death of a spouse, expressive writing for healing, grief, loss of a spouse, widows

Beware the Ides of March…

I don’t typically take “selfies” at all, but certainly not in a hospital gown. This afternoon I did.

During the writing workshop I taught Monday night I remember saying something like this:

“Why would we write about things that embarrass us? Or make us look foolish, or petty? Why be so transparent?  Why would I write about crying in the peanut butter aisle and bolting out of the grocery store to sit in the parking lot and slam my fists into the steering wheel? Because I am not helping anyone if I am not transparent. I cannot help another griever if I don’t share the messiness of grief. Because if I admit I bolted out of a grocery store or sobbed in a dentist chair then someone else who has lost a spouse can read that and think ‘Oh, I’m not crazy. She did that too.’ I’m not helping anyone if I hide behind a perfect Facebook façade.”

How many times have I stood in front of a room full of people in an Expressive Writing class explaining how every single cell in their body holds memories: cellular memories. That even if they didn’t want to think or write about the trauma and sadness in their life, their body would find a way to express it; through headaches, stomach upsets, generalized anxiety, or other physical ailments.

Which was why I woke up crying on June 2, 2012. Though I wasn’t consciously aware of the date; even in my sleep my body remembered that it was the first wedding anniversary without my husband. It’s likely why I ended up in an emergency room three times in six years around the month my husband died. 

Make that four times in seven years.

mary at hospitalWhen the chest discomfort began six days ago, I dismissed it, thinking about all the snow I’d been shoveling. When the discomfort was joined by pain between my shoulder blades, it kept me up at night, as I moved from chair to bed and back again. Then nausea joined the symptom ranks, followed by an upset stomach and a nagging headache. After confiding in a couple of my children, they encouraged me to see a doctor. Except a doctor didn’t want to see me, I discovered when I tried to make an appointment. “We’ll make an appointment for you after you go to the emergency room and they rule out a heart attack,” I was informed.

Three hours and several tests later, I was informed my heart was fine, and handed a prescription for anti-anxiety medication I might never take.

The look you see on my face is one of sadness and resignation. The thought uppermost in my mind; is this how it will always be?

Seven years after the March we discovered our little Jacob, my grandson’s cancer had returned. Seven years after the month my husband had a heart attack and stent surgery. Seven years after the March my husband died. Seven years, with a job I love and many exciting things happening in my life, my body still remembers.


13 thoughts on “Beware the Ides of March…”

  1. Wow, Mary…like my dad gets physically depressed in May, the month each of his wives were seriously ill (both died in June, 1960 and 2002). Thanks for sharing and God bless!

  2. Aw, Mary. Thank you for sharing this. How profound that the body carries heartache in a physical way. Praying for you during this difficult month of remembrance.

  3. Darling lady, thank you for being you. So many of us need to know we’re not the only ones slogging through difficult paths. Praying for you, body and soul, and that He will hold you close.

  4. Thank you for being transparent, Mary. Praying for you during this difficult month. Hopefully it won’t “always be this way.” ~Robyn

  5. Just looking at the grief in your face, Mary, just makes me want to give you a huge hug. Since I can’t do that right now, know I am praying you find some peace during this difficult month. Also, I am happy to hear that you did get checked out and that you don’t have a heart issue–that is, not a physical one. The heartache is another matter….

  6. Mary, I couldn’t see the picture of you, but what you wrote was so touching. You are a very special niece and we are so proud of you and all that you do to help others. We love you so much!. Love, Paul and Marge

  7. Take the anti-anxiety medication for a while just to level you up. You will be surprised how much better you feel and haven’t even noticed. Sometimes we need a helping hand in that direction too.

  8. When I saw your face here, Mary, I wanted to give you a big hug. Since I cannot do that, know I’m praying for peace and strength for you as you get through this month. Also, I am relieved your heart is fine–the physical organ at least. The heartache is another matter….

  9. Thank you for sharing this. I remember crying in the dentist chair shortly after my mother died. I was a bit embarrassed, but the dentist was so kind. I couldn’t hold the emotions in. Sometimes, we have no control and it hits us when we least expect it.

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