The past month or two has been tough. This time of year usually is. It’s the time of year that led up to when Drew died. These months were some of the happiest in our relationship. He had just gotten his first job as a pilot and was finally living his dreams. We were beginning to look towards our future together, towards a wedding and a new chapter of togetherness. We were at the height of everything and going exciting places… when the crash changed all of that in an instant.
It’s already a hard enough time of year. In the background of living day to day life, I get flashes of memories of the last time we went out to dinner together, or the last time we went for a hike or the last birthday we celebrated together. Flashes of all the happiness and laughter that were ended so abruptly in a crash.
On top of all of that, our anniversary is just a week before the day he died. Forever those two events slam into me almost simultaneously… a one-two punch. And of course it has been on my mind for weeks now leading up to this week. But this time, something else happened on our anniversary a few days ago.
This time, the thing that I never ever wanted to happen, happened. For the entire day of our anniversary…
For the entire day, I was completely unaware of what day it even was. And the whole thing went by without my even realizing it was that special day. It is the horror of all horrors as a widow... to forget an important day. And let me tell you, when it first hit me, I was completely horrified.
I remembered only yesterday, the day after, in the morning, as we were driving over to my new guy Mike’s parents’ house. I was suddenly overcome by a feeling of shock. A mixture of anxiety and guilt and sadness pumped through me. I tried to stay composed because we had his daughter Shelby with us in the car and I knew if I let it out it was going to be a huge emotional mess. So I kept myself buttoned up best I could.
I did my best to hold it in while we were at his parents’ house too, not wanting to have some messy emotional breakdown in front of anyone else either. I hate being emotional in front of people... I mean who enjoys that shit?
Eventually though, had a moment alone with Mike and his mom and let it out a little bit. It felt good to just cry about it, not only to Mike but to his mom. It felt good to just admit, today is not a good day. I am not doing good. And I do NOT have it together. It felt good for her to give me a big hug and comfort me. It doesn’t change the sadness over forgetting, or the guilt, but it did feel really good to just put my guard down a little.
Sometimes it’s so hard to do that… especially since moving somewhere new where I don’t know many people. It’s really fucking hard to be vulnerable with anyone new who isn’t in your same shoes. And I don’t care how many years have gone by - 7 to be exact - or how many times I’ve had to face grieving in front of people… it never gets any more damn comfortable to do. Still though, there was a big sense of relief once I let some of that out.
For the rest of the day, I realized I was completely 100% depleted, and I needed to stop trying so hard to “hold it together” and do everything. I just let the exhaustion take over. While we were at his folks’ place, I just sat and talked with his mom instead of trying to do every little thing I could to help. I turned off “mom” mode for a while instead of trying to give Shelby all of the remaining attention I had left. I just let myself melt into a chair and "be".
We left their house, giving Shelby a big hug as she was staying for a few days with her grandparents. As soon as we got on the road, the tears came flowing out. When we got home, I didn’t try and clean the house or wash dishes or figure out dinner. I just came and sat on the couch. Mike and I spent the entire night curled up together watching Scrubs (not only one of our favorite shows, but mine and Drew’s favorite show too). He made dinner and took care of me and for the first time in what felt like ages, I just let myself be exhausted and do nothing and let someone else take care of me. I needed that more than I even realized.
It’s still hard, and totally upsetting, to know I forgot the biggest day in my world with Drew. A day we shared so many happy memories together. To be fair, this is a week before we leave for vacation and I have been insanely busy packing and prepping and getting orders out for my business… so it’s not a surprise that the day slipped past because I was just too busy.
Interestingly enough, on that very day, Mike took me out for dinner. On a Thursday night, which we almost never do. And neither of us even realized that it was my anniversary that night. We have no clue as we were sitting there enjoying delicious steaks and margaritas and laughing and loving and enjoying the moment together.
As I was feeling love and joy with Mike, I had no idea that it was actually the day I used to celebrate with Drew. Somehow, we sort of accidentally did something that night, not to honor my love with Drew neccesarily…. But still, to honor love. That’s the one thing that I think makes this all feel a bit better. On that night, I was actually so busy laughing and loving in the present moment that I lost track of what day it was. I’d like to think that is the one acceptable reason for forgetting your anniversary. The one reason that Drew would be happy about.
So, it’s happened now. I’ve forgotten a special day in my life with him. And I’m still here. And nothing horrible happened because I forgot. He did not in fact come back from the dead to smite me and I did not get struck by lightning.
Maybe it’s just one more reminder that we cannot expect ourselves to do this grief thing “perfectly”. We can’t expect ourselves to never mess up, to never fall back, to never fail or give up or stop trying or make bad choices or run away from things or have triggers or be scared of the future or cry in seemingly inappropriate moments.
I forgot my anniversary. I’m not a perfect widow. And that’s okay, because I don’t have to be. And neither do you.