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The Time Fog of Grief - Not A Science Fiction Occurrence

One of the biggest side effects of the grief I’ve lived since John died is the loss of time. Not time with him, or time on earth, I mean every day time. Most days I find I really can’t remember what day it is, sometimes I can’t remember what month I’m in or when the calendar turns again I find myself month after month staring at it, mouth agape, literally somewhat shocked. How did 30 days go by without me noticing it? Seriously how does this keep happening to me month after month??

I actually lost all of autumn this year and can’t tell you why or what was going on. I just remember looking at the calendar and it was late October suddenly, and realized I missed all the fall planting season. If it happened every now and then it wouldn’t seem so annoying but it started when John died and has not really changed since. So every month I find myself asking, did I give Abbey her heartworm pill? Did I pay the cell phone bill? When was the last time I took the garbage to the curb-which btw right now my last recollection would be three weeks ago, maybe longer. It’s this monthly check in that makes me realize I’m maybe not doing as well I think I am. It’s this same monthly check in the firms my resolve to do better,  a little like a New Year’s resolution, except I make it monthly and break it monthly, but still I keep trying so it has it’s positives as well.

The adage that time flies when you’re having fun doesn’t apply here. I’m not having fun. I’m not living life to it’s fullest or spending my days carefree and laughing. Honestly, the sound of my own actual authentic laughter startles me when it makes a rare appearance. Grief time loss is different. It doesn’t fly by, it’s a thick fog in which I live in, where one sorrow filled day leads to another and another and they are all the same- empty, sad and lonely, so lonely. Nothing really differentiates one from another other than the date on a calendar which I have long ago stopped paying attention to unless knowing the actual date is necessary. The time fog of grief means there is no escape from the longing for a different reality and no exit from the reality that is, but what does exist is this space that you live in where everything you do feels slow and meaningless and as if you’re watching a movie in a different language- you kind of understand the basic idea of it but all the details, the real meaning of it is lost to you.

This is the brains way I know. The brain literally shuts parts of itself down when there is a trauma and slowly, so very, very slowly lets down one wall after another allowing only portions of the loss and pain through because, as scientists have found, this is the brains protective nature from extremely traumatic happenings. I understand that. I in many ways even appreciate of it, as I have sometimes wondered just how manic and crazed I would be if it had all been allowed to rush in and flood my entire brain, body and senses with the unimaginable loss of John and the life we had, the love we had, all at once. I’m certain if it had all been allowed to flood in that I would find myself in the middle of the grocery store screaming and screaming out of agony for the loss, or maybe I would have just curled up and never left the fetal position of those early days after John died. But the brain protects itself and me and so I live in a fog of details lost. Both appreciative of the protective barrier against the harsh reality of life without John and impatient to be healed enough to have it lift- to remember days and months and happenings.

For now every time I see the calendar flip again I wonder, how long? How much longer till I see the details of life with clarity again? How long before the sun and birds and tastes of food are crisply experienced instead of soggily slogged through? I ache to see the details in my life, I long for joy and to simply remember day after day without wondering what happened to the last four weeks- again? And although I am appreciative of the protective measures my own brain and body have taken and are still taking to protect me from a reality that is so hard to accept,  I can’t help but think it’s been over a year now, how much longer till the fog lifts? How long till I can “be” again without deep grief being my constant sidekick? I’m impatient with my own progress. I'm impatient because of my desperate desire for healing to occur, and yet I know through the grief is the only way to find healing, and that can mean slowly, slowly slogging forward in a fog.

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Comment by John on January 1, 2014 at 8:31am

Thank you Flannery, your written words an those of others on this post are expressive of the feelings I also share with you all.  The fog of grief was ever so evident this past holiday season, when it struck me like an electrical shock that this was the 2nd holiday without Cassie. 

I've also been so driven to get stuff done, and I've always been a list maker - but there is a list on the Frig... that has some simple tasks to perform that once started would not take much time, but I've found myself distracted - and then suddenly de-motivated to get them started.  But, I have shaken myself back to reality over the past 18 months many times, to push forward, to get stuff done, and pace myself versus heading in like a bull, amazing how it all gets done.

I too spoke with someone professionally, and she speculated it might require that I make a physical move away from and to sell the house we remodeled - before the Fog I'm experiencing will truly begin to lift away.  Similar to my job, it's possible that the routine and comfort of both are what is holding the fog and not allowing the future to be seen clearly without the past still holding tight.

This I have resolved that in 2014, changes will have to occur so life can more forward - for me I am ready, and I expect someday you will be ready to also.

I wish you the best of fortune and a peaceful ease for the soul.


Comment by NoLongerInBergenJC on December 28, 2013 at 5:24pm

Oh yeah, me too.  I am finishing a week off from work and I've accomplished very little.  I still have trouble focusing on my job and that worries me.  My whole sense of time is completely out of whack.  I keep replaying my husband's last two weeks after his stroke in my head over and over and over again, and yet I can hardly remember being married to him for 27 years.  It's like my life has always been like this.  I have so much to do, so much sheer junk to go through and get rid of and the more I throw away, the more stuff there seems to be in this house.  I want to paint, finish remodeling this house (kitchen, bath, flooring) so I can enjoy it a while before I retire and sell the house and head someplace else, no idea where.  I am going to Italy this summer; who knows, maybe I will decide to retire there.

