*** Warning Graphic **** Comparing Grief to Proud Flesh

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******** no actual graphic photos ****** but graphic links ***

John would shake his head and comment on how I could relate EVERYTHING to horses- often with a roll of eyes thrown in there.  He’s right.  I’m pretty sure he tuned me out most of the time, but for a non horse person he became pretty well educated.  When he could tell you that T went back to Doc Bar, I beamed from ear to ear, so proud of my hubby!  Most people get a glazed over look in their eyes… some people will stop me and say, “you lost me.”  I’m sure there are those who consider me “crazy.”  I’ve actually had a few people say they enjoy it.  And then there are my horsey friends who will jump right in on the conversation as if I’m talking about morning news.  Over time, I’ve learned to shut my mouth more.  Most people don’t care.  Most people don’t want to hear.  Yes, I’ve become jaded and calloused.

But hey, everybody has to relate their place in the world to a bigger existence.  Mine just happens to revolve around horses… what’s wrong with that?


As I was laying in bed missing John, crying and not sleeping, for over an hour and a half last night, I developed a new comparison.

Grief and proud flesh have many similar characteristics… ugly, hard to heal, frustrating, painful, a mess…

(Note… I’m linking due to the graphic nature…. if you don’t want to see it… don’t look.)

One day, you wake up to find a huge, dirty, swollen wound.  Blood has gushed like fallen tears.  There is the shock- the call to the vet… the fear… you know it’s bad.  It’s ugly… in some cases it could be life threatening or at least life altering or career ending.  Luckily in Remi’s case, no bones were broken.  In his case, it was from a kick… a blow that could have completely shattered his life.  The initial instinct is shock, tears, fear, and fear of the unknown.  You don’t know what the future holds or what your role will be.

The vet looked at it and said, “This is bad.  This is really bad.”

Photos of how I found Remi in the AM- photo 1, photo 2, photo 3

(Note, the reason for my photos was so that I had evidence that I could go back and chronicle the events.  When the vet asks is it getting smaller… photos show… memory distorts.  I can also e-mail a photo for example- to my vet- to assist with treatment plans.)

Remi’s injury was bad.  Potentially life threatening.  The initial days were day to day.

After the vet had clipped the edges it made the wound stand out more clearly.  Comparing to grief when the shock wears off it becomes more vivid… there may be things that replay over and over in your head… things you can’t move past… it’s in front of your face… bloody…

But at the same time… it’s supervised… in Remi’s case… antibiotics, special wraps, careful cleaning, care to keep everything as sterile as possible.  In my case… there were friends, family, fire company around.  Reminding me to eat.  Taking care of my child.  Supporting me.

It’s ugly… but controlled… babied…

photo 1, photo 2, photo 3, photo 4, photo 5, photo 6

From some views it may not even look that bad… it may look like it will heal and be okay.

But, it’s proud flesh… over-granulated tissue… it won’t heal… and it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

photo 1, photo 2, photo 3

Remi required two or 3 debriding surgeries.  At this time, John was recovering from his own surgery following his stage 3 diagnosis.  This left me to hold Remi and stare at his blood pouring in the driveway.  The vet tried to hose it away.  I knew from John that blood doesn’t hose away well… the water turns red and it looks even worse.  I felt alone as I watched my dear horse’s bright red blood seeming multiply.   When proud flesh is debrided… it bleeds- A LOT!!!  My vet had warned me.  I felt alone.  Little did I know… in a years time… I would be alone with tears flowing like the blood had gushed.

photo 1, photo 2 (before debriding)

photo 3, photo4, photo 5, photo 6, photo 7, photo 8, photo 9, photo 10, photo 11, photo 12 (after debriding)

You pray

You curse

You scream

You cry

You hurt

You ache

Life goes on

Eventually, it doesn’t bleed when it hits air.  It doesn’t bleed as soon as the bandage comes off.  The wound (tears) dry a little).  in the case of grief you often feel calloused… hard… cold… alone…

photo 1, photo 2, photo 3, photo 4

From some angles it seems like it’s starting to shrink… to close… to heal…

But then there are days the wrap will slip…  or something happens…(or a memory, a photo, a song on the radio, an anniversary of a birth or death or wedding, or the darkness and loneliness of a cold empty bed)

and there it is engulfed again in danger… pussy, bleeding, swollen, injured more, damaged

just like grief comes and goes…

It takes a long time to heal proud flesh… and even longer when grieving a beloved spouse…

The memories of the fresh, open, gaping bloody wound are never far away and they can be re-enlivened in the brain for no reason…

Over time and with proper treatment… the wounds shrink

photo 1, photo 2, photo 3, photo 4

There comes a time when you know you’ll survive… when you’re past the worse… when you’re out of the woods…

And then when the vet finally says, that you can leave it open… the fear resurfaces… what if it opens back up… what if it rips… what if it tears… what then?

With time, hair grows and covers the wound… photo 1

But… in Remi’s case and with my grief a scar remains.  His is measurable and visible- a blemish on his leg.  Scars on the heart and soul are not as easily quantified.   In his case a big ugly nasty looking scar and a leg with a permanent lumpiness.  The leg is healed and sound, but in appearance it will never be the same.  Grief lays under the surface.  The scar is internal, but ever present.  In some cases it mostly cosmetic.  In other cases it is like bothersome internal scar tissue… it prevents normalcy.  Sometimes it creates a new normalcy… like a body crippled from arthritis or other chronic conditions… it functions, but not at nor ever will it be 100% again.

Time will tell the extent of my scar… for now it lays somewhere in between the cosmetic and the crippling- never to touch the boundary markers but to float somewhere between, bobbing with the flowing of the waves- sometimes swimming– sometimes sinking.


About Mary K. Smith

I was widowed in July 2009, when I lost my beloved husband, John, to melanoma. Cancer SUCKS. We have a young son who was just a year old when his father died. I live on a small farm in Maryland which is home to horses, cats, and a dog. I started this blog as a way for me to heal, a way to remember my husband, and eventually I'd like to share it with our son so he can see the love that his father had for him, the love that we had for each other, what a great person his father was, and how hard his father fought to live.
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