For Halloween this year each of my teenagers were occupied with their own pursuits. What used to be a kid focused holiday full of parental supervision, has become a mom on her own holiday hoping the kids are safe throughout the festive night. Though my boys were close by, I found myself sitting on the back of my car handing out candy at our Church carnival. Alone.
To my left was a large family (moms, dads, grandmas and grandpas, kids of assorted shapes and sizes) and to my right was a man eagerly decorating his car while waiting for his family to arrive. The way the cars were arranged, chatting was not managed easily, and we were all quite busy with the kiddies coming and going from our decorated trunks.
I sat, tucked into the back of my car, greeting little ones and their parents, commenting on cute costumes, and generally attempting to be involved in the activity at hand. But I was lonely. There was no one with whom I could enjoy the pageantry, whatever thoughts popped into my head just rumbled about between my ears, and the only person I could reach out and touch was Jack the Pumpkin King. As I watched the world go by from my perch I thought to myself...this is not how I want my life to be.
Dreaming about how Phil would have helped decorate the car, being certain that he would have found a way to meet all the "neighbors," knowing that he would have loved the Mexican themed decor of one big SUV, or thinking about how much fun it would have been to hear his comments on all things Halloween was not enough. Somehow missing him used to fill a void. Now missing him just emphasizes the emptiness in my life. His absence has become a different sort of pain.
Jackie's post this week really spoke to me. Kids experience all sorts of growing pains, and I am discovering that widows do too. Healing has led to growth that I did not expect or desire. I have always feared the grief stage of "acceptance." I don't want to accept that Phil is dead, but he is. I don't want to accept that life will go on without him, but it does. I don't want to accept that my body will evolve and change while his stays exactly the same, but the proof is in the mirror every day. I don't want to accept that if Phil were to come back today he wouldn't know many of the most important people in my life, but four years later that is definitely true. I don't want to accept that one day I will need more than memories as my daily companion, but that truth is becoming more clear every day.
Knowing that today I need more than the memories of Phil can provide hurts. Knowing that the time we had together is all we will ever have hurts. Knowing that I have to make the conscious choice to move forward every day hurts. Acceptance does not cause the ripping pain that accompanied the first realization that Phil was really dead. Nor does this phase cause the drowning feeling I knew so well as I learned to tread the waters of living life without my husband. I imagined arriving at this moment throwing a massive temper tantrum. Instead I feel resignation. Acceptance isn't what I thought it would be. Now I know that there is no such thing as 'done' when living with grief, but I also know that growing pains actually do lead to growth.
Somehow a monkey, a giraffe, two lady bugs, several princesses, a few pirates, and a really cute guitar pointed out that growing up is a life long experience.