Comment by Susan on December 28, 2013 at 3:51pm
Flannery, you describe the fog and loss of time so well. I, too, judge the weeks by trash-day. I have to write EVERYTHING down, and place reminders in places where I cannot miss them. Most upsetting to me is that I am losing things. I NEVER misplace things; I couldn't function with out some obsessive orderliness. Yet, I seem to have lost a treasured bracelet, the battery charger to my camera, and all sorts of less important things. I have a strict routine with my medications, because I often can't remember if I have taken them even two minutes later. I am impatient to recover some of my faculties that used to be among my strengths. We have all lost so much, haven't we?
Comment by my roses on December 28, 2013 at 7:01am

Hi Flannery. I think I have many of the  foggy stuff that you have had.  I have gone into my husbands office and looked at the large calendar on the wall and realised I had not changed it and how had it now become 3 mths since I had noticed this.  I seem to be judging the speed of a week by putting out the rubbish bins.  I am so tired, lacking sleep, and I wake up to OH is it bin day again.. Another week disappeared. I also kept losing things, even though I put them in see-through files. I missed one bill and just had to tell them  I had lost if for while in all the paperwork.  I haveto  look, and then re-look have I paid this bill>  Luckily I remember to write the date on it IF IF HAVE PAID IT!   Part of my brain is constantly away thinking about Wes my beloved, and I have to try and get my practical brain to reunite with my loving brain. Left and right hemispheres which are obviously wandering off in different directions. When I check my diary which is my best way of coping,  I  often  wake up wondering what I should be doing today. Reluctantly get out of bed and toddle over to my diary.  OH my goodness I should be going out (with a friend etc) at   10,30 am and its 9 am already.  I always write down all meetings, coffee mornings etc in my diary on the right date.  But sometimes am so woolly I don't put down the right time, and today I found I had put a friends mobile no down for yesterday and I am to meet her today.  Lack of sleep is one of the major reasons I  am not coping. I have also had the screaming and screaming sessions as well. Once when my beloved was with me and also since he passed away. I was not screaming at him,  just that I had hit a wall and could not do anything more from my exhausted state.  When I recovered a bit I went over to my beloved and told him I loved him...poor soul just lying there hearing me going nuts. I am not living life to the fullest, but I am going out to see people, singing in a choir,  going to concerts etc. nothing has changed my broken heart. Today I met a another bereaved lady (a nurse) and  we shared  a lot of stuff.  We are both fed up with the way bereaved people are being treated.  We also both agreed that  our main concern was  'the spiritual level" of our journey.  To leave behind the "outrageous" statements others said to us and concentrate on  our loved one.  That  they were where Iour heart really lay.  We would finish whatever 'work' we had to do (both of us are writing books) and after completion of our destiny we may well decide we have had enough. We know that our beloveds are alive in another dimension.  She actually saw her 8 yr old daughter appear to her just after she had died in the hospital.  I said to her that it is a miracle that we are both alive, after the horror journey we have experienced in these last few years.  We may decide to use our professional skills to run a course related to understanding bereavement and how to help and not abuse widowed people.  So dear Flannery  I am nearing 12mths since I last saw Wes.  But his presence and other signs have been with me.  I know he is concerned about me.  What I would really love would be to have a holiday with a friend or companion - as it is now 4 yrs since I had a holiday.  Many blessings  - you are not alone and see my blog Widowed People are valuable..Its about time we realised how special we really are.

Comment by flannery on December 27, 2013 at 12:57pm

Thank you only1sue. There is a lot of truth in what you have said. I have started to make lists to keep me on track at the grocery store and I made a to do calendar for chores. It has helped some. At 38 I never thought I would be starting over again in this way, so lost!! but then life has lots of hills and valleys and surprises. For what it's worth my psychologist/therapist, whose specialty is grief, says that 15 months- which is where I am too- is really no time at all in a grief so overwhelming, which made me feel better that it is still so painful, that I do still struggle trying wrap my brain around it. I do manage to get out of bed each day, do the work that must be done, care for my beagle and check in with my college age children each night but after that I'm done- and for now that is okay. I'm okay. Of course some days are better than others, some days the sunrise takes my breath away, some days I stop and stare at the eagles that live so near me in awe, but to write and share the dark days- the sad days- helps to ease them some. Soft days and hugs to you.

Comment by only1sue on December 27, 2013 at 12:42pm

I think you have to make a deliberate action to break this cycle.  I found myself the same in the first six months after losing Ray.  There were final notices on bills I hadn't paid, lots of lost days when I missed appointments, failed to answer phone calls etc.  I knew my children were wondering if I had inherited the Alzheimer's gene passed on down my mother's side.  Then I decided to make some note of each day, keep a wall chart of the month and note down bills paid, meetings attended etc.

We need to build up memories again, memories that are sad because they do not include our loved ones and losing great snatches of time, a kind of mental amnesia, can lead to other problems.  Particularly to people taking advantage of us if we allow it to get that far.  We need to be our own security guard now we are alone.  It is up to us to make a new life, a new safe life and we can only do that if we are fully alert.  I know that because an older friend of mine while she was in a fog after losing her husband signed away her car and gave away a lot of her husband's possessions like his watch and when she came out of the fog could not get them back.

I know it is hard to face the reality and the agony of loss and grief but somehow we have to be strong enough to do that too.  I am 15 months out and am coping with all kinds of problems that occurred in the years I looked after my husband 24/7 and now somehow it all has to be put right again.  It is tough to face reality but to avoid it and go into some wishful thinking space is not an option for me.

Hope you come gently to earth soon.  It is still good to wake up alive and hear the birds singing, feel the sun on your skin and hear the wind blowing, you need to put your feet out of bed each morning and somehow tackle the day.  It is the best thing we can do to honour the lives of the ones we have lost. 

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