When Mike died, that terrible first day, I remember asking a dear friend, in my stuttering confusion and desperation, to let me know how long that feeling was going to last. You know the one. The shock and horror of finding that your beloved husband had unexpectedly died during the night.
Yeah. That feeling.
That feeling when the ground beneath you is wobbly and the sky is crumbling around you. Everything is altered, like some horrible gone-wrong LSD trip, the world unfamiliar, your skin prickly, your tongue unable to form words properly.
My friend, to her credit, did some research and found some interesting information about grief and mourning from a few different cultures. Not ours, of course. Not Western Selfishness. We have no culture of grief. Only self. So when Mike died, I was navigating uncharted waters. No one had ever explained grief to me, what to expect when a loved one does, how to treat people who have lost loved ones, or even how to fend off the insensitive comments a grieving person might hear.
Around the world, in comparison, there have developed various sensible and compassionate traditions and rituals as well as time frames to assist a grieving person, especially during the early days. The first seven days are often marked. The first month, the first year.
I will hit the five year mark in February, and I can only speak for myself what changes I feel - another thing we learn along the way, that grief’s journey is individual and depending on character and situation, and is experienced differently.
For me, things have shifted noticeably this past year. I feel stronger, more confident, more independent, and more like the person I remember I was before I even met Mike than ever before.
There are moments. Of course there are moments. Moments of panic, in random moments, that he is gone, that I won’t talk to him again, the tug on my heart when I do something he would have loved, like watch the newest Star Wars movie.
There is no question I want him back. I would take him back in a hot second. But it’s not happening. So as a response, partially unconsciously and partially consciously, I have begun to eke out a life for myself without him.
Some days it seems strange, like a flashback to that brown acid trip. Other days I find myself feeling pretty content. Which surprises me. Even shocks me, to some extent. Because that first day, that first week, that first year, I did not think I would survive this.
And now, though things are not perfect…I still struggle to find my way, emotionally, financially, perhaps as we all do….I am not in turmoil every moment any longer.
I don’t think one every fully recovers from losing one’s beloved spouse. But I think some healing is possible. With the right tools, the right support, the right friends, family and maybe the right therapy, healing, at least a journey towards healing, is possible.
I am looking forwards the New Year with tentative excitement. That I have the power to create something new, something good. Today, I am moving into my new place, for starters.
I wish goodness and healing to everyone, and hugs and understanding, wherever you are on your journey.