Today it is thirteen months and 3 days since you died. Some moments, your death still does not feel real to me. And, other times, the realness of your death is so apparent I feel nauseated. This is grief in all it's unapologetic glory.
In the early days when you died I couldn't even breathe. I'd gasp for breathe and I'd rock back and forth, holding my chest, in an effort to encourage the air to move from my lungs into my body. For months I struggled desperately, day and night, to soothe my broken Soul. I remember I'd stand in the kitchen and I'd clutch my chest as I cooked dinner because I thought my heart was going to explode into a million pieces when it broke. I remember thinking that grief was cruel because it forced us to endure and survive this deep aching pain. I knew full well that my heart wasn't going to literally reduce to fragments - even though it felt like it was. Those early days of grief were completely gutting. And, I am glad that the raw intensity of those first four months is behind me. Somehow I survived.
As much as I never want to feel the pain of the early days again, I do wish I could go back and tell my newly widowed self what I have learned about grief. I'd tell her that in order to survive she does not need to do anything - except breathe. (Which, I know, is easier said than done.) I'd let her know that the shock and numbness she feels is there by design; and, I would tell her that she is not to worry about being in a daze. I'd tell her that the laundry and housework are not a priority. I'd wink and let her know that she won't have any memory of these first four months after his death, so she should feel free to let it go. I'd also brief her about the fact that she can't rush through this. I'd say with authority, that there is no way to side step this pain because there is no "cure" for grief. Grief isn't a disease that you are magically healed from. Grief is a journey that lasts your lifetime from what I can tell so far. I'd continue with the advice, knowing full well, my sleep deprived self would not really understand or absorb much of what I was saying because her mind could no longer process anything. She was consumed with trying to make sense of the fact that Mike was dead.
At this point, in my made-up (but all too real) scenario, I'd make us both something to eat because I know that she is on the "widow diet". I know that she has probably only had coffee all day. Once I got her fed, I'd tell her I notice she's lost more than her smile, she's lost weight too. I'd remind her to eat everyday. And, I would tell my freshly widowed self that she needs to start wearing makeup again, and I'd tell her that doing her hair is not as optional as she thinks. And, then, I'd hear her laugh... and it's magic.
As a new widow she needs to know that she should try to lean into the pain and absorb the ache into her DNA. I'd let my frazzled self know that when your person dies you are reduced to a state of infancy. And, I'd smile and I'd gently brush the strands of stray hair from her eyes; then, I'd tell her that she's normal. And, I'd promise her that she's going to be okay. I'd remind myself to tell her that death is a trauma. And, because of the trauma Mike's death caused, she has forgotten how to soothe herself. She will need assistance with the basics: breathing, sleeping and eating. I'd recommend that she surround herself with only compassionate, loving, people who don't try to "fix" her. These people who simply walk along side her as she grieves will become her lifelines. They will carry her on the really hard days in the year ahead. I'd gently tell my newly widowed self to be patient and settle into her feelings. I'd remind her to smile more, even if it's just for a fleeting moment. I'd let her know that, in spite of herself, I heard her laugh today - and it was magical.
And, finally, I'd stop and hold her for longer than most normal hugs last.
And, then, I'd look far past the glazed, "deer in headlights", look in her eyes,
I'd look straight into her Soul and I'd whisper to her "you've got this".
Photo credits: @heidi_the_untold
Somehow I've survived this surreal experience of out living Mike. I have learned that in order to survive his death I had to undergo a sort of re-birth, and this process is still ongoing. I've come undone and I've been unhinged for the better part of this last year. But, alas, I've arrived here, in this moment. I've emerged exhausted and a bit disheveled because...
the road I've been forced to travel isn't smooth. I was "abandoned" on a rough, rutted, and holey path. But, I'm here now. I made it.
It's childish, but I feel like someone should compliment me for surviving the potholes along the way. I want someone to drip praise all over me. I want to be congratulated for emerging from the darkness. I've accomplished something haven't I? Surely I get travel rewards or something? Tell me that I've earned something. It feels like I passed "GO". Someone, please tell me that I am going to be "rewarded" for travelling so long and so far by myself. I'm here damn it. I am standing here wide-eyed, clinging to a pocket full of hope. Someone come take my hand and tell me what to do next...
