As a person who was never prone to crying and could count on one hand the number of times I had done so in my life, my “blue days” came as a real shock. I had never known such heavy sorrow. At first I thought, “Why am I not coping better? What is wrong with me?” But I now realize that it is OK to not be OK. The death of a loved one is a tragedy of immense proportions, and it’s understandable to have moments of falling apart. You are not alone.
Two years have passed since my husband’s death, and both the frequency and the intensity of these periods have lessened. But I still experience some very sad days of overwhelming grief. I never quite know what the trigger will be—a song, something in nature, or even throwing out a whole batch of Christmas cards that herald, “We wish you a Merry Christmas.” Early on, I learned to lean into these big emotions. When deep sorrow strikes, I will often cancel calendar engagements and sometimes crawl back into bed for part of the day. You are given the grace by others to do this. People are very understanding following a devastating loss.
On these self-proclaimed “blue days,” I generally cry a lot with waves of melancholy being the order of the day. Melancholy can be a powerful positive force if you allow it. I use this bittersweet time to remember my partner and really focus on my grief—looking at photographs, reading old letters, playing favorite songs, or even watching movies we both loved. In a counterintuitive way, embracing the grief helps me cope. And I am convinced it has aided me in processing my sorrow in a healthier way.
I know many people might rather power through these moments and tamp down strong emotions. But sooner or later, to survive loss we must face our sorrow head on—accept it and even embrace it as a catalyst.
Of course, crawling back into bed every now and then might not work for you. Perhaps, a support group would facilitate the same emotional release. The key is to find an appropriate way to vent the sorrow. Something about fully grieving makes me feel like I am honoring my late husband in a profound way. I feel closer to him in those moments. The most important thing to understand is that whatever emotion you’re feeling at any given moment, even if it’s no emotion at all, is right for you.
To end on an optimistic note, I want to tell you that it will get better. The lows will become less deep, and the times of excruciating sorrow will become less frequent and of shorter duration. Hopefully, like me, you’ll find those original triggers such as music and old photographs will come to evoke warm and happy memories, and not just bring you to tears.
Marilee Clarke lives in Issaquah and loves the Northwest’s natural beauty. She is a collage artist and her passions include travel and anything creative. She and her late husband taught a course at Bellevue College on “How to get the most out of your retirement years” and that is just what she’s doing!