The Distance Between Us

to_the_distance_by_latyrx-d5did8u.jpgYou know what I'm learning lately? New happiness can be a strangely lonely and difficult journey. When I was deeply in my grief, I experienced the other kind of loneliness... the one where no one REALLY wants to know how you are doing. Where they don't see YOU anymore and all they see is the grief. Where you are a constant reminder to others of the loss they will one day experience. Where they just want to believe you are holding it together and are too scared to actually know the reality of your day to day existence. It is a horrible loneliness to endure.

I guess I didn't expect new happiness to also be a very lonely journey, but at times it is. The complexity of it isolates you from many people who don't get it. It brings up new layers of grief that must be worked through – during a time when most people are just taking a huge sigh of relief thinking that your grief is “over” now that someone new is there. They think its all butterflies and rainbows and that “poof!” your pain is over and love has saved the day. It isn't any easier when your new love is 1400 miles away...  

I'll be the first to joke, as I often do, that at least Mike is not as far away as Drew. But in all seriousness, the distance does wear on me at times. It feels strangely similar to carrying my grief around with me. Here is this very significant part of my life, a deep and beautiful relationship, but it rarely exists within the space of my physical life. Although he is always with me via texts and calls and skype, no one else around me is really quite aware. Nor are they aware just how hard that is. How hard it is to want him to be able to be a part of everything. How hard it is to watch everyone else going about their life with no idea of how – for me – someone is always missing. More than one someone now. It feels all too familiar.

I am remembering what I told Mike the very weekend we met at Camp Widow... how I would never have a long distance relationship after being widowed because it seemed like all you would do is trigger your grief over and over again. Having to leave each other after short visits. Having to live your life still without that person while loving them from afar. But I guess we don't get to choose who we fall for... he tells me that all the time. And I would not trade Mike for the world. I could no more seperate my heart from him than seperate the stars from the sky. To my surprise, there is already a love there that is as deep as my love for Drew. I am completely convinced that Drew chose him, and that Megan chose me, and that they brought us together for a reason. But it is still HARD work.

It feels shitty to talk about how difficult a long distance relationship has been for me... in this particular setting. At least I can call him. At least he is alive. At least I get to see him about once a month. At least I have a new person whom makes me feel important and loved and honors my dead person. I come up with every one of those justifications daily to try and not let myself acknowledge how much the distance wears on me at times. I don't even feel like I have a right to be upset over it. But I need to stop fighting it. It does wear on me... and that's okay. It would wear on anyone, particularly anyone widowed, and I've got to give myself permission to feel that.

Even if Mike did live here, there would still be previously unknown layers of grief to navigate (on both sides, his and mine) along with the usual work of building a solid foundation for the relationship to grow on. So many people think that finding someone new will just “fix” everything... they don't realize that entering into new love is like signing up for your next course in grief work – a place to study new chapters of it, a place where new lessons will be taught and new tests given. The greiving are never really done – we are students of death forever.

This journey is hard. And it will be hard all of our lives, through all the milestones and steps ahead. It will also be beautiful, and worthwhile, and incredible. But also hard. Right now... I miss Mike. And I miss Drew. I may miss Drew in a different way now, more as my best friend, but not any less. I still cry for him – and want him here to see everything good in my life now. Having Mike in my world does not change that and never will.

I still hate that Drew isn't here physically. I hate that I get the chance to begin again and he does not. I hate that he will never physically be able to be part of my life moving forward... even though he touches and influences each and every part of it. Some days... that just isn't enough. Just like some days, having Mike only a phonecall away, isn't enough. Sometimes I just want both of them to hug me... maybe even at the same time, in some big, bizarre group bear hug of protection. I want them both here. And Mike's wife Megan too. And in some crazy, irrational, dream-world in my mind... I just want all of us still living and smiling and laughing – and still knowing each other. I want the four of us together, surrounding Mike and Megan's daughter Shelby with love and laughter – instead of only two of us. I want every one of us in this widowed community to magically know each other without having to have gone through all of this to get here. It doesn't mean my life is not good, and beautiful, and happy, and full of meaning and laughter and light... but I will always want for this, for the rest of my life. It is the quiet melancholy that will always sit somewhere within the depths of my heart. 

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  • Sarah Treanor
    commented 2015-07-14 13:03:24 -0700
    Thanks Stephanie! It’s definitely just the beginning of a whole new chapter of grieving for sure! But, one with a lot of joy mixed in. And new ways of healing.

    Tricia, I can so relate to what you said. Some times it feels like more loss… but it also feels worth it when we’re together. It had to be so hard to have such a short time with your husband once you did move closer together. Makes me think that perhaps he and I will have to find a way to be near each other even sooner – life is short after all. We never know how long we have. Thank you so much.
  • Stephanie Vendrell
    commented 2015-07-12 15:00:52 -0700
    I have found quite a few triggers in my new relationship…abandonment issues to be sure, and that is even when he is living in the same house. And you hit it right on the nose that finding someone new doesn’t “fix” everything, and that it really is another chapter in our grief. It’s been hard to explain this to people. Thank you for sharing all this…and I do feel happy you and Mike found each other. At the end of the day there is something to be said for companionship and caring on this earth no matter where we are.
  • Tricia E. Bratton
    commented 2015-07-12 11:56:22 -0700
    My husband and I were 200 miles apart for the first 2 years of our relationship. We saw each other most weekends, but every time I had to leave him to go back to my job and flat in London, it felt like another loss. He was always telling me to enjoy what we had, but it made me so sad to leave him. Finally we married and I got to move up here to be with him. I had that for 18 months before he died. I think because I had experienced so much loss, already, before we met, each separation from him was just excruciatingly painful. Now I wonder why I was so upset all the time? But it was what it was. I can’t change it now. I am happy for you that you found each other, and I hope you find a way to be together, soon.