There is an excellent article by Lynne Hughes on Grief and how it got an expectation of an expiration date in this society. Grief doesn’t only apply to the loss of people, but to many other things, like a career, a pet, or a relationship.
I am very familiar with grief and grieving. I have almost 30 years experience with loss and grief. Most recently, the grief I have been dealing with is for the loss of a friendship that was almost 30 years old between myself and Ellie’s parents, as well as the loss of Ellie and my relationship with her due to her addictions.
Hughes starts the article by saying:
Certain things need an expiration date. Milk, eggs, mayonnaise, meat, fish—there is a time we need to be done with them, and throw them away. I get all that. But does grief have an expiration date? For some reason, there seems to be an acceptable shelf life—6 to 12 months—and then grief should be off the shelf, out of the home and permanently removed with the weekly trash service. If it was only that simple…
Personally, I wish grief had an expiration date. I wish it would just stop after six months or a year…but it doesn’t. I wish I could just turn off the pain, sorrow and sense of loss I have over losing Ellie to her addictions, but I can’t.
Some people I know think that I should be over Ellie and her addictions, but, as Hughes points out:
The reality is they won’t be over it, nor should they be. If someone spent years loving another person, the pain of that person’s death simply will not be removed due to a date on the calendar.
The opposite actually might happen—people who are grieving may feel even more pain in year two because the initial numbness, which often serves as a protective barrier at the onset of loss, has worn off and they begin experiencing the full intensity of their feelings and grief. This is accompanied by the realization that life with loss is their “new normal.”
It has been just over a year since the amazing woman I love stopped speaking to me after I confronted her about her addictions. When I confronted her about her drinking, I did not know she was an alcoholic at the time and only found out about her addictions through research conducted over the better part of a month last summer.
It seems that I was the only person that cared enough about her to see what she had been doing to herself. Her family did not know what was going on with her drinking and drug use. But, then again, her father and brother are both alcoholics in denial and wouldn’t be able to admit she had a problem with alcohol and drugs without facing their own issues with alcohol, and in her brother’s case drugs as well. Her current friends are all part of her problem and she has picked them because they drink and do drugs with her.
I was also the only person who cared enough to try and get her help. I was also the only person that she has pushed away since she fell to her addictions. Apparently, this is something that alcoholics and addicts commonly do to the people they love the most.
I still miss my beautiful Irish rose—the amazing, smart, beautiful, strong, stubborn and feisty-tempered woman that I love—that loves me. I miss the red-headed, freckled-faced woman that told me that she adores the Asians with freckles our children would have been. I mourn for the future she and I talked about for a week that will probably never happen.
It really isn’t a surprise that I miss her so much since I have loved Ellie all of her life in some fashion—that I have loved Ellie for over 20 years. Hughes goes on to say:
This is what I know to be true:
Grief is a life-long journey. An emotional handicap you get up, and live with, everyday. It doesn’t mean you can’t lead a happy life, but it is a choice, and takes work.
The frequency and intensity of those grief pangs/knives should lessen over time, but the reality is every now and then for the rest of your life, you will feel those pangs. Everyone grieves at their own pace, and in their own way. There is no one way to grieve, and no certain order, and no timeline. There is definitely not an expiration date.
Grief will take on different forms in different people. Not everyone cries; others cry all the time. Some exercise a lot. Others talk about it a lot. Many seek counseling or join a support group, and enjoy the company of a good and understanding listener.
If years after your loss, thinking of your loved one missing a special day or milestone in your life, makes you sad, puts you in a funk or makes you cry, don’t beat yourself up. Allow yourself the ability to grieve the loss of memories not created. As long as the frequency and intensity of grief eases—even if it is slowly over time—you are coping in positive ways. Alternatively, if years after the loss, you can’t bear the mention of your loved ones name, you sleep all day, you aren’t participating in your normal everyday activities, you do things to “numb” or escape your grief, those are warning signs that you are not coping well, and should seek the assistance you need to begin healing.
Grieving in a healthy manner, taking steps to move forward and rebuild your life with a new normal doesn’t mean you won’t have those tough days or tough moments.
There is no expiration date. Grief never fully goes away. That doesn’t have to mean you can’t and won’t live a happy and productive life. What it does mean is the love you shared with loved ones lost, doesn’t have an expiration date either.
I think the most important thing to take away from the article is that the love I share with Ellie doesn’t have an expiration date either. I have loved Ellie for over 20 years and will always love her. This is what I have told Ellie. This is what I have told her mother.
I still hope Ellie figures out that she is a beautiful, smart, strong and amazing woman soon, before her addictions destroy all of that. She won’t be the beautiful, smart, strong and amazing woman I love if she continues to stay a drug-addicted alcoholic. The drugs and alcohol will eventually rob her of her looks, her intelligence, her health, her strength and her future.
It is Ellie’s decision now—it is now up to her.
Until she decides that she wants to be more than a drug-addicted alcoholic no one can help her.
Until she decides she wants to be the person God meant her to be she will remain a pale shadow of her true self.
Until she asks for help no one can help her.
Until she decides that she is worth loving and learns to love herself—she can not truly love anyone or accept anyone’s love for herself—not even mine.
Regardless of what Ellie chooses to do with her life, her addictions and herself—I hope that she will remember that I love her.
I truly hope Ellie finally realizes what her addictions are doing to her—that she finally chooses to fight them before they destroy her health, her body, her mind and her future.
I still hope she eventually chooses to come back to the man she loves—who loves her—so we can start our future together.
I hope she realizes that it really is her decision now—that if she wants me back in her life, she will have to seek me out and ask me to return.
Unfortunately, I really doubt that any of this will come to pass. I think that my beautiful Ellie no longer exists—that she has become a casualty of her addictions—that she has succumbed to the fears, insecurities and self-doubts that are feeding her addictions and making her doubt how beautiful, smart, ambitious, strong and amazing she really is. I wish I could show her how I see her. I wish I could feed her dreams and starve her fears.
Until she believes in herself again—until she loves herself again—there is nothing for me here, so I have finally walked away from Ellie. This is not to say I won’t keep my vows or promises to Ellie—I will. If she asks me for my help, I will help her as I have promised her and her mother.
But, before I do help her, she will have to prove that she is once again the beautiful and incredible woman that loves me. I do not know who the drug-addicted alcoholic that has been occupying her physical shell for the last year is—nor do I care to—I have no commitment to her physical shell or the drug-addicted alcoholic. My vows and commitments were made to the woman that told me “Sarangheyo” so many times last June.
Ellie will have to show that she has made a place beside her in her life and that she wants me there and will fight to keep me there. Ellie will have to make her amends for the lies and damage her addictions have caused. Ellie will have to show me that she is as committed to me as I have always been to her. We have always been far more together than we could ever be apart.
I wish I could tell her that cleaning up the wreckage of her life and re-building the bridges her addictions have burned will be easy—but it won’t be. I know that the woman that loves me is smart enough and honest enough to realize that she has to take responsibility for what her addictions have made her do—and that she will do whatever she has to do to right the wrongs she has caused. I also know the incredible woman I love is strong enough and stubborn enough to be able to do this and I want her to know if I see her trying to do it—I will help her—that is how much I love Ellie.
May God watch over my beloved Ellie. God bless her and protect her, even from herself. May God grant her the strength, courage, and will to fight her illness and return to being her true self. May God grant her the wisdom to see the truth—both about her illness and about us.