Even when I'm not alone at the end of the day, I'm still lonely for Mike. His space can just never be filled.
I wrote that line weeks ago but couldn’t finish anything with it. I think because it seemed like a complete thought; that one sentence summed it up for me in so many ways. But since I’ve been back from my holiday travels and looking at another new year, I’ve been overwhelmed by the idea that it might be time to begin to shift more into my here and now. Maybe it was because during the time with my family, Mike’s missing presence was so looming. He was just there but not, you know? My family had known him and remembered him with me. We talked about him and toasted him and told stories and it was wonderful, and important, to be able to share that.
Most of my family have not met the musician, who did not accompany me this trip. He did have to work, and it might have been harder for me to enjoy my family without constantly worrying that he was not understanding our family dynamics (and there were a lot of us) or comfortable with the goings-on of any given day. I just didn’t have the energy to deal with it all in the short time I had with everyone, and he knows that. And somehow, I realize now, I wanted one more family gathering with Mike in the seat next to me, empty as it was.
But during that long travel back home I felt a shift from thoughts of family, memories of childhood we shared, and missing Mike, to the life I was coming home to in Hawaii. I had a man waiting for me here, one who took care of my house and dogs while I was gone and was missing me. People tell me all the time how fortunate I am that he seems so patient with my grief, but the fact is, the musician is a cut-and-dry kind of guy. He lives very much in the present and struggles to understand why my grief is still such a large part of my life. He doesn’t give me trouble with it all all - don’t get me wrong. He tries very hard and is sweet about it, but he just hasn’t been through anything like it.
I read about Sarah and Mike, two of our other writers here at Widow’s Voice who met at Camp Widow and are now in a relationship. They are dealing with two empty spaces. But there is something to be said for dating another widowed person. They get it. The missing pieces are understood better all around, and I can only imagine how in certain moments, a melancholy feeling or a triggered memory can happen without the other person having to explain much about why, hard as it always is. I treasure my widowed friends for this reason, among others.
I am still saying goodbye to Mike. I still need time to sort through what it means that he will not accompany me on any more trips with family - or trips to the store, for that matter. I needed this break with my family to spend time remembering; I needed simply only to be Mike’s wife and widow for a few days, and not the musician’s girlfriend. But I feel I will need to start putting more energy into my here-and-now. I did not ask for it the way I find it, but here it is, and I cannot ignore the good things in front of me. Here, I am becoming more the musician’s girlfriend - and indeed, a new version of my independent self - rather than just Mike’s wife and widow. And that reality brings up all kinds of feelings, both sad and happy.
As in everything with our grief, I understand this is all an ongoing process. There is no set date or moment I will be able to say, ok, it’s done now, I can move on. Because there is no moving on. Only moving forward. My past, and my beautiful husband, will always be a part of me. But little by little, I hope I will be able to focus more on my now. Will there ever be a time I will be able to miss Mike, to remember Mike, without feeling achingly lonely for him even when I’m not alone?