You’ll never be the same again

Deep, raw, traumatic grief is a foreign land known only to those who earn admission.



Georgia Brooks

 

I know a woman who is dying of grief. I can’t do anything about it.

I know a man who did die of grief. I couldn’t do anything about that, either.

I am not dying of grief, but there have been too many days in the past year when I didn’t know if I could survive it.

Deep, raw, traumatic grief is a foreign land known only to those who earn admission. Everyone else is an outsider and a pretender. Once in, we recognize one another. “You don’t get over it,” a widow told me. “You get used to it.”

I keep running into widows and widowers. They’re everywhere. They always have been, but I’ve not seen them at eye level. I read obituaries differently now. Now I notice with awe surviving spouses of 30, 40, 60 years. Those grafted lives have been split like a tree hit by lightning. How will they live on? A broken heart is a killer.

What we miss most, my widowed friends agree, is the conversational shortcut. Decades together have built private jokes, pet names for things, years of discussion, shared opinions.

“I’d like to talk to Bill about what’s going on in Russia,” one woman said to me. “I’d like to ask Wayne what he thinks about the new Lincoln book,” another said.

Theirs are the opinions we value — Bill’s, Wayne’s, Joe’s, David’s, Charlie’s, Jay’s.

When widows commiserate with me, I get weepy. “I know,” they say. “It’s been six years (or three or 12) and suddenly it will hit me, and I cry again. But not all the time anymore.”

What I heard is true; the trauma hits like a shipwreck. At first, all we can do is stay afloat amid the wreckage. Grief coming in waves is a common description. Then, the submarine stage when grief is underwater. We’re still feeling the deep-water explosions, but nobody else can see it. For them, it’s over. For us, it’s two cold words: Nobody cares.

It was a big day when I could sit outside in the sun and read. Unintentionally, I lost weight and I got brown. People said, “You look great!” On kind days, I said nothing. On bitter days, I replied, “I guess grief becomes me.”

I wasn’t surprised when emotions became combustible and irrational. Shimmy-shake memories try to find a new place. Sleep is scary, but not as scary as waking. Time is the enemy; the day must be gotten through and then the night. Often, I seem to be waiting, a life on hold. Waiting for what? For this horror to thunder on by?

I didn’t expect cognitive changes. Memory and language come and go like spotty phone service.

I didn’t expect sudden and obliterating fatigue.

I didn’t expect anxiety attacks in the grocery store or the bath.

Sitting in the sun was my version of the nature fix. Month after month I sat under a Chinese Lantern tree. Jay was with me when I bought it, not much more than a sapling. We drove it home in my station wagon and planted it. I planted it. Being Jay, he sat in a wicker lawn chair, drank coffee and watched me do it.  Now it’s tall enough to sit under. When Jay left — poof! Gone forever. — the leaves were small and the flowers were just budding. I have watched the season’s resolute march as buds became showy yellow blossoms, then turned into fruit like golden lanterns, then finally a leafless tree with rattling brown lanterns. The cycle of life has not been comforting; it has been enraging.

When the hydrangeas bloomed, I was distraught because life was surging on, pushing Jay farther away from me. One summer’s day I cried when the purple blossom of a Mexican petunia fell off — poof! Gone forever. It’s the big forever part I’ve never grasped before.

What I’m doing now is trying to move from grief to mourning. Grief is immediate. Mourning goes on and on. Freud said it’s hard work, and it is.

Jay died a year ago this month. I won’t get over it. I won’t get through it. I will get on with it.

 

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August 2018

Opening to the public on Thursday, Nov. 16, the 110th anniversary of Oklahoma statehood, “The Art of Oklahoma” celebrates the Museum’s outstanding and...

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Cost: FREE for Garden members; $8 ages 13+, $4 ages 3-12. Kids 2 and under free

Where:
Tulsa Botanic Garden
3900 Tulsa Botanic Drive
Tulsa, OK  74127
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Sponsor: Tulsa Botanic Garden
Telephone: 918-289-0330
Contact Name: Lori Hutson
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FlyingTee is fun for the whole family and on Sundays, kids eat free! *Limit one free meal from the kids’ menu with each purchase of an adult entrée. Not valid on brunches or holidays.

