I had the wonderful experience this week of a visit from the lovely and talented Sarah, and her dog Charlie.
We had a few interesting events happen as Charlie, the 22 pound Tibetan Terrier, causing bodily harm to my 60 pound pit bull Ike. Ike is now missing one toenail at the root. And he also has the humiliation of knowing his butt was kicked by a Tibetan Terrier.
But the best part of Sarah's whole visit, to me, was when we got to talk some shop while waiting for Brad Thor to start his appearance and book signing (oh yeah - I got to meet him! I was like a teenager waiting for High School Musical Live! to start). Sarah and I spent the time talking about what our plans were if something ever happened to our husbands.
Not everyone plans out what will happen if that person, the chaplain, shows up in uniform at their door. Enough people do, however, that the phenomenon has a name - anticipatory grief. We've talked about it here on SpouseBUZZ several times - here and here are a few places.
I didn't know what it was when Air Force Guy first deployed in 2003. I do remember that I had it all planned out in my mind, right down to what I would be wearing when it happened. And it kind of bothered me enough that I tried to talk to my Dad about it. I figured that as a Vietnam Veteran, he would understand what I was trying to say. However, there is a big difference between living through the war, and watching your daughter wait through a war at home.
My Dad, who is a wonderful guy, did not react well to what I was trying to say. "Don't talk about that! Don't think about it! It's not going to happen!" Another person I tried to talk to told me that thinking about it would "jinx" me, so I should push it out of my mind.
The thing was, I couldn't. So I felt totally weird. And morbid. I thought I had to be the most morbid person on the face of the Earth. Who plans their husband's death? Until Andi and armywifetoddlermom started really bringing anticipatory grief out in the open, I just kept planning and kept hiding it.
Now I know that quite a lot of wives do this. And I don't feel weird. But I do still need to get it out of my system a little. And Sarah's visit - where we spent an hour discussing burial plans, cremation, and the company that can now make diamonds out of someone's cremains - filled a very big need that I had and I hadn't been able to take care of lately.
Who else would understand that these kind of things keep me up at night? And the best thing was, when I mentioned the diamond creating company, Sarah didn't look at me like I was some ghoul from outer space, but had total understanding in her eyes. Right down to the sudden realization we both had wondering what we would do if, while wearing our ring, the diamond was lost. I admitted I'd probably completely lose my mind for good.
And Sarah's insights were really good, too. Anticipatory grief is very personal, and being willing to share the discussion with someone is a gift.
When we came home after our discussion, my husband asked what we had talked about. I told him, and he said, "That is the weirdest thing I've ever heard. You were talking about making diamond rings out of my cremains? Are you sure Sarah isn't going to run out of our house in the dead of night in fear?"
Then he said, "Why are you having insomnia worrying about me dying when I'M HOME RIGHT NOW? This is silly!"
I'm sure it is, but I know that he'll be gone again. And this is something that, over the years we've been at war, has just become a part of my everyday life. It sounds tremendously morbid to a lot of people, like I live in some kind of depressive fog. The funny thing is, I don't feel depressed about it. I feel lucky. Not lucky that we have deployments hanging over us and time apart. But lucky that I've been able to realize what we have NOW, while AFG is still with me. I have been able to better figure out when we have disagreements that are silly, and decide that they just don't matter. We end all our conversations with, "I love you," because I want that to always be the last thing I said to him - even when we argue and I don't particularly like him at that moment.
I have two friends from high school who lost their husbands to car accidents - and last year one of them said to me that she always regretted not having made the most out of their relationship before her husband died. She just never thought it would happen.
I don't think it will ever happen to me, either. But it could.
Talking to someone about those feelings was indescribable.
I feel so much better today - I even fell asleep without any insomnia last night.