I have been surprised by how physical this process of grief is. When Doug was very sick, I was walking down the road one evening taking out little dog, Bijou for his evening walk. I looked up and in the window saw a woman walk by her husband and gently touch his shoulder as she passed. I wept with the tenderness of the intimacy and the coming loss in my own marriage. Such a small gesture that conveyed so much.
As Doug’s body became so very fragile, we found ourselves holding hands at night instead of the usual body snuggle. One morning after he was gone I found myself half asleep holding hands. There was this momentary excitement as I felt that all that loss was a dream and his body really was still here. As I awakened, I realized that in the night my arms had encircled the pillow and my hands were holding each other. There was a soothing in the touch that only stopped when I was awake enough to place the disappointment there. It was a learning moment for me..an awareness of how much need my body has for him and how my interpretation could change the moment from one of soothing to loss.
I am feeling compassion for this body of mine. For the cells and neurons so used to 38 years of Doug’s loving touch. I am in a new place of experimenting with these sensations that come up. When I have the sharp deep pains of loss, I allow it and also stay present to it without trying to label it. I ask myself, “What is this sensation without my thinking of it as painful.” I then allow it to lead me. I may cry or I may settle into my body and it all gets calm. The heart pain may not leave but it doesn’t have the same grip on me as when I have a story attached to it.
Even watching couples on television can bring up somatic memories for me. It isn’t that I only think of the memory of Doug but in a caress that I see, there is an actual physical feeling in my body. It is as though the cells of my body are responding to the images. Each cell leaning towards a touch that is no longer forthcoming.
A heightening awareness in my body as though to catch some passing flow of his cells lingering in the air.
I breathe him in.
I touch my own face soothing this body…
a reminder that love and compassion are still here
even in my aloneness.