This coming Monday would have been my husband's 36th birthday. Instead, it will be the second that I had to mark without him. All week I've felt the weight of my grief with such intensity. The disbelief that he's gone. The whys, the if onlys and the its not fairs.
He died in July 2013 and after getting through a full round of all the first milestones, I had pretty much assumed that I'd put the most difficult steps behind me. However, since then, I've faced the shocking realisation that this is certainly not guaranteed. Because how is it possible to rate degrees of difficulty in days-without-your-husband when it comes to being a widow? Some are easier than others, of course, but there's no logic or rational scale.
So there I was, thinking that I after getting through his first post-death birthday I would know what to do with myself this year.
Nope. I'm totally at a loss.
Last year, his birthday was the first of the key milestones (other than Christmas and the day he proposed). His birthday was the first Big One. We were seven months in and still in a great deal of shock. However, with the help of a couple of his friends, I was able to come up with a plan.
I organised a barbecue for family and friends, followed by a fund-raising lawn bowls afternoon at a beautiful venue in his home town of Sydney. More than 50 of us gathered on this very difficult day and raised more than $1000 for a charity that raises awareness and supports people with depression, Beyond Blue.
It was a difficult day, it was very sad, but if felt like the exact thing Dan would have wanted us to do. To come together, have a few beers, a laugh (and a cry) and support each other. We we placed a framed photo of him on a table and his favourite football team were even playing on the television t the bowls club. It was the perfect way to celebrate a man who was loved by so many.
There was talk about holding an annual event, but this year his birthday fell on a week day, people have been busy with holidays, babies and weddings. I know it may not be the case but it felt to me that life has seemed to have moved on for a lot of his friends, even though I know they think of him often and miss him always. If I had of tried to drum up some enthusiasm for a get-together I know they would have rallied, but I didn't have the energy myself.
So I'll be in our home, in Brisbane, alone and away from his family and friends. I have at least had the foresight to arrange for the day off work, but beyond that, I was totally stumped at how to mark the day.
Nothing felt grand enough, suitable enough, solemn enough and happy enough. This was the day that the world welcomed a very special person. Even though he's no longer here, it's a day that should be celebrated. Shouldn't it? This was my problem - I didn't know whether to give in to my sadness or focus on how wonderful this day was. Nothing felt right.
After struggling all week with what to do with myself, I finally came up with some semblance of a plan. I will have a quiet morning at home, visit his grave, meet my sister for lunch at a restaurant that he loved and then take myself off for a relaxing and indulgent massage at my favourite day spa in the afternoon.
A little bit of happy and a little bit of sad. And nothing that can't be cancelled at the last minute if it all goes to shit and I just need to hide under the blankets in bed for the day. Because as I'm sure we all know, sometimes, regardless of the best laid plans - grief doesn't care about our agenda. It roars on in and then seeps quietly away on its own schedule.