When Grief Sneaks Up on You

Grief is a cruel and unpredictable thing. Even when you think you have a good handle on it, it can unexpectedly sucker punch you and leave you reeling – yank you right back into the maelstrom of its darkest days. This week, grief came at me from a very unexpected place.

Belmont Park

Belmont Park and it’s racetrack are located at the far end of the town located just one over from mine. The racetrack was built and opened in 1905. The legendary Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing includes winning the Preakness at Pimlico, the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, and the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park.

The site was taken over recently by new ownership and is undergoing major reimagination and renovation, which includes the addition of a state-of-the-art arena. That arena will be home to the New York Islanders hockey team, and host major recording artists and events.

Switzerland-based investment bank UBS  secured the naming rights to the National Hockey League’s newest arena, so this space will be known as the UBS Arena. The agreement is for 20 years. According to Sports Business Journal, which reported the transaction, the deal is worth $350 million, and pays about $17.5 million per year.

Because the nonprofit I run had season tickets for this pandemic embattled New York Islanders hockey season, I receive regular emails about what is going on concerning the team. When I got the email that announced the naming of the arena, it actually shocked me for a moment.

Why? Because the last company my husband worked for was UBS. He was an expert in complex matters of regulatory reporting and governance, which are key issues in the financial industry. Chris had worked about a dozen years at the New York Stock Exchange, and the same length of time for Morgan Stanley. When he accepted a position as ‘Executive Director, Head of Regulatory Reporting’ at UBS, he was about 45 years old. He was very happy at the company. Chris hoped it would be his last employer in the industry,  because eventually he wanted to work as a consultant.

On the last day of his life, Chris had worked late, in a meeting to prepare for an upcoming routine financial audit of the firm. It was rare for him to be stuck at work so late. As it turned out, the delay became fatal. It put him on a later train. The later train put him at the intersection of Franklin Avenue and Corona Avenue much later than normal. The later time put him directly in the path of the DUI driver who killed him.

The whole reason I have had various season tickets to sporting events and concert events has been to benefit the Christopher DeCrescito Memorial Foundation by raising consciousness about the importance of preventing DUI. And now, for the next 20 years at least, the new arena closest to our house will be emblazoned with the bright red UBS logo.

Don’t get me wrong, there is no great cosmic meaning to it.

But seeing it so largely depicted in the drawings of the new venue was like a kick in the gut because I didn’t expect it. Sometimes you can brace yourself for an incoming wave of grief. Of course, it’s not an exact predictive list, but it’s a pretty good bet that birthdays are grief triggers, as are all manner of anniversaries. You can actually plan for those a little bit. You can also steel yourself for things like holidays, visits to places that mattered to you both, and other happenings where a loved one absence is sorely missed.   You can’t really prepare yourself for that which is totally unexpected.

The announcement about the sponsorship of the arena should not have taken me into a place of grief. It really shouldn’t have been any more impactful than other local news. Yet, it was. It launched me headlong into the frustrating and useless realm of “what if?” – Unfortunately, it is not the first time I have been there. This time, the questions included the following:

  • What if we had moved to New Jersey, into one of the houses we had looked at 6 months prior?
  • What if he had accepted the job he was offered at Citibank instead of the one at UBS?
  • What if they had not hired him?
  • What if his meeting had ended a little earlier?
  • What if his meeting had ended a little later?
  • What if the meeting had been scheduled for a different day of the week?
  • What if the connecting train had been at Jamaica station a few minutes earlier?
  • What if the connecting train had been at Jamaica station a few minutes later?
  • What if the drunk driver had consumed one less drink?
  • What if the drunk driver had get summed one more drink?
  • What if the point of impact was 6 inches forward?
  • What if the point of impact was 6 inches further back?
  • What if the drunk driver was going a little slower?
  • What if the DUI driver had crashed before he got to Chris?
  • What if Chris hadn’t been so essential to me?
  • What if Chris had survived?

