I’ve had my share of hurdles in life. Sometimes, I wonder why challenges continue to nip at my heels; it’s been one thing after another for years. But I have always prided myself for coping well and maintaining a positive attitude.
Two weeks ago, something unexpected was thrown at me. It was insidious that it happened just as I was feeling better about life in general.
Navigating living separately from my husband after 31 years of marriage was already enough for me to deal with. But as I sat eating my lunch on a lovely Saturday, I experienced a strange sensation in my left eye and watched an inky black blob snake across my field of vision. It curled into many interesting shapes until it became a shower of tiny black dots. After that, the visual field in that eye became gray.
I drove myself to Urgent Care right away.
Two years ago, I experienced a severe burn on my arm. My father died last May. I’ve had three cataract surgeries in the last six months. My mother continues to deteriorate with her dementia.
None of those challenges depressed me like this one. This one knocked me to the ground.
I found myself lying there, and it was very hard to get up.
I was distraught because my left eye annoyed me every second of my day. It felt like gray gossamer webs were inside my eye. My brain screamed loudly, “You cannot see and this is intolerable!”
Three ophthalmologists examined me since my “incident.” What happened was that the vitreous gel in my eye shrunk and pulled away from the eye wall. It did not tear my retina (for which I am thankful), but there was blood involved. I was told that this was a normal part of the aging process and I would adjust to my large new floater. The blurriness was a result of the blood that would eventually be reabsorbed.
I was calm at all of my appointments except the third one. That day, I saw the eye surgeon who performed my cataract surgeries. I cried to him. He probably felt he was comforting me when he said my condition would eventually improve. But he said that I wouldn’t notice improvement for months and it would take a year before the grayness and blurriness diminished.
I put on sunglasses and cried as I drove home. My eye surgeon had made many optimistic statements, which I wanted to hold onto.
My condition was normal.
I didn’t need eye surgery for a retinal detachment.
Eventually, things would improve.
But at that moment, my vision was cloudy, so I wanted to close my eyes. I dreamed I’d awaken with decent eyesight. I couldn’t stop crying. Suddenly, I had entered a new tunnel of grief.
I plodded through each day and suffered more than I had in a long time. I wasn’t sure how I could overcome this!
I decided to write something that would utilize tenants from hypnotherapy. It was about ways that I could look at my situation. I began with simple sentences that I heard in my mind. I thought of ways I could reshuffle the words in order to help myself feel better.
My blurry gray vision.
I hate it! It hurts to open both my eyes and look at the world. I can’t stop crying. I want to curl up and go back to sleep. I pray I’ll wake up and it will be better.
Can I live with
my blurry gray vision?
My answer is, “NO! I cannot live with this.” But, I have no choice about it and nothing can change it. Yet, it is so annoying and distracting. It screams over every other thought in my brain. Why do I have to live with this? I have too many questions, and none of them are helpful.
can I live with
my blurry gray vision?
I have no idea how I can function with this. I am struggling. I want to cry and complain, but since I hate to do that – it’s best that I hide from the world. Too much patience is required for this. I want the time to pass so I can see again.
how I can live with
my blurry gray vision.
There are many people in the world who have adjusted to a loss of eyesight – my own mother has macular degeneration. If they could adjust, then I could also. How fortunate I am that I have a condition that is likely to heal and improve.
All my self-talk wasn’t helping and I was still miserable. I listened for my inner voice. When I heard that voice, I received quite a lecture.
My inner voice told me this:
You keep telling grieving people to “hold on to hope” and “hang on.” Listen to your own words about how it will get better someday.
Your misery is a reminder that you did not have adequate empathy.
Healing from grief detached you from the suffering. Therefore, this is a lesson for you.
When someone is suffering, knowing that the pain might get better some day scarcely alleviates the agony in the moment.
Remember when you wrote that healing is about acceptance and change?
That is exactly what you need to do! The aging process is about accepting that our bodies will never be young again.
Stop looking at the gray and find color in a different way. Close your eyes if you have to!
Below is my correspondence on a grief forum that took place several weeks before my eye injury. My words are in bold.
Message on a grief forum:
What if you aren’t feeling God around you at all? I am very angry with him and have many questions. I ask my questions out loud all the time. Well, I yell them.
My faith is shattered.
I think it is fairly impossible to find faith when everything you believed in has been shattered. The death of your beloved son is senseless and tragic. Allow yourself to feel all of your feelings. Express them. Yell and scream; cry and question. Don’t let anyone tell you it is wrong!
Denying those feelings leads to numbness. You are moving forward in your grief now. This is part of it. You may never find your faith again. But you wrote shattered – not gone. One day you might decide to pick up the pieces. When and only when you are ready.
Thanks, Judy. This process is getting harder not easier…. the more time, the more pain. It hurts to breathe. I lost my Mother when I was 18 and was devastated…. but this loss has crushed my soul.
I think there is a horrible realization that comes after the first year. Perhaps it has come to you already.
We live in a world where people think you can get on with your life and get over grief quickly. It is impossible to do this with the loss of a child. I have connected with many bereaved parents. My take is that the first year is a horror with all the “firsts” – the first Mother’s Day – the first Birthday – every holiday is torture.
Then comes the second year – it isn’t better. That is when the horrible realization comes. It is worse – not better. How is that possible? It continues into the third year and on and on. The years go by. One day that horrible realization turns into the sad fact that there is no going back. Acceptance still seems impossible and our child never ages. Each milestone hurts, especially when friends the age our child was grow up. I would think “he would be graduating this year, or driving, or going on his first date.”
I was told 7 years until the agony subsided. It is hard to hang on. Surround yourself with people who understand. Allow yourself any moment of peace or comfort. I have always said that my survival of grief was my greatest achievement in life. I don’t know that many people survive this kind of loss intact. Your soul is amputated, crushed and mutilated. You are still bleeding.
One day the bleeding will stop. Just keep reminding yourself that your son is holding you close and wanting you to survive this. Don’t believe that by finding comfort and moments of peace, you are forgetting him. Do whatever you can to survive and feel better.
I am certain you will emerge into sunshine. Grief is different for everyone and perhaps it won’t take 7 years. For me, the process of healing started slowly before that, but I wasn’t willing to acknowledge it. Look for signs of healing and you will see them. But now it is too soon.
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