.

So, if there is no earth-bound life together any longer - no WE - then I must create a life for ME. And this threshold in the journey feels most terrifying. I know when I am healthy enough to recall our life with joy and gratitude…I will. But in these early stages of grieving both him and now us, I have no idea how long that will take.

I write these thoughts down during times of low anxiety; times when I am not completely falling apart or pacing the house wondering why this has happened to me. During those times living another day seems unbearable. I told someone recently, that on those bad days, it feels as if I have been arrested for a heinous crime I did not commit, thrown into a prison cell alone, and made to endure the same dull routine day after day, stripped of almost everything, all the while rattling the bars screaming, “I don’t deserve this. I didn’t do anything!”

That is one part of grief. The horrible part. The reason you submit yourself like a guinea pig to test which antidepressant or which anti-anxiety pill will let you function but not cause you to have seizures or “off” yourself because it makes you even more depressed. For me it was a torturous, hit-and-miss experiment; one I was completely in the dark about. As many people as I know who are on antidepressants, I assumed they were magic pills. Ativan became my friend and teacher. It gave me a sweet, temporary release from the anxiety I carried. But it also taught me what it feels like to be addicted to something in a way I had never experienced. I was not physically addicted, though I could have become, which is why my doctor was more conservative with her prescriptions than I liked. I was more emotionally addicted to the respite from anxiety.

One evening while getting ready for bed, I dropped one of the few pills left, which rolled underneath my nightstand. In seconds, I was down on all fours searching frantically for it. I was desperate for sleep at night and to return to each day to the place where anxiety wasn’t ruling my thoughts and wearing on my body, and Ativan took me there. That night I vowed not to stay on it for long.

The other parts of grief are not as horrible but are the awkward and necessary dues of the “club you did not ask to join,” which can help bring healing. Books you check out of the library you would rather not. But you read them anyway. Appointments with a grief counselor you would prefer not to attend, but your heart quickens when she says she also lost her husband suddenly. Finding someone who understands.

One of the hardest disciplines for me is to keep my mind focused on just today…not the future. The future I must constantly give to God. But there IS a future out there. A mystery. A story not yet written, which could be filled again with joy, purpose, and love. I have learned in a big way that there are no guarantees, but that life can also positively turn on a dime, as well as it can negatively.


© Cindy K Steffen  2023

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