“Time Passed and Pain Turned to Memory.” True?
Only a few days ago I posted a video slide show of favorite memories of Ben. One year is a significant marker of time for me and I was very uptight as I anticipated the sadness that I did indeed feel when the day arrived. I don’t know what I expected to happen after I hit that marker, but I woke up the next day feeling so sad. I still feel down. Time has passed but pain has not turned to memory. Both are still quite strong. So, this quote from the 2015 Disney “Cinderella,” which was so powerful to me when I heard it and still remains with me, gave me pause and I had to think about it.
I relish the happy memories and cannot shake the pain of the devastating ones. If pain turns to memory, does pain go away? Is memory really complete if it does not include the pain and the joy? Is it all a matter of time? I would think that having lost my mom, my dad and my grandma- that I would be prepared for the flow of emotions that come with grief. I still feel pain at their loss, though I admit the sharp pangs have changed. But, I think that being the daily caregiver for Ben, and seeing the excruciating challenges of ALS, left an indelible mark on who I am as a person and how I see the world. I am stronger and more resourceful than I ever thought I could be, and yet, I am as much of a crybaby as I ever was. I’ve always placed a high value on being compassionate, even if I don’t know that I showed it all the time. Ben and I also were shown a lot of compassion, and it hasn’t always come from places I expected. Through this experience maybe I have a more open mind and heart. But my heart has also been somewhat broken by the cruel nature of the disease and the turmoil it caused. Maybe time will temper all of these dramatic feelings but I feel like as time passes, pain is entwined in memory but it doesn’t turn into memory.
I’m not sure of what my expectations should be of myself and how I handle my grief after a year. Should I consider the expectations people have of me and how I handle my grief from this point forward? Should their expectations influence me? If so, even if I don’t feel very different all the time, should I act like the pain has just evolved into memory? Should I speak less about Ben? Should I let people see that I still have really sad moments? Should I stop looking back?
I can say that although the bad times are still ingrained in my mind, and I do get depressed, I also do feel a change within myself. I still feel the pain of losing Ben, but I can view that pain as part of sixteen years of so many memories with him, only the last six of which involve his life with ALS and mine as his caregiver. I feel a gradual shift from continuing to live within the pain of suffering and loss, to embracing the wide range of memories, and the feelings they bring, but also trying to define my new “present.” While I am struggling with frequent episodes of drifting back to sadness and dwelling on my memories- good and bad, I have also begun to at least see a “forward.” I have to fight the idea that moving forward is disrespecting Ben’s memory and our relationship. That is an uncomfortable feeling that I have to learn to accept and navigate. Pain, sadness, joy, anger- a bevy of feelings and emotions- are all part of cherished memories and I do have faith that over time they will continue to shape me and lead me towards a bright future.
August 30, 2016 @ 11:28 am
Abby, you have articulated many thoughts and feelings about the entire life process: living and dying. There are no quick and glib answers and solutions. In a sense, how each of us deals with these issues is quite individual and a part of who we are. I don’t know whether pain turns into memory…I think not. What does happen is that pain eases as we assimilate all of the good memories into our daily living. Why remember the constant pain that Ben was in during his last days….why not instead focus on all of the things that he so enjoyed….why not focus on that beautiful smile. Focusing solely on the pain and suffering serves no purpose. I would like to share a thought with you:
“The gift of tears helps you embrace the mystery of paradox, of that which can’t be fixed, which can’t be made right, which can’t be controlled, and which doesn’t make sense.” It is all right to weep.
September 1, 2016 @ 8:41 pm
Thank you for your thoughts, Maureen. I think the quote really made me think of my many memories, and that they were good and bad and everything in between. I also don’t really think pain turns into memory. Someone recently said she thought that memory turned to pain. I think emotions and feelings fluctuate. I guess that when grieving, you kind of want to know what to expect, but part of the grief process is its unpredictability. All of the memories play a part in remembering accurately and lovingly an entire relationship. I like the quote about “the gift of tears…” I think it’s quite true. I hope so! Because there are still a lot of tears!!!
‘Tis the Season to be Emotional – Pixie Dust for Caregivers
November 28, 2016 @ 9:26 pm
[…] to feel worse the day after the first anniversary of Ben’s “leaving,” as he would say (click here to read that post), so I guess I need to abandon my expectations. Grief. If only it came with an instruction […]