Sometimes the English language feels so inadequate. I can’t count the number of times I’ve said ‘I miss him’ in the past 11 months since my husband passed away. But each time I say it, I find myself thinking that these three words just aren’t enough to fully capture the ache that is tearing at my body, mind and soul.
‘I miss you’ was a common phrase in our relationship. A term of endearment almost, up there with ‘I love you’. As our courtship blossomed we quickly grew from two private, independent people, content in our own company, to love-struck sweethearts who felt incomplete when we were apart.
I recall a couple of months in, when we’d planned on having a night apart to catch up on laundry and sleep. We text on and off throughout the evening until around 9pm when he finally called and said ‘would it be ok if I came over… I miss you.’ My heart sung – he missed me and I missed him too. We would say it to each other during the day while at work or when one of us ducked out to get groceries or were off spending time with our friends. He wrote it on love notes that he left on my bathroom mirror (pictured) and I wrote it back in the notes that I hid in his lunchbox that I lovingly packed him each morning.
We both had jobs that required occasional overnight travel and the evenings apart were difficult for both of us. I hated falling asleep without the comfort and security of his steady breathing in bed next to me and often stayed up way too late texting or video-calling him.
One of the few things I remember about the day Dan died was laying in our bed that night, staring at the ceiling with my heart racing and my head spinning. I was thinking: I miss him when we’re apart for more than 30 minutes – how am I physically going to survive never, ever seeing him again for the entire rest of my life?
I actually didn’t think it would be possible. Surely, I would die of a broken heart. I couldn’t imagine anything more painful than a life without him in it. And I couldn’t understand how his depression took him from me, when he loved me SO much. He knew I was hopeless without him, yet the power of his disease was enough to cloud that from his mind.
Now, here I sit, 332 days since I hugged and kissed him goodbye that morning, when he left for work and never came back. The sadness in my heavy heart hasn’t been enough to make it stop beating, but some days I wish it had. The physical ache for him is almost magnetic – I feel like I’m being pulled out of my own body with the urge to reach out and touch his face or fall into his arms, almost as if my heart senses that he’s standing two metres in front of me but I just can’t see him.
When I’m having a bad day and try to explain to people what I’m feeling, the words ‘I miss him’ just don’t seem enough. They sound simplistic, light and easy whereas the grief is suffocating and weighing me down like a dozen wet wooly blankets.
I hate that these three words that captured my love for my husband in such a sweet and affectionate way, now feel like a sentence that I will carry with me until the day I die. What were romantic lyrics between sweethearts are now forever laced with the pain of his death.
I still, subconsciously, say it to Dan daily. I whisper 'I miss you' to his empty pillow every morning; it’s on my breath as I walk through the busy city streets; I close my eyes and hear it run through my head when I'm sitting with friends, feeling totally alone; I cry it out loud to our empty bedroom as the tears fall each night.
I know from speaking to other widows and reading grief books that the pain will eventually soften as I heal. But I also know I will never stop missing him. Part of me doesn’t want to – I want to cling to the pain, because it assures me that our love is still real and he’s not slipping away. I don’t understand this grief and have to continuously remind myself that I can’t plan for it. I can only wait. Wait for the day where the pain of losing him is less than the happiness from knowing him. While this seems impossible to me now, I have to cling to the hope that this day will come for me eventually.