This month at Curios, we’re exploring #hardfeelings.
Read on to take in Sarah’s incredibly vulnerable and raw perspective on losing a partner, grief, and all the feelings in between. Inspired by this song.
My fiancé, John, was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia in the fall of 2017. A couple of weeks before that fateful night at the E.R., I was carrying a load of warm, clean clothes up the stairs to our big king-size bed where I could fold and watch Anderson Cooper. Twilight had settled over The Front Range and all the dimmer switches were dialed perfectly, casting a warm glow on the changing leaves in the backyard. John was watching football, both the dogs curled up on either side of him. The slow cooker was simmering. I stopped on the stairs, the laundry basket balanced on my hip. It was as though the wind was knocked out of me. I had this overwhelming feeling of… contentment. It terrified me. Don’t get comfortable, I thought. Don’t let your guard down. A lifetime of anxiety had bonded me to these inner voices. When John passed away less than a year later, I would remember that evening and those voices. I sat on our back porch, staring at my wine glass in the dark. The house was silent, my body still. My mind was too exhausted to race, but those voices remained there. As dull and lifeless as they had become in the days following his death, they still echoed. They whispered that they had been right all along. It would never be safe to feel again, they said, because good feelings are hard, too, and they never last. No hard feelings.
It was an easy surrender to avoid the grief. I had just spent the last ten months powering through. Why should I stop now? I had been eating my feelings, drinking my feelings, swallowing hard, and pushing every feeling down into the depths out of reach… but facing my feelings? Nope. No time for that. An around the clock caregiving regimen that required focus and determination. Too many bills, lists, calls, logistics to handle. No time. Just get through the day. Too many worried family members and friends – I had to be the flight attendant you watch during turbulence – calm, collected, and eternally optimistic. Serenity in chaos. Not to mention him. I had to look at that terrified, defeated face every day and be the one that wasn’t afraid. I had to keep my shit together so that he had the space to fall apart. No hard feelings.
During a particularly low moment toward the end of John’s illness, he was put into an induced coma while they had him ventilated. I remember this foreign emotion crawling through my nervous system as I sat by his bed. It was relief. I didn’t have to fake it. With him in a coma, I could just sit there bawling and let the fear wrap itself around me like the worst kind of weighted blanket. I could face the intuition telling me he wasn’t going to make it without having to admit it to him. With the realization that my partner’s coma felt like a day off came a tsunami of guilt. I wish I could say that I was able to see that breaking point as normal and have empathy for myself, but even as I write these words I still feel like a terrible person and am tempted to delete them. Why? No hard feelings.
It’s been two and a half years since John passed away. I am pleased to say that while I host those voices on occasion, I’ve learned that they don’t belong to me. I can let them come in, stay a bit, and then politely ask them to leave like an annoying dinner guest. I’ve grown to embrace that my life is for living and living means… feeling. ALL the feelings. Joy, sorrow, gratitude, worry, anger… they all have a place and they are all temporary. How boring would it be if every day was as pleasant as the one before? I can look back on that peaceful evening before our world came tumbling down and instead of being devastated it came and went, I can be grateful it happened and excited for when it shows up again. That is the lesson I believe we are all here to learn. To live and love the light and the dark, the good and the bad. To let go with no hard feelings.
Watch us dive into these hard feelings with Sarah on IG Live!