Cost: Free with purchase

Where:
FlyingTee
600 Riverwalk Terrace
Jenks, OK  74037
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Telephone: 918-528-7717
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Cost: $10

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423 N. Main St.
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Sponsor: LIFE Senior Services
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108 E M.B. Brady St.
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Cost: FREE for Garden members; $8 ages 13+, $4 ages 3-12. Kids 2 and under free

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Tulsa Botanic Garden
3900 Tulsa Botanic Drive
Tulsa, OK  74127
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Sponsor: Tulsa Botanic Garden
Telephone: 918-289-0330
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Cost: $19.99

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On The Border Mexican Grill & Cantina
8702 E. 71st Street South
Tulsa, OK  74133
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Contact Name: Jessica Chacoff

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Amanda McCavour’s ethereal environments explore themes of strength and vulnerability. Through the use of embroidery, McCavour’s delicate creations will highlight the process of building...

Cost: Free

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108 Contemporary
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Telephone: 191-889-56302

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415 Couch Dr.
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415 Couch Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
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Cost: FREE for Garden members; $8 ages 13+, $4 ages 3-12. Kids 2 and under free

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Tulsa Botanic Garden
3900 Tulsa Botanic Drive
Tulsa, OK  74127
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Sponsor: Tulsa Botanic Garden
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As the world’s largest Mexican casual dining brand, On The Border Mexican Grill & Cantina is ready to celebrate National Fajita Day with a week-long fiesta starting on Mon., Aug. 13...

Cost: $19.99

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8702 E. 71st Street South
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418 S. Peoria Ave
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Cost: $12

Where:
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Telephone: 405-236-3100
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The work of renowned artist Christopher Curtis will be featured at Tulsa Botanic Garden’s first sculpture exhibit March 17 through August 26. Curtis works primarily in stone and he often...

Cost: FREE for Garden members; $8 ages 13+, $4 ages 3-12. Kids 2 and under free

Where:
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3900 Tulsa Botanic Drive
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Sponsor: Tulsa Botanic Garden
Telephone: 918-289-0330
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Dennis R Neill Equality Center
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Cost: Free with admission

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Cost: $12

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Dr.
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View map »


Telephone: 405-236-3100
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The work of renowned artist Christopher Curtis will be featured at Tulsa Botanic Garden’s first sculpture exhibit March 17 through August 26. Curtis works primarily in stone and he often...

Cost: FREE for Garden members; $8 ages 13+, $4 ages 3-12. Kids 2 and under free

Where:
Tulsa Botanic Garden
3900 Tulsa Botanic Drive
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Sponsor: Tulsa Botanic Garden
Telephone: 918-289-0330
Contact Name: Lori Hutson
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Cost: $19.99

Where:
On The Border Mexican Grill & Cantina
8702 E. 71st Street South
Tulsa, OK  74133
View map »


Contact Name: Jessica Chacoff

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Cost: Free

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108 Contemporary
108 E M.B. Brady St.
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Telephone: 191-889-56302

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Cost: free

Where:
the boxyard
502 East 3rd Street
Tulsa, OK  74120
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Sponsor: eclectic disposition
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Cost: $4-$7

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Muskogee War Memorial Park
3500 Batfish Road
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Sponsor: Muskogee War Memorial Park
Telephone: 918-682-6294
Contact Name: Brent Trout
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Cost: FREE for Garden members; $8 ages 13+, $4 ages 3-12. Kids 2 and under free

Where:
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3900 Tulsa Botanic Drive
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Sponsor: Tulsa Botanic Garden
Telephone: 918-289-0330
Contact Name: Lori Hutson
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Cost: $12

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: 405-236-3100
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Dr.
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View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: $19.99

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8702 E. 71st Street South
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Contact Name: Jessica Chacoff

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108 Contemporary
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