The list of what if questions goes on and on and on. I am well aware that the “What if?” thought train it is a waste of time, energy and emotion. Still, it is an involuntary reaction path that my brain jumps to at times like this.

I have stated many times that I am no healthcare professional. I am not a psychiatrist or psychologist, not a social worker or counselor of any kind. I am just a regular person sharing with you my pain and my experience in hopes that doing so might help somebody,  somewhere.

Everybody has “what if?” questions

I think almost everybody gets caught at the mercy of “what if?” at some time or another. What do your ”what if?” questions look like? Here are some possible examples:

  • What if I had married somebody else?
  • What if I never married?
  • What if I had children sooner than I did?
  • What if I had children later than I did?
  • What if I had fewer children?
  • What if I had more children?
  • What if I had gone to college?
  • What if I had not gone to college?
  • What if I had chosen a different job path?
  • What if I had lost those 30 pounds?
  • What if I had moved away from where I grew up?
  • What if I had not moved away from where I grew up?

Obviously, the list of potential what if questions goes on and on. You could make yourself batty with the wondering.

Coping with the “what if?” questions

My “what if?” questions center around the loss of my husband and the ravages MS has wreaked upon my life. There are smaller ones in my “what if?” thought parade, but those are the big ones.

Since time machines are still not available for purchase on Amazon, there’s no going back in life to adjust outcomes. You can’t change things that already happened, and wondering about hypothetical alternative outcomes is useless.

Different circumstances would not have necessarily lead to ultimately happier outcomes, even though in cases of real tragedy almost any outcome would have been happier. Generally speaking, even if everything worked out exactly as we would have wanted it to, there would still have been complications, problems, challenges and difficulties along the way.

I think it’s normal to let yourself wallow in recriminations and the “what if?” game for a little while now and then. You cannot let it control your life, though.  The future is the only thing you can actually change. Not every change is going to be dramatic or life altering. Yet, I think even little changes can remind you that you have choices in life about many things. You’re not entirely at the mercy of things outside of your control.

The past will never change but, the future is yours to influence and to shape. To live.

Grief is a cruel and unpredictable thing. Even when you think you have a good handle on it, it can unexpectedly sucker punch you and leave you reeling – yank you right back into the maelstrom of its darkest days. This week, grief came at me from a very unexpected place.

Belmont Park

Belmont Park and it’s racetrack are located at the far end of the town located just one over from mine. The racetrack was built and opened in 1905. The legendary Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing includes winning the Preakness at Pimlico, the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, and the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park.

The site was taken over recently by new ownership and is undergoing major reimagination and renovation, which includes the addition of a state-of-the-art arena. That arena will be home to the New York Islanders hockey team, and host major recording artists and events.

Switzerland-based investment bank UBS  secured the naming rights to the National Hockey League’s newest arena, so this space will be known as the UBS Arena. The agreement is for 20 years. According to Sports Business Journal, which reported the transaction, the deal is worth $350 million, and pays about $17.5 million per year.

Because the nonprofit I run had season tickets for this pandemic embattled New York Islanders hockey season, I receive regular emails about what is going on concerning the team. When I got the email that announced the naming of the arena, it actually shocked me for a moment.

Why? Because the last company my husband worked for was UBS. He was an expert in complex matters of regulatory reporting and governance, which are key issues in the financial industry. Chris had worked about a dozen years at the New York Stock Exchange, and the same length of time for Morgan Stanley. When he accepted a position as ‘Executive Director, Head of Regulatory Reporting’ at UBS, he was about 45 years old. He was very happy at the company. Chris hoped it would be his last employer in the industry,  because eventually he wanted to work as a consultant.

On the last day of his life, Chris had worked late, in a meeting to prepare for an upcoming routine financial audit of the firm. It was rare for him to be stuck at work so late. As it turned out, the delay became fatal. It put him on a later train. The later train put him at the intersection of Franklin Avenue and Corona Avenue much later than normal. The later time put him directly in the path of the DUI driver who killed him.

