I Can’t Do This Anymore

DC widow blog writer Marjorie Brimley in sits in woods with friend

You know that feeling you had last week? Or maybe it was yesterday? Or even right now?

I’m talking about the feeling that says, “I can’t do this anymore!”

I mean, maybe you haven’t had this feeling yet. Maybe you actually like this quarantine. Maybe you have a secure, well-paying job and a stockpile of food and no medical issues and no young children and a big backyard and a partner who is quarantining with you. I mean, there are ways that people could enjoy this time period.

But for most people, it sucks. And for many of my friends, last week was when I started hearing people say, “I can’t do this anymore.”

I get it. I do. I too have had this feeling.

First of all, every day is Groundhog Day. I get up, empty the dishwasher and do a little exercise and then it’s homeschool and digital learning for my students. We may eat pizza for lunch or maybe we have pasta, and maybe we swing in the hammock. But then it’s back to more school and trying to entertain three kids who haven’t seen their friends in a month. It’s figuring out what to eat and how to get that food from the grocery store. It’s the monotony of cleaning up messes and the boredom of having no spontaneous conversations with neighbors and friends.

And yes, I get that it could be a lot worse. I do. Remember, my sister is an ER nurse who is dealing with the true horrors of this virus.

But even for those of us who are healthy, it still sucks.

Last week was when I started feeling the weariness from many others around me. “How can we keep doing this?” people asked me via text and on the phone.

I totally get it, because of course I want this to end as much as the next person. I want the virus to die out or someone to find a magic cure right now. I want to go back to school and watch my seniors graduate and my daughter do the 5th grade clap-out on her last day of school. I want to hug my friends and stop worrying about my dad and my sister.

What I started to hear last week from my friends was something I’ve been feeling for weeks. “I can endure this,” one person said to me, “as long as there’s an endpoint.”

As long as there’s an endpoint.

I get that. I mean, all of us can do hard things. But I think we all also have a need to know when bad things are going to end.

I feel it too. The only difference is that I’ve felt it before.

In the early days of widowhood – and really maybe for the entire first year – I was obsessed with meeting other widows and asking them when things got easier for them. I was on a personal fact-finding mission to figure out exactly when my pain would end. I wanted actual dates – 6 months or a year or whatever. At one point, I remember standing in my kitchen and telling Becky and Michelle that I knew I could survive this pain but only if I could know how much longer it would go on.

Of course, grief doesn’t follow a timeline, and no one could tell me when things would get easier. In fact, most widows refused to give me a real answer about their healing timeline, because they knew that it was such an individual process.

Now that I’ve been a widow for more than two years, I do the same thing when people ask me for a timeline for their grief. When will it end? I don’t know. I do know that time does help overall, but I also know that week 60 of widowhood can sometimes be harder than week 10.

So when I hear my friends despair about this virus, I can empathize. I can understand how hard it is to not know the future. The only difference for me is that I’ve sat through a truly terrible time period once before. No – losing my husband is not the same as being quarantined in your house with your entire family. I’m not saying that. But what I am saying is this: facing something really hard is especially challenging when you don’t know the endpoint.

But as I’ve said before, things will change. Eventually, they will get better.

I’ll also say this: right now sucks.

I think we can hold both emotions, whether we’re facing a massive loss or a pandemic or some other sort of horror. We can feel like we can’t do it anymore and we can know that we will get through it. We can hold both of these things.

We don’t know the endpoint of this virus or of this quarantine. But I can tell you this: it will end.

It’s what I tell people now when they ask me for a timeline on grief. It won’t be linear. Things may get worse before they get better. It may take longer than you want it to take. You will still always carry some of that pain.

But things will change. Someday, it will get better.

Image Credit: Becky Hale Photography.

16 Replies to “I Can’t Do This Anymore”

  1. This whole pandemic mania started for me at about 16 months after my husband’s death. I was on the verge of getting out there, travelling, preparing to go visit his elderly parents in England. And then, WHAM!! They locked me back up. I feel like I’m in month 4 again, every 3rd day is a bad grief day.

    And I must prepare myself to possibly never see his parents before they die as they are very old and there are 3 covid mutations now. Not every country has the same one so who knows when travel will resume. You are very right, not knowing when it will end and with no endpoint in sight is very hard to live with. It’s also the perfect definition of grief itself, now that I think of it. Thanks for your writing.

    1. Thanks for reading. And yes, I think it’s so tough to have this pandemic for everyone, but especially for widows, and especially for widows who were just starting to see some sort of light in their healing process. Hang in there. I know it will end, even if I don’t know when.

  2. Diane Carrier says: Reply

    It’s been 5 years since my husband passed. I feel widows are capable of withstanding this pandemic better than most as we have already been living in isolation and dealing with loneliness. I share this freely with anyone that complains. I also remind them that they will be reunited with their loved ones when this passes. Sadly widows will continue to live without their loved one and resume their “Groundhog Day” life. Although, I do look forward to the day when we can hug freely again. I really could use a big hug from a good friend or two, as I’m sure you and others need too!

