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The Sunday Scaries Hit Different When You’re in Grief

I used to dread parts of the week ahead. Now it's Sunday itself that scares me.

We all know the Sunday Scaries: That dread knowing that the next week is just around the corner. That looming fear that the clock is ticking on our two precious days of freedom. Our stomachs clench at the thought of accumulated emails, unfinished projects, and That Colleague who we'll have to face again tomorrow.

The Sunday Scaries used to play out like this for me as well.

But since my husband passed, it's not what comes after Sunday that I dread.

It's Sunday itself.

Sunday Evenings Were Ours

Sundays were always ours, my husband’s and mine. Especially Sunday evenings.

We were expats from two different countries, and we had a little ritual, no matter where we were located at the time: Switzerland, Belgium, the US, Argentina…

Every Sunday evening, we’d go for a walk in a new neighborhood. We’d walk for hours, exploring without a plan. The more lost we’d get, the deeper into unknown territory we’d venture — the better.

We were young professionals, and at the time, unanswered emails and difficult supervisors waiting on Monday were the most pressing difficulties in life.

And so, we made Sunday evenings our own. We’d distract ourselves, get into innocent good trouble, and have a deep belly laugh. We’d share little adventures that were only his and mine.

Some nights we’d end up popping into a random dive bar or café, especially if the rain or snow hit. Or if we’d walked long enough, we’d decide we deserved to refuel on some sort of local delight.

Sundays are hard because they bring me back down to the hard truth that our adventures are in the past, and no matter what I do to reclaim the day and make it mine, it will never be the same as it was with him.

We collected stories on stories of random things that had happened. Singing along (poorly) in French at a local pub in Brussels. Buying shots for a drunken bride and groom on their wedding day in Edinburg. Crossing the lake by boat in Geneva over and over, just to see how many zig-zags we could make from shore to shore.

Since he’s been gone, Sunday evenings feel different. Even if the morning starts out well, inevitably by late afternoon, I fall into a funk.

Sundays are hard because they bring me back down to the hard truth that our adventures are in the past, and no matter what I do to reclaim the day and make it mine, it will never be the same as it was with him.

Under the Surface

My husband’s life ended when he took it with his own hand.

On Sunday evenings, I’m reminded that although we had an incredible life together, behind that was so much pain for him, which I didn’t realize existed, and which he did his best to not let me see.

There was so much more than emails and supervisors that weighed on him. For my husband, it was deep hidden trauma, pain that ate away at him and that he never shared or gave himself the space to heal.

Given what I know now, could our Sundays really have been as happy as I remember? Or was that only how I lived them, in my ignorance of his reality?

Now when my own Sundays hit, I find myself living that same duality that he did. Most other days, I’m full and deep in purpose and meaning, and that together brings me so much joy.

But Sunday — our day — thrusts me back to the reality that I’m living this life without him, and reminds me that I still carry the legacy of his pain within me.

Fighting the Sunday Scaries of Grief

I do what I can to get through Sunday evenings.

I’ve found over the last twenty-plus months of grief that moving my body and raising my vibration through energy work and connection to my soul help me get through the difficult periods.

To move my body, I’ll often do a short restorative yoga routine at home, even if it's only twenty minutes or so. (I use the Down Dog yoga app when I practice on my own.)

I make it spiritual: I’ll light aromatherapeutic candles or incense, dim the lights, and put on healing music that helps settle my body down.

As an avid meditator, I'll almost always meditate after yoga as well. I call in uplifting energies and my own soul, and ask them to help me move through the pain. I'll also ask them what I need to know about my experience at that exact moment. Sometimes, I'm too heavy in grief to listen. But many times, I'll hear exactly what it is I need to hear to lift me up.

In addition to moving my body and opening up my heart in meditation, I often journal on Sunday evenings. I let it out: the good, the bad, and the ugly. If I’m feeling angry at my husband, I write it. If I’m sad, I write that, too. If it’s a Sunday where I’m not feeling the scaries, I note that as well.

Whatever it is I’m feeling, I do my best to let myself experience and flow through it. I’ve learned through my grief that curbing or chastising what I feel only inhibits my process and understanding. In other words, keeping myself from feeling what I feel inevitably makes me feel worse.

Whether it’s Sunday or any other given day, I try to be open to feeling what I feel in the moment. Whatever it is, it’s a part of what my heart, mind, and soul are experiencing, and therefore, is exactly where I need to be.

Lenore Matthew, Ph.D., MSW

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