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Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Silent Butler Revisited


On Sunday, January 2, 19 months after Clint’s death, I bravely unloaded his silent butler, stowed away his pants and belts and slippers and moved the silent butler to the guest room. I did so with a matter of fact demeanor, no tears, knowing it was the right thing. I need to move on, and it has been a torturously slow and painful process.

I applauded my courage and was sure I had done the right thing. Then Thursday arrived, and I woke in a pit of depression. I now know that it is called delayed grief reactivation.

Over the last week and a half, I have been tempted to move the silent butler back into my room and reload it with Clint’s things. It needs to stay where it is, appropriately available for guests to use, but when I look at the empty place where it stood against the wall on his side of the bed, I suffer periods of weeping and feeling as though he died only yesterday.

Work days are not so painful, and I am going to request to be scheduled to work on Sundays. They are the hardest, the days when we Poppy and I lolled around the house watching golf or football or tennis on TV. We usually had vodka and orange juice with a small brunch around noon. Then we would take a nap and get ready for whatever game we were planning to watch. Yes, Sundays remain difficult in a striking way.

And I continue to have frequent episodes of excruciating grief, tearing up at the mere thought of him, of how disappointing it is to be mired in this agonizing cycle of healing followed by more sadness.

When Clint died, my therapist warned me that it would be a long process to reach that place where I am more healed than wounded. Her exact words were: “The more you have lost, the harder it will be and the longer it will take.” She was right, of course, but this latest episode has me feeling disappointed and cheated. Part of me wants to move on, but there is a place at my core where I am still holding on, hoping he will return. It is a dreadful infirmity.

Could it be that I was so defined by my relationship with my husband? As years have passed and I cared for my brother and my mother, only to see them die within 2 months of one another, I was the brave one, the courageous backbone of the family. Was I drawing all that strength from Clint, his complete support of me, his willingness allow me the privilege of spending as much time with them as I could carve out of the calendar?

Then he got sick, and I thought I could will him to live, thought that if I unyeldingly wanted him to live, he would. On occasion, I would try to imagine what life without him would be, but I was never capable of believing that one day he would actually die.

Am I not my own being? Am I the other half of Clint Schlottman and therefore only half a person? Where did my strength go if it didn’t leave with him? How am I to go about finding my whole self? Will it ever happen?

No, I am not suicidal. I am far too responsible to do a thing like that. It has never occurred to me to run away from this by killing myself. There has to be another way.

But where is the path?

© cj Schlottman


Sue said...

Boy, I wish I had the answers to this one, CJ. And wherever the path is, it's going to be a long and windy one...with a lot of switchbacks.

I do know this: You ARE healing. I've been following you long enough to see evidence of that. You are also being courageous in doing so, as your removal of the silent butler demonstrates.

If I were you, I'd buy a really cute piece to put in that place where the silent butler was...maybe even paint or have it painted with words or symbols that are meaningful to you in relationship to your late husband. Then I would put a few special tokens on top of the little console, table, book shelf or whatever I had chosen that specfically reminded me of our marriage or were even souvenirs that we'd acquired together.

I hope you can make a happy remembrance spot where the silent butler was, and let the healing continue. But don't be hard on yourself when you have bad days. It's always two steps forward, one step back when you're healing.

And you are. I promise.


Boulette de Viande! said...

You are very much your own person. Those things that define your life are myriad. Your marriage and life with your husband was a beautiful, and huge, piece of that tapestry.

I went through a divorce ten years ago. I had first fallen in love with her when we were 13. When she was gone (I lost her to depression, so I know of its insidiousness), I remember the thing that struck me most was that I had absolutely no idea of how to move forward. I didn't know what to do. I didn't know me. I don't mean to suggest a divorce is as devastating as loss by death, but those reactions that lead us to believe we are truly lost are similar.

One day at a time and the wounds transform, ever so slowly, into a lasting and living testament of those tapestry threads that will always be a part of who you are and have evolved to become.

Katie Gates said...

I think you're on the path, actually. And it's going to take as long as it takes. As sad as your story is, I want you to know that I envy you -- because you had such a strong partnership for such a long time. Many of us will never know that joy. (I hope this makes sense and sounds as loving as I mean for it to!!!)

Hope Despite Depression said...

Dear CJ,

My heart broke as I read your post. I agree with everyone's comments though - whether you believe it or not you ARE healing, you ARE your own person and you ARE on the right path...

I wondered the same thing about my husband and I - are we too dependent upon each other - but in talking to my therapist she didn't think so - our relationship sounds like the one you and Clint had... you were each others best friend... you lived and loved together - you were each others rock and you shared your life journey with each other - that's why it hurts more than any other loss...

You ARE stronger than you think - and you will get there... you ARE getting there... and in the comforting words of my wonderful therapist please know this:

You are guided, you are protected, and you are loved...

((Many Hugs))