Terrible Relief

heart-finger-ring.jpgKelley's post got me thinking. My knee jerk reaction was: what's wrong with me that I parted with my wedding ring months after Dave died? What's wrong with me that I don't long to wear it? How did I let go of that ring? I measured the devotion I had by the way I dealt with my grief. Never helpful.

 Everyone grieves differently. For a moment I forget it long enough to just begin to do a little inner critic stuff and then I remind myself that we're all doing this the way it works for us. No right or wrong.

A few months in I couldn't bear to look at my ring. It made me helplessly furious and frustrated to see it on my finger. A lie, I thought. It was a lie. If someone saw the ring and asked me about my husband, I'd simply keel over and die. I couldn't bear to hear someone ask about him. I couldn't bear to tell that story more than I already had to. That ring was a sign of our love, yes, and of course my love continued, but it was also a sign of our marriage and to me, our marriage had ended. I knew my life had to move on. I didn't like it. I raged against it. But I knew it had to happen. The ring was just delaying the inevitable for me. It was like trying to resurrect a stage of my life I had to say goodbye to. It was hanging on to something that was being ripped from me. Letting go brought me terrible relief.

After three or four months, I took the ring off and felt nauseous. So I waited a few weeks and tried it again. One day I took it off and forgot it was off until the end of the day. I never wore it again. I'd never get rid of it, and one day I'm guessing I'll turn it into something else, or wear it again on my right hand, but for now it stays in storage. It still hurts a little to look at it, though not at ALL like it did in the beginning. It seemed to burn my skin with pain and loss when I wore it. When I looked at it.

From the beginning I had a really hard time with continuing the way I'd been traveling through life with Dave. It was easier to NOT have reminders of the life I had to part with. It was easier when my outside matched my reality. He was gone. Seeing his shoes in the hallway as if he wasn't gone forever was too much to withstand. Seeing my ring on my finger was too discordant. I had to escape it all. Or face it, I'm not sure which. Both.

Who was I kidding, I thought. We all know he's gone. I can't pretend he's not. I can't pretend he's coming home. If anything, that made my grief even worse. It made it more like a drawn-out form of torture.

Once I was in a new apartment with all new furniture and only my things around me (except for a few precious Dave items I couldn't part with) I felt less tortured. I felt my outside reality match my inner reality. Inside, I knew I had to learn to live without him and I knew I had to begin. Outside, I could no longer fool myself into thinking what happened hadn't happened. The ring just helped me fool myself.

It's odd how I can understand with every molecule in my body how horrible it would be for Kelley to lose her ring and at the very same time have parted with mine (with terribly bittersweet, gut-wrenching relief). It's weird how I can fully grasp how others have clung to their old life by staying in the house, keeping all the clothes, furniture, momentos and wearing their rings for years and years and yet I needed nearly the opposite to survive my loss.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not parting with my ring (or his) or his wallet, his watch or his ashes with ease. I'd very nearly go back into a burning building for them. But looking at them? They used to stab me right in my heart with an aching pain. They would rip me into shreds. I still only take them out once in a great while. The watch still ticks away. The wallet still smells the same. How can that be?

We go about this terrible trial so differently, just as we do everything differently. The similarity, I believe, is that we do what we have to to survive and we go largely on instinct. Our bodies and minds seem to know what it is we have to do.

God, I hope you find your ring, Kelley. I hope it's back on your finger, where it belongs and that you can rub your thumb against it once more. I hope I can look at my ring one day and smile big with the memories of the love it represented. I'm getting there.


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