Tomorrow is my husband's third anniversary. And, like so much of this third year, the lead up has felt very different to the previous two. So much so, in fact, that it started to scare me as I've been wondering if something is wrong with me, or if I'd slipped back into some kind of state of shock.
Even now, I'm struggling to find the words to explain how this feels different and how I've been trying to make sense of what this means to me. I've had some moments of sadness this week, along with the tears that choke their way to the surface and can't be held back.
The sadness has come on during times when I've thought about what my husband was going through in these days leading up to his death. When I think about the darkness of his depression and the torment he must have been struggling with. It hurts my heart to know that someone I love was battling with something so catastrophic - to know he will lose that fight and miss out on the full life that was ahead of him.
I feel sadness that the world lost such a beautiful soul. That his friends and family are missing out on sharing their lives with this wonderful man. He was a special person and so very loved.
However - and this is where it gets confusing - I haven't felt an overwhelming sadness for myself. On previous anniversaries the sum of what I lost when he died was all consuming, like a heavy fog that robbed me of my ability to breath. The hole he left in my life was the biggest part of my grief.
So, as the anniversary approaches, I've been waiting for the pain of that loss to creep in the way it has in the years prior but it just hasn't arrived. So, this week I scheduled an appointment with my grief counsellor, to check in and make sure I'm doing ok and am not losing my mind.
I spoke to her about the progress I've made in the six months or so since I've seen her. My new relationship with a wonderful man; moving house; my revived energy and interest in social outings; the university study I've been doing that's given me back the confidence that my widow-brain hasn't totally robbed me of my concentration and problem-solving skills. It felt good to reflect on the changes in my life and how happy and at peace I've been feeling.
She reminded me about a conversation we'd had last year, around Dan's anniversary. I'd been commenting on the difference between the first year (when it was so raw and our family and friends had rallied around me) in comparison to the second year, (where I'd felt that some people had started to forget about him and there was less support). It had hurt me to feel like others had moved forward and let go while I was still in such deep pain.
At the time, she'd suggested that each anniversary wound continue to feel different as I grew and changed and moved forward into my life without him. In fact, one day, in the future, the 24th of July might come and go and I may not even feel the loss in a way that I would recognise of even notice the date. Of course, this seemed ludicrous to me. What kind of hopeless, heartless widow would forget the date of her husband's death!? I was sure I would never let go of his memory. I would not forsake him, I couldn't imagine a time where I didn't feel the loss of him.
But maybe that's what I've been doing without even realising… slowly letting go. The shock of this suggestion stung, I immediately felt a wave of guilt. How could that be? Surely something was wrong with me?
When I started crying my counselor assured me that this wasn't a bad thing, in fact, it was very good. She reminded me that we're not supposed to stay stuck in the sadness and it was ok that my relationship with Dan is changing. It doesn't take away from the love I have for him. It only means that his place in my life - as my husband and partner - was in my past and while it shaped my future, he can no longer be that person to me.
The alternative - which would be clinging to him and staying stuck in that moment would only give me a lifetime of pain and drag that intense, raw grief that comes with the initial loss through to the rest of my life. Which of course just sounds terrible!
So it's ok. There's nothing wrong with me. I'm not in denial or broken or a heartless, selfish person. I'm just healing. I'm living my life in the now and, really, isn't this what we should all want for ourselves and those who have experiences such a terrible tragedy?