Jun 5th 2008

Warren, a grief observed – Toe in the water, a big step

Posted in Helen & Warren, Izzy


Helen’s garden. Warren can’t bear to see it yet

June 5, 2008 – Warren looked good, different. I said something had changed, I could see it in his face, and he said yes, he had decided to put a toe in the water and tentatively – and cautiously – begin the process of returning to the world. This, I have learned, read and heard is a significant milestone in what the social workers call the “grieving process,” powerful stages of grief that follow the death of a loved one.
“It’s like going to an ocean with cold water in the morning. You put your foot in first, and then, maybe, take another step,” he said. The first step is returning to work with a county historical society, running a committe that oversees the library, and fights for it.
He’ll go in once a week, he said. He thinks he’s ready.
Warren is confronting a number of challenges, and not all of them are psychological. His knees are increasingly painful, something he refused to even think about while Helen was alive. He almost fell in the bathroom the other day, and wants to install easy-access facilities. He wants to get a computer, and go online for e-mail and research. He is thinking of writing a book.
He is exhausted, he told me, with little energy. Is that normal, he asked? Yes, I said, even people from the World War II generation get depressed. I had seen it many times in Hospice. It is perfectly normal. His energy would return. He would start reading papers, again, watching the new again, grumping about high taxes again. He would also, I said, feel guilty about Helen’s death, and angry about it, and disoriented. All of these things were natural, inevitable even.
But even the discussion was a good sign, evidence of a man who wanted to go forward with his life, who, as he put it, “isn’t ready to throw in the towel.” His motto, recited often each day, is “stiff upper lip, kid,” and it works for him. He is determined to move ahead with his life.
We joked about getting a computer. He is nervous about it, a Luddite and technophobe. He wanted one, and we had talked about getting one next week, but he is nervous, and he might get one sooner or later, he said. Hey, I said, soon you will be 100 years old, and you can barely walk as it is. How about sooner?
We both burst out laughing. I take your point, he said.
He said that yesterday he went driving to do some chores and he saw some strange looking beef cows. All the years that Helen was sick, he said, and couldn’t go out, he made a point of spotting two or three things he could come back and tell Helen about, to be her eyes and ears. So when he saw the cows, he made a note to tell Helen. Then it hit him. “At my age,” he said, “it’s important to keep an eye on the road. But it keeps hitting me like that, at odd times.”
I know, I said, and it would probably happen from time to time for the rest of his life.
Good, he said.

Warren has a jar of treats for Izzy

Warren has a jar of treats for Izzy