Just like in life, in grief there is progress.
Thankfully, time changes grief. I don’t know how or why, but time softens the edges - ever so slightly. And, thankfully, time has taken the sting from my tears and the primal rawness from my cries; but, still, the missingness is ever present.
Last year, I visited a local Christmas store because I wanted to get in the Spirit of the Season. And, partially, or more likely, completely, I was attempting to revisit the past. A past that included Mike. The year before, he and I had gone to this same store and I wanted to return to a place we had been. I wanted to be somewhere that he physically was.
I still have this urge to return to the places he and I walked together.
This urge is more controllable now, after two years, but sometimes I still need to walk the aisles of our local grocery store, sometimes I need to sit in our diner - at the same table he sat at with me. While drinking my coffee, he comes back to life in my mind. In an effort to be closer to Mike, I always order his favorite breakfast every-single-time. I just can’t help myself. And, still, there are nights that I need to stand outside of his house. I stand in the shadows of the night and I look at the house that was once my home. I feel like a voyeur who is witnessing another life. But, I can not stop myself. I need to breath in all that once was. Maybe I need to convince myself that it was real. I don’t really know.
Sometimes I purposefully pick certain gas pumps because I need to hold the very same nozzle that Mike held at the local gas station. Sometimes I glance at items in the grocery store and these ordinary staples stop me because they are vessels to the past. Sometimes when I open the door to our coffee shop I hold the handle a little too long because his hand once touched it. And, there are times that I need to drink Mike’s favorite wine, even though it isn’t my favorite. There are times that I kiss the wine glass because his lips once touched it…
All of these little rituals are a big part of my life.
These gestures exist because Mike doesn’t.
That is the only way I can explain it.
My rituals of missing him have evolved; and, now I know that the way I miss Mike will continue to change throughout my life. Time changes grief. It just does. And, I am glad for this. I could not have lived if the rawness never subsided.
However, the changes that take place do not happen in a linear manner - they just don’t. Grief is messy and awful and sometimes it takes you backwards and sideways…. But, if you stay the course there is always forward momentum.
I noticed this forward movement when I went to the Christmas store this year. The first year that I went to the store I clutched my cart like a child holds a security blanket. Me being there alone, quietly wandering the aisles just pronounced his absence. I did not feel closer to Mike like I hoped I would, instead I felt his deadness more. But, nonetheless, I made myself walk through the store because I felt I needed to. I cried all the way home because it was a huge relief to have faced all of those memories and to “get it over with”. And, mainly, I cried because I missed him desperately.
This year was different. I returned to the same store and I did not cry on the way home. I did not feel quite so nauseated from being without him. Mike has been dead for just over two years now, and in truth, his absence feels more familiar than his presence now. And, this makes me sad in a whole different way.
But, the truth is, I am getting “used” to him being gone. When I say I am “used” to his absence, this is very different than me accepting and enjoying my new life without him. I don’t like it- yet. Maybe I never will. However, being a widow feels somewhat familiar to me now. I do not feel like a couple anymore - except for in my memory. I do not identify with being “spoken for” anymore. I am alone. And, I feel it to the depths of me.
Although I still ache for Mike and my life with him, I can see that my grief has changed over the last year. This year, I was able to complete my visit to the Christmas shop without as much pain as the year before. I am doing this. Somehow. With more time, and with hard, steady work, I know that I am going to be “okay” without him. That’s progress.
Best to you and to us all as we navigate the holidays,