A few weeks ago, a milestone came that I have dreaded for a very long time. It’s odd to say that, considering it was my anniversary with someone I love very much. But it wasn’t just any anniversary. It was the third year since the day Mike and I met. The third anniversary was also the last I got to have with Drew… he died six days later, suddenly. This is almost unbelievable to me.. As my 3 years with Mike have felt like a whirlwind, and the same amount of time with Drew felt somehow like a decade.
It’s no surprise that I’ve had many mixed emotions the past few weeks. Emotions about the fact that, going forward from here, each new day with Mike is one more day than what I got to have with Drew. Emotions about Mike dying somehow suddenly a week after our third anniversary. I’ve even had some particularly difficult and confusing dreams as of late… dreams that seem like my mind trying to make sense of it all again, just like in the first year after he died.
I’ve struggled to find words about how all this feels. I haven’t really even journaled about it, which is my usual go-to. So I’m trying here to confront those feelings. I don’t want to. I don’t like these feelings. Because they are so complex. Because I don’t even fully understand them. Because they make me feel guilty for not being 100% joyful when milestones hit. Quite bluntly, I feel resentment. And It feels awful. And Ugly. And not at all like a feeling I want to have.
It’s not to say that I haven’t also been simultaneously happy and grateful and joyful to have made it this far with a wonderful new partner. I’ve felt all of those things too. Our anniversary was a beautiful, happy day filled with lots of great memories and love. But the complicated, not-so-good feelings have been here too. Like resenting that each anniversary ahead with Mike will be another reminder of an anniversary I never got to have with Drew. Year four, five, six, ten, thirty… whatever number we are lucky enough to have, will always now be more than I got to have with Drew. And every one of them will bring sadness to me.
I resent the very fact that this is my circumstance. That when my life rains with thunderous, abundant joy, there will always be a landslide of sadness, a flood of complex emotions, to follow it. Beautiful moments in my life with Mike will always be shared with pain - for one or both of us. I still really freaking resent that. And if I’m not careful, I can root myself so deeply while trying to sustain the flood that I become rigid. Which I think ultimately makes me less “here” and less myself.
At the same time though, when I am able to be in the present moment more often… it’s wonderful. When I am able to accept my pain and fear and stop pushing so hard against its current, I can feel myself lean into life and love. I can feel myself reach higher ground, able to experience the flood waters from a safe place. In doing so, I can loosen my tight grip on survival. I can become softer, more flexible, and more focused on love, possibility and joy.
I like this visual. I think it might help me to focus on this metaphor as I practice acceptance of my own pain, and ultimately better self love. Of course this milestone has been emotional. Of course I resent the complexity of grief in my life. Of course this is difficult and scary. Of course I wish I didn’t have all of this to carry with me. Of course I’m occasionally going get caught in a landslide and end up battling the currents of my emotions. And all of that is perfectly and completely okay. For all of us. For me. Sometimes, as I have to remember, getting stuck in the flood reshapes us for the good, too. It's just a part of living.