The Guilt

One thing that I’ve learned through these posts is that other people have felt the same things at times. And that helps to hear. I think some people have seen what I’m feeling right now and maybe it helps them too.

So there’s the Kubler-Ross five stages of grief. I read that those were originally created in dealing with one’s own illness and pending death, but then eventually was expanded to additional types of grief. The five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Plus as others have noted, these are not linear. No rules in how long we spend in each one or how many times. I’ve definitely been in the denial stage many times. I still remember the day, walking out of the hospital and standing right there on the sidewalk staring off into the distance and saying out loud “What just happened?” In some ways, I still don’t know what happened, and many times I still expect to see her again. This just does not happen to someone who was so healthy, so full of life, and certainly not so fast.

I remember thinking about this and wondering if I’d get to anger. I didn’t think so because I can’t be angry at Erika. It’s the opposite actually. I feel so bad for her, so hurt for her, and what I’m feeling right now is a combination of anger and guilt. On the anger, I’m very angry at the unfairness of it all. I’m angry at not knowing what happened or why. I’m angry that this happened to her. It’s completely not fair. Also let me say that I know some things I think are with my heart and emotion and some things I think are with my head. These often lead to very different thoughts. I get mad at “old people” simply for being old, because it’s unfair and Erika deserved to grow old. When I see couples now I wonder if they really appreciate each other and appreciate what they have. I think that is one thing that Erika and I really did have was a great appreciation for each other and our life together. We told each other that a lot in lots of ways. In the middle of a work day, I’d walk over to where she was working, pop my head in and say “I love you. That’s all I have to say to you.” and go back to work. Or there would be times when I’d tell Erika that she had a secret admirer. She’d ask if if was me and I’d just tell her that it’s a secret. Other times I’d just stare at her and tell her that I have a crush on her. She would do lots of similar things. I’d be working my office, she’d walk in and just look at me. I knew it meant she just wanted a hug, and then go back to work. Or every night before we went to sleep, she’d say “I’ll see you in my dreams.” and would not let me go to sleep until I replied “I’ll be there.” Every night. Or if we weren’t together because of a business trip, that would be our last texting conversation of the day. Even now, every night I say it because I do want to see her in my dreams at night. Dreams often can seem and feel so real. Sometimes it’s hard to know if we’re dreaming or awake, so if I can see her in my dreams, then she is back with me.

But back to the stages of grief. After anger comes bargaining. There isn’t much bargaining that I can do right now, nothing will bring her back. But I have felt guilt, and in my researching, I saw that guilt can be a kind of bargaining. It’s the “if only I had…” type of thing. Again, there are things I think with my heart and I think that is where this guilt comes in. I know it’s part survivor’s guilt, which I’m learning is a real thing. I thought that was only when one person survives a situation and could have died with the other. But not necessarily. My guilt is about what I didn’t do more for her. I didn’t stay with her every moment she was in the hospital. I didn’t do more to protect her. And I don’t mean that in a chivalrous way. We protected each other. We both had times that we felt a need to step up for the other. We seriously had each other’s back through anything that came our way. Erika would run through a burning brick wall for me if that’s what was needed. In my head, I know that there wasn’t anything more I could do, but that doesn’t change the fact that I wish I had, or at least that I could have.

This is all where I am now. One minute I’m in denial, walking around the house, shaking my head, in disbelief that she’s not here. The next minute I’m yelling, raging that something took her away, and then feeling like I should have done more for her and feeling so sorry that I didn’t. And then there’s the guilt, knowing she felt terrible from her illness, scared from being in the hospital, scared of not knowing what was happening. I tried to put on a brave face for her and be confident and told her she was going to be ok.

Like I’ve said, there are bad days and there are some less bad days. Yesterday was a bad day with this cycle happening many times.

But as always, I want to end this with a wonderful picture of her, as that always makes me smile. I just now found this one in her photos. I’ve never seen this one before. It is from our trip to Iceland and it seems she sneaked it in as I was video recording a waterfall.

P.S. Yes, I’m meeting with a therapist once a week to talk through all of this. It helps.