Waves of grief

Brenda Cannon HenleyBy Brenda Cannon Henley
When my husband, Ted or Teddy, died in August of 2014, I was so very tired, both mentally and physically, of the long, hard fought battle we had waged against cancer that I did not come to terms with what had happened. Only when both funerals had been held in Beaumont and his beloved Amarillo, the burial took place according to his instructions, and my immediate family and I flew home to Southeast Texas, did realty sink in to my worn mind and body.

My girls and Steven really did not want to leave me alone in the house that Ted and I bought. My precious granddaughter, Callie Grace, stayed with me until Steven, my grandson, could move his things home. I existed because I had to do so. When you have hungry grandkids and their friends in the house, one must cook, and I did. I did some cleaning, but not with energy and resolve.

The bills got paid and I made dozens of phone calls, took care of necessary business, filed the will, and wrote thank you notes. Let me add here that Ted was a thinker and a planner, and for that, I am very grateful. He took care of his and our personal business and left me reasonably well cared for, and that is so important.

May I encourage young and old families alike that if you do not have a legal and active will, power of attorney, medical power of attorney, and other legal matters straight, stop what you are doing and take care of it now. Grief is a hard enough bastard to bear when everything is planned and executed with grace and dignity. Don’t add that burden of being unprepared onto their shoulders of those that love you.

Everyone else’s life went on and my family and friends were busy. Mine seemed to me to have stopped, and I felt as though I did not quite fit in any space. Church was the most difficult place I had to go. First, I had to go by myself, find a parking place, and go in the building, and actually locate an empty seat.

Invariably, no matter where I chose to sit, a sweet little couple would end up a row or two ahead of me. The male would place his arm around the pretty little female and she would smile up at him with the “We know a secret look.” I seriously considered taking a supply of poisoned darts, like in the old Tarzan movies, with me to church, plays, or concerts, and end their public displays of affection once and for all. But, I behaved because I did not think I would like prison.

I was often invited to go out to lunch, but I usually declined. I did not want to be the proverbial fifth wheel.

The first time I can clearly remember the first wave of grief smashing into me was at Market Basket, my nearest grocery store. I had gathered several items I needed and got to about the fourth aisle over when I spotted bags of brightly labeled big butter beans. I chose two big bags and headed to the meat section to get ham with which to cook the beans. That was always the basis of one of Ted’s favorite meals. Standing at the meat counter, I burst into tears, left the half filled buggy, and fled the store where I sat in my car and wept until the powerful wave died down.

That wave reminded me harshly that I would not be cooking for Ted any longer. One by one they came crashing into my soul and life, and after almost five years, they still do from time to time.

The wave illustration is the truest I have found in these 56 months since my Ted died. Sometimes the waves of grief and sadness are crashing, noisy, and dangerous, and I think the undertow will surely get me. Other times, I feel them, but I can ride them in to a safe harbor. Sometimes, they spray water in my face and make me cough and cry. My eyes burn and my hair is a mess.
Every once in a while, I can feel a wave making its way to shore, but it is pleasant and kind and brings a smile to my face.

We learn as we go, and one thing I’ve come to change in my life is what I say to people that lose loved ones – Ted did not pass, sleep, move, fly (that one really aggravates me), or step into eternity. My Ted struggled with the ravages of cancer and the aftermath. He died! Don’t paint it any other way. I was there. I was holding him. I know the truth. His death was calm and peaceful, but he still died. I will see him again in Heaven, but for now, he is surely gone.

I am no longer afraid to use the name of the loved one that died because I like for people to join me in remembering Ted. I like to hear good things he did, something he taught, or a funny story. My favorite kind of friend when he first died were those that just came and sat, maybe held my hand, and said little. They were simply there for me.

Just as there are different shorelines, beaches, sand, and color of water, our grief is different. Each person must find his way and plan for the waves to hit. Be prepared. Some of them are strong and severe.

Brenda Cannon Henley can be reached at (409) 781 8788, or
brendacannonhenley@yahoo.com

[5-14-2019]

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3 Responses to “Waves of grief”

  1. Becky Brim says:

    Brenda, you touched me so much with this story. I too lost my husband to cancer. He suffered so horribly. He had Pancreatic Cancer, he was in so much pain, his body just who there’s away. Nothing about his fight was peaceful. I get your exhaustion and those horrible waves of pain and loss. I was diagnosed with Colon Cancer 5 days after he died. I then had to put that tired fight suit back on and fight for my life. Needless to say, that grief struck me after I got through with my chemo. I remembered every moment of his struggle in varying waves. Has time goes by, those dangerous waves have become less often, and those calm loving memory waves are taking over. I could not have survived those horrible years without my many friends and family. During all those months, years really, of those friends(the ones that brought food, sit with me during Mark’s fight and then drove 2 hours away to take me each week to chemo treatment, stayed in the house overnight to make sure I was ok, cooked and cleaned for me, held me quietly while I grieved, etc.). I am healing, loving, living and happy, but only because of all those many friends the cloaked me with their loving tenderness. I am sure you touched others that have been there with us. Thank God we are more resilient then we know. Thank you for sharing your story, I know you have struck a chord in many others.

  2. Suzy says:

    Brenda – I enjoy reading your articles, and this one isn’t the first that touched me. I, too, lost my husband and best friend to cancer. His battle was 5-1/2 years. Your comments are spot on and are the truest words that match my feelings and grief. Keith wished to be cremated and wanted his ashes to be buried “next to (his) momma” at Fairview Cemetery in Winnie. I told him I wished to also bury some of his ashes at our church in Baytown, and he agreed; he then added to take the remainder to the beach. So, we also had 3 services, similar to your husbands. I had some very small holders made, and I’ve taken him back to Cabo. I’m planning a trip to Italy where I’ll also leave a piece of him, and Costa Rica and Mount Rushmore are also on the list. I hope you and I have a chance to meet and talk face to face one day. We have probably seen each other in The Big Store or other local business. Thanks for being so open with your feelings. ❤️

  3. Suzy says:

    Brenda – I enjoy reading your articles, and this one isn’t the first that touched me. I, too, lost my husband and best friend to cancer. His battle was 5-1/2 years. Your comments are spot on and are the truest words that match my feelings and grief. Keith wished to be cremated and wanted his ashes to be buried “next to (his) momma” at Fairview Cemetery in Winnie. I told him I wished to also bury some of his ashes at our church in Baytown, and he agreed; he then added to take the remainder to the beach. So, we also had 3 services, similar to your husbands. I had some very small holders made, and I’ve taken him back to Cabo. I’m planning a trip to Italy where I’ll also leave a piece of him, and Costa Rica and Mount Rushmore are also on the list. I hope we have a chance to meet and talk face to face one day. We have probably seen each other in The Big Store or other local business. Thanks for being so open with your feelings. ❤️

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