Monday, July 1, 2013

Dreading the beginning of July

Lots of people love this time of year. It's summer. That means school is out. Families are flocking to the beach, mountains or desert for vacation. Soon, people will be gathering to watch fireworks for the 4th of July. For many, it's a happy, carefree time of year.

I hate this time of year. Well, at least the first half of July.

During these several days, I recall sad and painful memories with incredible clarity. I'm talking uncanny clarity. In early July four years ago, Steve was in bad shape. He wasn't himself. He was unusually quiet and withdrawn, so incredibly uncharacteristic for him. Steve was full of life. He loved being outdoors. Fishing on Lake Erie with his friends was the second love of his life (I was the first, of course! He loved fishing so much I jokingly called myself a fishing widow ... oh, the irony.) He had this bold, contagious laugh. He adored his children.

The first two weeks of July in 2009 were bad. I had never seen Steve so down and withdrawn. Regardless of how he was feeling, he wanted to get better. And, he was doing all of the right things to get better -- see his doctor and take the medications he was prescribed. There was one thing his doctor wanted him to do, but he wouldn't do it. His doctor suggested he take a leave of absence from work. He wouldn't do it. Although he needed the rest and the break from the stress of work, it was the stigma of mental illness that kept him from obeying his doctor's recommendation. He didn't want people at work to know what was wrong.

So, he kept it hidden from everyone but his family. He wouldn't even let his closest friends know what was going on. He was embarrassed.

Now, four years later, I am recalling how bad he was but also the hope we had that things would "get back to normal." They didn't.

I struggle with these clear memories that flood back causing grief to rear its ugly head. Driving home from work today, I was thinking about our conversation with a close family friend who had stopped by our house on July 2 to talk with Steve and I. Then, I remembered that tomorrow is July 2. The emotion flooded to the surface.

It's been four years and I feel like I have come a long way on this journey to heal and find my new normal. I realize, though, that at times like this, the approaching anniversary of his death, his birthday, Father's Day and the other holidays, grief can surface with such ferocity. On the positive side, as the years pass, the length of time between these bursts of grief are longer and longer.

During these times when the grief is more intense, I know I need to be good to myself. However, those of you who know me know that I am really bad at that. I mean really bad! But, this is a journey ... so I'll keep trying to take care of myself while I take care of my children. Baby steps.

The journey continues ...