Death of a significant other creates deep wounds, visible and invisible. Abrupt loss gives no time to build emotional reserves against the inevitable pain.
No time to say goodbye.
If there is time, how then to prepare? Read Kübler-Ross and consider the stages of grief. Intellectualize the process. Life’s a process isn’t it? Then it happens, always unexpectedly – “I wasn’t ready” you say. No one ever is. The difference between intellectual preparedness and emotional unpreparedness hits home.
Crying is held inside; a stiff upper lip. Impossible. Tears come when they are ready and cannot be resisted. One learns to cry unashamedly wherever and whenever.
Before scars form, all can see the evidence of the wound and offer condolences and sympathy. Time passes; later, friends will comment that “he is still moody” or she is “still grieving” but make kind exceptions for silent grieving.
Undisturbed over time these wounds slowly form scar tissue.
Scar formation can be slow; varies unpredictably with the person and the situation. After the scar has fully formed, the wound slowly loses raw appearance but the damage persists, deep and unexpected twinges on the chance recollection of a past happy occasion.
Sometimes no scar is permitted to form. Intense grief and the devastating loss can lead to scab-picking so the loss feels temporarily soothed but the wound remains fresh and painful.
Caring relatives keep the loss fresh by recalling “the good times”. A large portrait of the loved one in view seems to help healing by keeping the tears flowing but it eventually becomes just a continuing painful reminder.
A time comes when the portrait can be put away.
Then there is denial. It’s “nothing”, or “I’m getting over it now” or “I’m OK”. Friends who helpfully advise that “you should be getting over it now; time to move on with your life”. Well-intentioned but essentially useless advice to the survivor. Advice obviously true but unfollowable.
It’s time may come but not now.
Illusions persist unexamined; the feeling that the lost one is just around the corner or nearby or will soon return. Deep pangs of melancholy and the illusion dissolves.
Dreams where the survivor suddenly realizes the lost one is still giving subliminal advice or repeating old instruction or simply has returned unannounced. You look up in your dream and see your SO has joined you for breakfast. “Why are you here?”
“I never left” the SO replies.
Dream over until the next time.
Slowly these things fade and the twinges diminish; resilience improves and life goes on.