I met a new friend the other day and in the course of conversation The Story came out. You know the one. The Story. The one about how I was married and then wasn’t married. What happened, how it happened, what’s happened since then, what happened before then.
Early on in my widowhood The Story was so deeply painful that I basically hid out in my house for months. Early on, it was The Horror Story. Every time I had to talk about losing Mike to someone new it was like ripping my heart out of my chest. Dealing with all the business of his death was truly horrific. Every phone call, every signature, every photo copy and every detail all seemed like more nails in a coffin - one not just belonging to my beloved husband but of the whole life I had been living. It was now all, completely, stone-cold dead and gone forever and I felt like a walking phantom; a barely-breathing ghost of the person I had been. A conversation with the notary at the bank had me sobbing. Seeing his favorite food on the shelves at the grocery store had me sobbing. Taking the rubbish to the dump in his truck - one of the chores he used to do - had me sobbing. It was The Tragedy. It was my tragedy.
I had no idea how I was going to live without him. I didn’t want to think what a next day might bring; I dreaded every moment, every meal, every movie, every book, email, phone call, picture, errand and chore. It’s not like I avoided life out in the world; for me, there was no life out in the world. It was all dead to me. When I looked up at the blue sky all I saw was a giant red, bleeding ripping gash across the heavens in my mind’s eye. The whole world was now forever changed; mutilated; disfigured, without the presence of my beloved.
Two years later, though, I find that telling The Story doesn’t leave me gasping for air the way it used to. It’s not easy, mind you - it will never be easy, telling The Story. And yes - depending on the situation I do sometimes avoid telling it at all. But I have come to a point in my grief where I realize it will just always and forever be The Story. It will always be my story. Where I came from, being married to Mike, the years we were together, the man he was and the things we shared…then losing him, and all the bits that surround me now, my family, my friends, my work…The Story. The Fairy Tale, The Drama, The Romance, The Comedy, The Adventure…The Horror and The Tragedy…I will never be able to separate myself from any of it. I can attempt to write new paragraphs, but I can’t edit the previous chapters or write myself out of it. It has become me; it is defining me; it is representing me.
The experience of it all has left me with an awareness of all the other stories around me too, in this world. How many others carry the heavy burden of grief all the days of their lives. The sadness that shadows my days - that will always shadow my days - is not mine and mine alone. My story is my story, but I am not alone in having one. That is both terrible and comforting at the same time.
I told that new friend, when she looked at me with those now all-too-familiar startled, sad eyes, when The Story came out…yeah, I know. It sucks - you have no idea how much it sucks. And how am I here now, talking about it without sobbing? Well, I’m not exactly sure. All I know is I will never get over it, but I am, somehow, finding a way through it. You just somehow, one moment at a time, learn to live with the fact that your life is forever changed. Grief never goes away…you just make friends with it. Over time I suppose you learn to shake hands with that terrible, dark ogre of a creature because it is the only way to lessen the torture. It is the only way to make peace with the terrible.
That is my life now. That is my story and it’s sticking to me, whether I like it or not.