I am pretty educated when it comes to grief. It's a side effect of working almost 20 years in a career that faces death and dying every day. But when it is your OWN grief, it is different.
The loss of my husband came in phases. First was the loss of trust, then the loss of my marriage and the person I thought I know, finally the loss of his life from suicide. It has been 3 1/2 years since he died, but this past week I was overcome by a wave of grief that I did not see coming.
I was a a professional development program that included discussing death and dying rituals of different religions/culture, a tour of a funeral home and a tour of a crematory. Interestingly, I have experienced all of these things before. But as we walked towards the crematory, I felt the anxiety set in. I thought I could handle it. But as the tour went on and we saw the inner workings of the crematory I felt the tears surfacing. I bit my tongue (a practice I have long used to keep from crying when I need to hold it together) but the pain did not keep the tears from overtaking me. I had to walk out. I held on long enough to walk out with my colleagues and make it to my car. The tears took over for my 20 minute drive back to the office.
My husband was cremated. I was not involved in any of the funeral proceedings and did not even learn of his death until afterwards. I have appropriately dealt with my grief...but that does not keep it from coming back in waves when I least expect it. I know it does not mean that I have not dealt with things. It's a reminder for me of how complicated grief can be and how it changes over time, but I am not sure it ever goes away.