Thursday, November 15, 2012

Creative Widowhood 1: Climbing Out of the Pit

This begins a series about the changes wrought in my life by the sudden and unexpected death of my husband, only days after we returned from an out-of-state promotion trip for my WATERSPELL trilogy. For 32 years, Gene was my anchor and the pivot around which my life revolved. Learning to live without him is the hardest thing I have ever done. I hope my “Creative Widowhood” posts will help others who have suffered a similarly devastating personal loss.

        Imagine you’re walking through a forest. Birds are singing. Sunlight filters softly through the trees. The air is warm, with just enough breeze to comfortably cool you. The breeze makes contented sounds, high in the treetops. Shed pine needles cushion the path underfoot. It’s a perfect day, and you are perfectly happy.
        In an eye-blink, clouds cover the sun, darkening the forest and dropping the temperature. You shiver. Your backpack holds no jacket or blanket or flashlight: in the cold darkness, for the first time in a long time, you feel real fear. Not nervousness or anxiety, but gut-shredding fear. You stumble ahead, the cold like an icy razor slicing into you. The wind rises until it roars in your ears and stings the tears from your eyes. You can barely hear or see. You are disoriented and you can’t think: all around you, everything has gone wrong so very quickly.
        Then the earth beneath your feet splits open as if a giant has struck a blow with an enormous axe. You tumble into the cleft. Down you fall.
        You’ve nothing to grab onto. Or if something’s there, you haven’t the presence of mind to reach for it. You’re numb now, and dazed, like you’ve taken a hard blow to your head. And your heart. You barely notice when you hit bottom.
        In the depths, you’re unaware of the passage of time. The days run together as you huddle down there, only half conscious, alone and cut off from the world
        Slowly, very gradually, sensation begins to return. You struggle to focus your thoughts. At first there’s nothing to focus on except the pain you’re in. You realize you’re badly bruised and you’re all cut up. Every part of you is raw. You feel shredded.
        Though each move is painful, you force yourself to sit up and think back. What happened? you ask yourself. How did it happen? You don’t get far in your thinking because you can’t get past the barrier of disbelief. Your life was a happy ramble through a sunny forest. You want your life back. You want out of this black pit.
        Slowly you get to your feet. Your first steps are weak and wobbly. It takes a while before you’re able to begin climbing. But once you start, you feel stronger, though you still hurt. Up you go, unsteadily pulling yourself out of the pit, sometimes sliding back a little but toughening up as you go.
        When you reach the rim and haul yourself out onto rocky but semi-level ground, you discover you’re on the opposite side of the great cleft. Where the earth split open under your feet, you can look across and see the easy path you were following when it happened. But there’s no way to jump the gulf and resume your original journey. It has ended.
        Your only option is to face the other way and start walking. Leaving the gashed earth and the dark pit behind, you move toward the sunlight that once again filters through the forest trees. The light lies a great distance ahead of you. To reach it, you have a long way to go.

Twenty Weeks

         In WATERSPELL Book 1: The Wysard, my protagonist, Carin, studies a map in her captor’s library and is astonished to see how far she has traveled in twenty weeks.
        I, too, am surprised by how far I’ve come in the twenty weeks since my husband’s death. For much of that time, I was gripped by a sense of unreality, too dazed to accept what had happened. My husband was the strongest, most resourceful man I’ve ever known. When faced with a problem, he invariably figured out the solution. Particularly tough problems might take a long while to solve, but in the end he always emerged victorious. I fully expected him to solve the problem of cancer.
        … a cancer we didn’t even know he had. He received the diagnosis of esophageal cancer on a Monday. Six days later, he was gone.
        The suddenness of it dropped me into a dark pit, exactly as if the earth had opened under my feet. In future posts, I hope to chronicle the progress I’ve made in climbing out of that pit and walking a new path. Until recently I could only stumble ahead, but now I’m stepping more confidently.


  1. I, too, am climbing out of the pit! It was my father who died, though I've been a widow also many many years ago. I'm excited to read the inner thoughts of an articulate person that can give precise words to the experience and learn from the ways she's found to climb out of the pit into the light again. Thank you, Deborah, for writing this blog!

    1. I hope I CAN be articulate. Grief is a hard slog characterized by fumble-tongue and brain-freeze. On dreary November days like today, producing a single focused thought leaves me exhausted. I'm off to vegetate in the front of the TV. :-) Thank you for reading and commenting.