Grieving a complicated relationship

Lately I have been really struggling with my grief.

It is hard enough to come to terms with the loss of a loved one. I have lost grandparents, an uncle and a few childhood friends over the years. All of these losses have affected me differently and have taken varying amounts of time to accept.

The battle I am currently engaged in, however, is proving the most difficult of all.

I am struggling with accepting the loss of a loved one with whom I shared a strained relationship.

And that’s being nice.

Yes, he was my husband, so that adds a different level of grief as well. But I observe the grief of friends and acquaintances that were madly in love for years with their spouse. The memories they share and the stories about what they miss make my heart hurt a little bit more.

Some days I walk through the world with a giant chip on my shoulder. I am not mad at my husband for how he treated me; nothing that he ever did was with malicious intent. I am, however, mad at myself for allowing him to treat me the way that he did sometimes.

Post-traumatic stress and substance abuse cause a lot of damage on their own, combine them and they don’t just change the person who is directly affected – they change everyone who comes in contact with that person.

My husband was not a bad person. He had a very kind and gentle soul if you took the time to look deep enough. Most people probably had no idea just how bad things could sometimes get.

Now that he is gone, I am tasked with trying to grieve the loss of someone that I spent five years loving unconditionally. Nothing that he ever did or said was ever going to cause me to stop loving him. Information that I’ve gathered since his death has not and will not cause that either. I will love him until the end of time. Period.

However, I am now also trying to put back the pieces of myself. Not only was my heart completely shattered by his death, but my entire being was slowly being broken apart living with a person struggling with poor behavioral health and substance use problems. I am trying to remember who I was before being torn in pieces, but also evolve into who I was meant to become.

I am struggling to forgive myself for not being stronger, smarter, more confident, more aware. I am struggling to forgive myself for not being a better wife, for not working harder to help him, for not saving his life. This grieving process has been the sharpest of double-edged swords. Without my husband around to worry about and to control me, I have had my eyes opened to just how different I had become. Without my husband around to love me and to need me, I have found that I do not know how to love myself.

Some days, like today, I wake up and I just really miss him. While the bad times outweighed the good toward the end of his life, there were still so many good days. There were good memories, good conversations, silly little antics that he would only do in front of me. The laughter at a ridiculous video. The whistling in the bathroom while he got ready for bed. Those are things that I miss. Those are things that will drop me to my knees in a heartbeat.

And so I feel as though there are two different people living inside of my head. One is reminding me of how hard our life together was and one is reminiscing on all of the good days.

No matter how you look at it, grief is complicated. The best relationships and the worst relationships both have their fair share of troubles to overcome.

But, for all of you out there who are trying to grieve the loss of an imperfect relationship, I want you to know that you are not alone.

I am walking this harrowing path with you. Through all the road bumps, potholes, quicksand, and black ice – we are in this together.

If you wake up one morning and you don’t have a single good thing to say about your deceased loved one, come talk to me. I understand.

And when you get out of bed the next day doubled over in grief over missing them, I will be there then, too.

If you haven’t been there, it’s hard to understand.

There are so many of us out there. Let us come together to grieve the loss of the lives of our loved ones. But let us also celebrate and embrace the freedom to rise from the depths of this hellhole the way only those who have suffered as we have can – strong and empowered.

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