Monday, April 20, 2020

Gregory Lives in My Grief

Last night before bedtime, while listening to a guided meditation podcast on grief by my guru Corinne Peterson, I arrived at this thought: Gregory lives in my grief. Therefore I will keep it.

At first, this didn't sound right. Shouldn't he live on with thoughts of joy and memories of all the wonderful, loving times we spent arm in arm over the 71 years we were together? 

I can easily pull up the milestones of our relationship which far outnumber the millstones, but somehow when I am thinking about him, he arrives with feelings of grief. This sounds so negative and shouldn't our relationship provide so much more than grief?

With being so isolated during this COVID 19 Pandemic, having chosen to keep to myself in the condo for the last 37 days, going out only a few times (for groceries, to pick up a prescription, and to go to a doctors appointment) I have been missing Gregory even more than usual.

The isolation has provided a quiet, peaceful, still space for me to be with myself. My "voices" are not being as loud and my daily activities are not being as active so as to distract me from my being able to hear and feel who, intrinsically, I am inside. So, I have been thinking about and missing Gregory more than usual.

Who I am inside is the pure, essence of who I am and not necessarily any of the roles or visions I hold for myself. We so often believe we are who others tell us we are or should be, or by making comparisons to others in our life.

From the time we were children, important and powerful people in our lives have been shaping these thoughts and most often they are not true. But as children, we did not realize that we had any power let alone the power to disagree with our parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters, relatives, teachers, religious leaders, neighbors, and even strangers when we heard comments they made about us.

Part of growing up is visible in the "power struggles" we have as tweens, teens, and young adults, with the sources of authority in our life. As adults, we forget about these power struggles, some of them have been successful and others not. As adults, most of us do not conscientiously think about these thoughts about the self we have been handed. What we need to do is begin to triage which thoughts do I no longer believe and therefor chose to toss out, which thoughts do I continue to believe, and which thoughts do I need to reconsider and think about some more?

To become a self-actualized adult, one must thoughtfully triage our ideas about ourselves, especially those based on the opinions of others. Many adults continue to live their lives with the old, often outdated ideas of self and like the child who wasn't even aware of having any power, the adult may not be aware that they have the ability to change the beliefs they have about themselves, again many of which are not true and based on the perceptions of others!

So here I am, thinking about my essence and the "pure me" in relation to why, when I think of Gregory, he "lives in my grief." 

Probably the most important lessons I learned from Gregory in our relationship were 1) respect for each other, 2) the importance of communication, 3) over time negotiating and renegotiating roles and expectations in the relationship, 4) having compassion for each other, others, and self, 5) keeping aware of gratitude for the good that comes our way, 6) while we cannot choose what comes our way, we can choose how we respond to them, and 7) when possible ... choose JOY over SORROW!

These lessons are all so important in the moving forward of successful unions between two people and without them, the relationship is doomed thus accounting for the high percentage of divorce in our society. So many love relationships never get past the passion, lust, and sex that first brought the two people together which is why those relationships fail.

But if you look closely at these lessons, you can see that they are all active, changing, and future pointing. Gregory, now gone from this physical plane, is no longer active, changing, and future pointing, he is static. I am still active, changing, and future pointing!

Yes, I am the sum total of everything I have thought, experienced, witnessed, learned, felt, and more and owe so much to Gregory and to our 41 years together.  We had so many loving, fun, exciting times together but I can no longer be with him, or hold him, or share with him, or talk to him. For sure I cannot bring him back and given the circumstances under which he left, I would not want him to come back in that condition. That would be selfish of me!

So the sorrow of his having lived with Dementia/Alzheimer's for 12 years, and the sorrow of the ordeal for both of us as I walked this path with him, and for the insidious nature of that journey; I grieve at the ordeal of waht we went through, at his being gone and at missing him painfully. I continue to love him dearly and he figures into most everything I think about, what I do, and who I am ... but he is gone. He is in the past. I continue on in the present and into the future. 

So where does Gregory exist for me? In my memories and while that is wonderful, and while I am grateful for the time we were together, I grieve his having left and will probably grieve for the rest of my life. That does not mean I am depressed, or that I have given up, or that I am any less of me than when I was with him ... but he is gone ... and I miss him ... and continue to do so almost every moment of every day.

So Gregory lives in my grief and while I will not let the grief control my life, I will not let go of it either!


  1. Beautiful, Michael. Grief in our culture has a negative connotation, but feeling grief is actually a profound understanding of change. It is also a huge reminder about how we need to feel gratitude, not take people for granted. Grieving Gregory is all of that and so, so, so much more.

  2. Thanks as always for your kind observations!


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