I was leaving the house yesterday when I realized, with amazement, that I wasn't filled with dread at leaving my cats and house unattended. After Dave died, I would leave the house and immediately my mind would fill with images of the house burning down in my absence, the cats unable to escape the fiery death trap.
Statistically, these fears are overblown. Numbers-wise, I should be fearing driving in a car more than my house burning down. After experiencing Dave's death, though, they absolutely make sense.
Losing a spouse is losing the entire life you'd signed up for. It's losing identity and it wipes your future blueprints clean. It makes everything feel so impermanent. I hated leaving behind that which I clung to - the last few meaningful components of the little family we'd had.
I felt unmoored and completely alone. I knew that if/when tragedy visited me again, without Dave I had no back up. The support was gone. If the house burned down and the cats died, I'd go on, but where would I live? Who would support me? It was a primal fear.
I still check the burners on the stove twice when I leave, and I still imagine that tragedy will visit me again, because I know so intimately now that tragedy doesn't just happen to other people.
On the other hand, the primal fear of it and the clinging, desperate anxiety of losing even more has faded in intensity. Life itself has taken its place. School and moving and loving someone else has taken up space in my heart and mind, squeezing some of the fear out. And having a partner again eases some of those basic fears of being alone in the face of more tragedy.
But mostly, I imagine it's time doing its gradual work on me. To give myself credit, it's probably due in part to me, too. I've taken steps to do things that scare me and push myself out of my comfort zone, so the fear can't take hold as easily. I'm consciously practicing taking risks and watching as the world doesn't fall apart as a result.
It's nice to feel as though there has been a shift in this area, and I'm trying to steer my mind away from the habit of worrying as I consider that I'm about to launch into a life where I have so much to lose again.
I don't have time to worry as much as I used to. I'm too busy living.