I have lived 9, 538 hours without him. I'm tired. Living without Mike feels like it's an endurance test. A test that I did not have time to prepared for. I neglected to study because he wasn't supposed to die. I assumed that we would have at least twenty years together as husband and wife. November 15, 2016 Death robbed us of our future and hurled me into widowhood. One day I was planning our wedding; and, in the next breathe, I was choosing his casket and picking out a suit for my dead fiance to wear to his funeral.
Our love story ended right in the middle of a sentence.
Less than six months after Mike proposed to me, he was dead;
and, our future died with him.
Even today, I am still trying to process this mess.
Now, I've turned up here, in this place in time, in a dimension where he no longer exists. I'm emotionally exhausted. I am tired of grieving. I'm tired of being sad. I desperately want to go back to a better place in time. I want to return to a moment where I can feel his arms around my life. But, this is not to be - ever again.
Time has gone on without you Mike... And, reluctantly, I go on without you too. I have lived without you for 57 weeks. And, with time, I am starting to forget what it feels like to have you physically take up space in the room with me. I know what your body feels like next to me on the couch; and, if I close my eyes I can see the way the cushions mould around you. I remember the familiar way your legs stretched out on the ottoman. And, I can clearly imagine your feet comfortably housed in your Birkenstocks.
I remember how I would curl up into you,
and lay my head on your chest.
I know the rhythm and the sound of your heartbeat.
You were home to me.
And, now, I am homeless
because you do not exist physically.
I want to return to you.
I am homesick for you.
In my mind, I can still feel your warmth next to me; but, now, I don't remember exactly how much space your shoulders took up when you sat beside me. You have been gone from this dimension for 34, 336, 800 seconds. I desperately want your body to fill the space next to me. Sometimes, I put my hands out in front of me - searching for you. I wonder where you are. Are you farther, or closer than you've ever been? I hold out my hand and ask you to put your hand in mine. I wait, but I feel nothing. The weight of the air drops my hand back down to my side. I know for certain that there is nothing you can give to me in the physical world anymore.
I'm grateful that I can still remember your hands. I know how you held your fork and knife. I remember how you held the steering wheel; and I know how your hand held mine. I can feel your touch by heart. But, there are spacial details that I am forgetting with time. I don't know how our height difference feels in real life anymore, because it's been too long since we stood beside one another. I know the feel of your energy, even though I do not know the shadow of your height any longer. I remember how you loved when I would go on my tip-toes to kiss you. But, now, I can only vaguely remember how high I had to stretch to reach your lips. If I could go back I'd memorize the precise geometry of our kiss. Forgetting the exactness of these ordinary, everyday things saddens me. I don't want to forget our intimate details. I want to always remember what it feels like to have your arms around me. To have your arms wrapped around my life.
I have woken up 397 times without reading my "Good Morning Beautiful" text message from you. Now, every morning, I look over at your pillow and I sigh before my feet even hit the floor. I miss you. I miss there being an "us". Each morning as I make our bed, I imagine you there helping me pull up the sheets, just like you always did. As I walk down the hallway towards the kitchen I feel the emptiness and I hear the silence of my life. Since you died I have incorporated some small, but meaningful rituals into my routine. Somehow, these rituals make your absence more tolerable. It's a small gesture, but, when I drink my coffee, I always purposefully select the mugs that were yours - because I know your lips touched them. When I cook, I like to use the green flipper to turn my eggs - because it was your favorite. When I chop vegetables I use the serrated knife - because you loved that knife. When I eat my meals, I sit in "your spot" at the table - because I feel closer to you. When I hold the utensils in my hand I think that you once held this same spoon, and somehow it makes the spoon sacred. I always wear the earrings that you gave me- because they remind me of our trip to Mexico. My Tiffany & Co. "Love" ring never leaves my finger - because you gave it to me. I will always wear Obsession perfume -because you loved how I smelled. And, when I leave the empty house I shout "I'm leaving now, I'll be back in a bit", and when I come home I yell to you "Honey, I'm home". Sometimes I actually say these word out loud; but, most times, I only whisper my thoughts to myself in my head. And, lastly, to complete my "widowhood routine", I go outside on the back patio and I "talk" to you every single night. And, before I walk back inside, I always whisper "I love you" and I blow a kiss up to you. Then, finally, I crawled into my empty bed and I lay there wishing I could still feel your arms around my life.