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Guilt, Grief, and a Good Day

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen 

Some people may picture those of us who mourn as constantly sad, breaking out in unexpected crying jags, but will "get over it" in a few days. Not hardly! People who have joined this exclusive terrible club know that we are forever changed, but sadness and tears become less frequent and are not so easily triggered.

Each experience is unique. We may grieve one way for someone, but a completely different way for another. When the grief fog hit me, it had characteristics similar to shock. I was just existing. The idea of having a good day was unthinkable — but it happened.

Charlene near shadow of Little Sauble Lighthouse on Lake Michigan, 2005
Charlene near shadow of Little Sauble Lighthouse on Lake Michigan, 2005

I am writing this on the nine-month anniversary of her journey to Jesus. While I think of her many times each day and even have some special memories, I am not always saddened by them. On the other hand, there are things I have done where I felt good (such as walking a trail in the woods), they were tempered by my longing to have her with me. Some things she would have told me to go ahead without her.

There has been a great deal of guilt. I have been hypocritically doing something I detest and caution others against: Shoulda. I shoulda realized how much Charlene loved me, I shoulda expressed my love for her more, I shoulda... It's a trap! Especially since she had a forgiving nature.

But she would want me to keep on living, not just existing. She would have said "good job" when I successfully cooked something (which I could not do much at all). Charlene would have been happy for my work accomplishments, finding new television shows to watch (several of which she would have liked), going adventuring, and more. In fact, a few days ago, I thought I was going on short strolls in the woods and instead had the most vigorous workouts since my heart surgery — with no ill effects. She would have been happy about that, too.

The grief fog is less frequent, and sometimes I feel like I am getting my mind back. (Of course, I still zone out and stand there needing a head of state to push me which direction to walk.) My therapist said that guilt over feeling good is a common and even normal experience. The apartment is not sacred, and I've changed and removed some things because of my needs.

Although I wept a few times today, I also see that I've learned a great deal. My pastor keeps reminding me to focus on what I know is true, the Word of God. Those who are grieving must keep going. Several times, I contemplated ending my life, but honored Charlene by keeping on. Things got better even though I'm lonely. After all, those who are gone would not want us to be miserable, but make the most of our lives.