When you're a widow, the passing of time often feels like the only constant. When your world has fallen apart and you've been made acutely aware of just how little control you have over your life; the counting of the days, months and years can give us a point of focus and something to hold on to.
I remember when Dan first died, I held on to the hope that if I could just survive the coming months, the pain would surely have to ease. I learned to accept that it would never go away, but the widowed people I met who were further along the path gave me hope that I'd adapt to live with the grief and life wouldn't always be agonising.
Today marks 18 months since I lost my husband to depression. The pain, while easier to carry, is still so very deep. On the 24th of every month I find myself wondering at how surreal it is that he's been gone so long, yet this life without him can still feel so new.
I mean, 18 months is not a particularly long period of time. As far as jail sentences go, it's considered a bit of a slap on the wrist (though I'm the sure the inmate would feel every single day of it). An 18-month old child is really still in infant, so very brand new in the world. However, in so may ways, 18 months can feel like a lifetime. I know this because 18 months, give or take, is really only how long I had with Dan. And in this time he changed my entire world.
We met in November 2011 after he contacted me through an online dating website. We'd both been single for awhile and, between us, had a LOT of interesting and pretty average online dating experiences. So we had both nearly given up hope... until our paths crossed.
We spent the next four weeks getting to know each other, before he had to head away on a pre-planned, month-long Christmas holiday. By the time he got back in early January 2012, we were both pretty sure that this was going to be something special. Things stated to get more serious and I introduced him to my friends a few weeks later, with absolutely no idea that in 18 months time he would be dead and I'd be a widow at 33.
Those 18 months with Dan were magical. We were fairly conservative people and not inclined to jump into things or give up our independence easily, however we quickly became inseparable and felt like we'd finally found a love that had been worth waiting for. A kind, generous, patient and eternal love that taught us more about ourselves and the world that we could ever have imagined.
He bought an engagement ring six months later, in July, proposed in September and we set a date to be married the following June, in 2013. Almost 18-months after we met. In 18 months I went from being very single to a blissfully happy newlywed. And then six weeks later, a young widow.
So because of this, I know exactly how much can happen in 18 months. Which makes this past 18 months of my life so very bleak in comparison. While I can list the things I've done since Dan died: travelled overseas, enjoyed time with friends and family, met some wonderful new people and been present at special occasions and holidays, I really just feel like I've been treading water. It pales in comparison to how alive Dan made me feel.
My career has taken a significant step back, I haven't been as present and giving in the lives of the people around me and every day has been tinged with the weight and the sadness of living in a world without him in it.
I guess it's the difference between surviving and living. My life has been on pause, I've been waiting for the pain to get more bearable, for me to grow stronger. Waiting to heal so that I can take myself off pause and take a step forward. And those who know me well can testify that I'm not known for my patience.
It is so frustrating, this feeling of not quite living. I don't want to wait. I want to be doing all the things that my friends are doing, having babies and making plans and sharing their lives with the person who loves them more than anything else in the world.
I'm now at that point where the restlessness to 'live' is getting stronger than the sense of needing to wait. It's just so hard to know what to do about it. How do I live again while such a big part of me is dead?