    1. Yes – the hugs! I’m lucky to get lots of hugs from my kids, but I miss hugging my friends and all those who’ve stood by me for the past few years. Hang in there – we’re with you.

  3. I feel that this situation, while incredibly difficult, is different from widowhood. We know that eventually this will end, though sadly many will join our ranks grieving a husband, wife, sister, friend, father etc. Grief never ends. It changes over time, but there is no way to get back what you had before. Your loved one is gone – forever.
    While this situation may not be directly grief related, I do think that it may have lasting consequences for millions of Americans and people around the world. Here in the U.S., there isn’t a stable safety net for people when they lose their jobs. Along with a job loss comes the loss of health insurance, perhaps your home or apartment etc. This can leave a person or family completely devastated for year to come depending on how fast the nation recovers not only health wise, but also economically from this pandemic. Even when the virus is long gone, the after effects may potentially linger for decades. For some people, there may not be an endpoint either. Living with a situation that has potentially no endpoint is extremely difficult. Widows are uniquely qualified in sorting through the rubble of their lives knowing that things will never go back to ‘normal’. Perhaps we can weather this situation a bit better.

    1. This is an important point – grief doesn’t end, but the intense early grief did get easier for me, at least. And your second point (that the after-effects of the pandemic will last a long time) is also quite true. Widows may have it tougher than other married people, but yes, I think many of us can weather this situation with some degree of steadiness because we’ve been through worse.

  4. Michael Zoosman says: Reply

    Dear Marjorie,

    At this season of things that “Passover” and of Rebirth, may this too soon pass. Every loving blessing to all your family. B’shalom, Mike

    1. Mike, I’ve been thinking about you and your family this week. Thank you for this sweet note. Take care.

  5. Being a full time Caregiver of a significantly disabled Spouse and raising a 2nd Generation, is rather like Pandemic Lock Down in some ways, as to how it impedes Freedom. I adopted 2 of my Grandchildren at Birth, who have Special Needs, even while Caring for a disabled Spouse who couldn’t qualify to Adopt due to his extreme Disability. One G-Kid is Grown now, one is 14 and I’ve got to try to last at least that long to get her raised! I think I had Years of prep time as a Caregiver, for the feelings of isolation and being home bound more than is comfortable or desired. So that has been Helpful, tho’, with a Medically Fragile Family, now it is more terrifying and Death defying to just do the simple things, like get Supplies! The good days and the bad days come… some things never end… and that you just have to consider embracing too.

    1. I really appreciate your perspective and I love this line: “some things never end, and that you just have to consider embracing too.” It’s hard AND we can do it.

  6. We lost my husband on March 25th. At the start of our quarantine. It was sudden and we did not expect it. And with no autopsy, no funeral, and no family to come be with us all because of COVID, we only have each other and the massive, excruciating pain of his being gone. I was somewhat happy to read that you were also begging for answers as to “when will this get easier?”. I have been trying to figure that out for 5 weeks now. I don’t feel like a strong widow woman. I feel like a broken, weak, destroyed woman. I pray the virus goes away and maybe we can heal. I am so happy to have found your blog. I will use it as my flashlight through this dark place I am in. Thank you

    1. I’m so terribly sorry about the loss of your husband. It’s so unfair, and especially right now, when we can’t have others around us physically. If it’s any help, the early days were really hard for me – I too felt broken, weak and destroyed – but slowly, things did get easier. Hang in there.

  7. I lost my wife of 40 years to cancer 20 months ago. After getting back from a 2 month camping vacation at the end of January, I felt like I was ready to start thinking about dating. Well, not very good timing. The lockdown means that who knows how long it will be before I can actually meet someone in person again. I feel like I’ve been thrown backwards in my grieving process. It is, of course, not linear anyway. If this is the worst problem I have during this pandemic, I guess I will count myself fortunate. It still sucks though! Thank you for your blog. I always enjoy reading it.

    1. Yes, I think it’s really hard to date during this pandemic! I also think it *could* be a way to ease into dating….zoom meetings feel less intense than meeting in person, at least for me. But go at your own pace. This too will end, and there will be time for dating then, if you want to wait.

  8. Thank you. Your writing is beautiful and so relatable. Six months ago, I lost my husband–the absolute love of my life–to glioblastoma brain cancer. He fought for 2.5 years so in some ways I’ve been on lock down for a while, being his caregiver. I feel so alone, so isolated, and the pain is relentless. As you wrote, my husband is like a fog over me. He’s everywhere. It feels good to think of him and look at his pictures, and watch him on my iphone. And then the realization hits that he’s not here and he never will be here again. I fall down that rabbit hole and have to claw my way out. I was all set to hike the John Muir Trail in his honor this year as a way to decompress, and now even that’s out the window. But I too shall carry on. I really miss having a companion. Today was one of those, “I can’t do this anymore” days, but your stories have helped me Marjorie!

    1. I’m so glad my writing has helped. I love the idea of a hike in your husband’s honor, and I’m hopeful that at least some of these trails will be easier to hike this summer. But either way, this time period – especially if you’re dealing with early loss – is so hard. I’ll be thinking of you.

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