The whole reason I have had various season tickets to sporting events and concert events has been to benefit the Christopher DeCrescito Memorial Foundation by raising consciousness about the importance of preventing DUI. And now, for the next 20 years at least, the new arena closest to our house will be emblazoned with the bright red UBS logo.

Don’t get me wrong, there is no great cosmic meaning to it.

But seeing it so largely depicted in the drawings of the new venue was like a kick in the gut because I didn’t expect it. Sometimes you can brace yourself for an incoming wave of grief. Of course, it’s not an exact predictive list, but it’s a pretty good bet that birthdays are grief triggers, as are all manner of anniversaries. You can actually plan for those a little bit. You can also steel yourself for things like holidays, visits to places that mattered to you both, and other happenings where a loved one absence is sorely missed.   You can’t really prepare yourself for that which is totally unexpected.

The announcement about the sponsorship of the arena should not have taken me into a place of grief. It really shouldn’t have been any more impactful than other local news. Yet, it was. It launched me headlong into the frustrating and useless realm of “what if?” – Unfortunately, it is not the first time I have been there. This time, the questions included the following:

  • What if we had moved to New Jersey, into one of the houses we had looked at 6 months prior?
  • What if he had accepted the job he was offered at Citibank instead of the one at UBS?
  • What if they had not hired him?
  • What if his meeting had ended a little earlier?
  • What if his meeting had ended a little later?
  • What if the meeting had been scheduled for a different day of the week?
  • What if the connecting train had been at Jamaica station a few minutes earlier?
  • What if the connecting train had been at Jamaica station a few minutes later?
  • What if the drunk driver had consumed one less drink?
  • What if the drunk driver had get summed one more drink?
  • What if the point of impact was 6 inches forward?
  • What if the point of impact was 6 inches further back?
  • What if the drunk driver was going a little slower?
  • What if the DUI driver had crashed before he got to Chris?
  • What if Chris hadn’t been so essential to me?
  • What if Chris had survived?

The list of what if questions goes on and on and on. I am well aware that the “What if?” thought train it is a waste of time, energy and emotion. Still, it is an involuntary reaction path that my brain jumps to at times like this.

I have stated many times that I am no healthcare professional. I am not a psychiatrist or psychologist, not a social worker or counselor of any kind. I am just a regular person sharing with you my pain and my experience in hopes that doing so might help somebody,  somewhere.

Everybody has “what if?” questions

I think almost everybody gets caught at the mercy of “what if?” at some time or another. What do your ”what if?” questions look like? Here are some possible examples:

  • What if I had married somebody else?
  • What if I never married?
  • What if I had children sooner than I did?
  • What if I had children later than I did?
  • What if I had fewer children?
  • What if I had more children?
  • What if I had gone to college?
  • What if I had not gone to college?
  • What if I had chosen a different job path?
  • What if I had lost those 30 pounds?
  • What if I had moved away from where I grew up?
  • What if I had not moved away from where I grew up?

Obviously, the list of potential what if questions goes on and on. You could make yourself batty with the wondering.

Coping with the “what if?” questions

My “what if?” questions center around the loss of my husband and the ravages MS has wreaked upon my life. There are smaller ones in my “what if?” thought parade, but those are the big ones.

Since time machines are still not available for purchase on Amazon, there’s no going back in life to adjust outcomes. You can’t change things that already happened, and wondering about hypothetical alternative outcomes is useless.

Different circumstances would not have necessarily lead to ultimately happier outcomes, even though in cases of real tragedy almost any outcome would have been happier. Generally speaking, even if everything worked out exactly as we would have wanted it to, there would still have been complications, problems, challenges and difficulties along the way.

I think it’s normal to let yourself wallow in recriminations and the “what if?” game for a little while now and then. You cannot let it control your life, though.  The future is the only thing you can actually change. Not every change is going to be dramatic or life altering. Yet, I think even little changes can remind you that you have choices in life about many things. You’re not entirely at the mercy of things outside of your control.

The past will never change but, the future is yours to influence and to shape. To live.

 

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