Grief is a hitman of the heart. With one major difference — you don’t die. The bullet stays lodged there. You deal with the pain.
Actually, grief can kill. People do die of a broken heart — Takotsubo syndrome. Stress hormones “stun” the heart, triggering changes in coronary blood vessels that prevent the left ventricle from contracting effectively.
There are many famous examples. Debbie Reynolds died of a stroke one day after her daughter Carrie Fisher died; Johnny Cash died of cardiac arrest four months after June Carter Cash died; the writer Jim Harrison died of a heart attack five months after Linda, his wife of more than fifty years, died. [Death by broken heart here.]
It has been three years and three months since my wife passed. People say their loved ones “passed,” a gentler word than died.
In my case, passed might as well be spelled past. My wife is now part of the past. Obviously she’s not part of the present, unless I believed in ghosts; and in my mind, she is not part of the future.
The only way she could be part of the future would be if I believed in a life after this one. But to believe in an afterlife, one has to believe in ‘God’ or a god, an other-worldly entity, a creator, a maker of galaxies and human beings and animals too I suppose — the architect of the universe and all life.
I would love to believe that. I have tried. I do believe I have tried. I refused to write-off the dead. But I can’t manage to tap into that unknown wavelength, conjure up that phenomenon, take off on that fantastic flight of fancy, and so forth.
Over a lifetime, as one survives the deaths of loved ones, the bullets collect in and around the heart like a leaden bouquet of black roses.