Walking Collages

Collage.JPGNo one thinks about the prospect of being widowed when they get married. You are starting a brand new life together and things look shiny and new. But think about it. Fifty per cent of all people who get married (and stay married) will ultimately be widowed. Eventually, one of them will die. When I exclaimed to a friend how surprised I was about how many widowed friends I have, they said, well, people get married, and they die. 


I cannot speak to all the various ways people end up widowed. I cannot speak to the age at which they were widowed either. There is no comparison and all the situations are difficult - not to mention every person is different as well, and deals with circumstances differently.


I can only speak to the way I know. The way it happened to me, how I’ve dealt with it, and how I feel.


I was 44 when Mike died, just short of a month before my 45th birthday. He was 59. He was older than I, yes, but we certainly did not expect that heart attack to take him so relatively young. We all hoped for many more years with that exceptional person. But it was not to be.


I am 48 now. On the one hand, I look in the mirror and see changes I wish I didn’t. Middle age is a tough place to be even when your love is still with you. I feel old, in some ways. I never thought about getting old, or feeling old, when he was here. But on the other hand, I will likely have many, many more years to live without him. 


I think about that a lot. I mean a really, really lot. I spend a lot of quiet moments gazing at the stars, or staring at the ceiling, or just sitting in silence, thinking about all the time I have ahead of me without him and wondering how it will all go. 


A few months ago I put together a collage of pictures of him. It’s hanging around a corner in my office space because, well, I put it there just for me, really. For a long time I had a hard time looking at pictures. Now I look at it often, and smile, remembering how he was, and the many faces of Mike Vendrell.


I think I did that because he seems, at times, like he’s drifting farther and farther away. Not from my heart, but from my life. More and more the decisions I make, the changes that happen, I realize are happening to me alone. He is not here to help, to support, to be the partner I once cherished so deeply. I wish he were here to talk about all the things going on with me, and in the world. I do talk to him still, out loud, often…but the replies are silent.


The other side of the coin is that if he were still here I most likely would not be going back to school. I would most likely not be starting a new job I got as a result of people I met through my musician boyfriend (yes, that is happening this week). I most likely would not be considering the possibility that my world might need to shift back to the mainland at some point. I would not be thinking about leaving this house. In fact there are a lot of small, personal changes I probably would not have made were he still here. Just little ways I live my life now. Daily routines, habits, choices in clothes, food, friends, and entertainment. So much of that has changed.


These changes are neither good nor bad. They just are. They are how I have lived, these years, without my husband. They are how I have found a way to survive.


I am in the process of accepting the fact that I will never live another moment without the grief of my loss. I am also in the process of accepting the idea that I can find a good life, in another way maybe, even without him. I now have things to look forward to. Other people to spend time with and cherish. New friends. New career avenues.


I used to feel guilty about the idea of enjoying my life without Mike. But he loved life so, so much and that continues to drive me towards finding richness and abundance with the time I have left. 


There is maybe only one thing I can say about what all us widows and widowers have in common. No matter how many years go by and how happy and fulfilled a life we can cobble together, the ache of missing our loves and the life we had with them will always, somehow, be with us. We are all walking collages of life - the good, the bad, the ugly - and the beautiful.


Showing 7 reactions

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  • Jennifer Woods
    commented 2016-10-03 13:29:47 -0700
    Thank you Stephanie. The 3 month anniversary of Don’s death was Sunday. I still can’t quite accept that he is dead. The practical stresses of life scare me, but the loss of my best friend is overwhelming right now. It has become more difficult as the world has moved on. I’m glad to hear that you and Mike’s daughters have supported one another. My daughters are a great comfort, but at 16, they have so much going on in life that I just try to keep things normal for them.

    After wondering how I’d ended up back in Indianapolis after years in New York City, I am thankful to have my parents nearby and a sense of stability. I’m glad to hear that learning to live with this grief is possible. Right now it’s really hard.
  • Stephanie Vendrell
    commented 2016-10-03 13:16:44 -0700
    Oh Jennifer, I am so deeply sorry for your loss. I was also 44 when my husband died, just before my 45th birthday, and he was also 59. We had just short of 14 years together. He had two daughters, not twins, but they are my dear lifelines and treasure them very much. We’ve all had a very hard time. The first few months are like walking through a dark abyss. Over three and a half years later all I can say is, it’s taken this long, and maybe it will be an ongoing process, to learn to live with the grief. My life has taken on a lot of changes but he remains in my heart. Hugs and blessings to you. Glad you found Soaring Spirits. It’s truly a wonderful organization.
  • Jennifer Woods
    commented 2016-10-03 07:53:37 -0700
    I am 44, and will turn 45 in November. My husband of almost 17 years
    (we were together for 20 years) died suddenly from a heart attack on July 2. He was also 59 years old. I don’t know that I am where you are. I’m still in shock, and managing the practical consequences – only absorbing the full emotional grief during quiet moments. I have twin daughters who turned 16 on September 15th. I wanted them to each celebrate their birthdays in their individual way with friends and smile. I think they each enjoyed their birthdays in their own ways. So now we move forward. I am focusing on organizing the house and on exercising. Both make me feel like there are parts of life that I can control. But both are hard! I am glad to see the progress you have made. I am also glad to be aware that this grief may always be with me, but I can still move on. Since July, I wasn’t sure if I was just supposed to wait for my turn to die. At 44, it’s a little early to give up on life, but hard to keep going.
  • Stephanie Vendrell
    commented 2016-10-01 14:11:33 -0700
    Thank you, ladies. As hard as it all is, I feel glad none of us is doing this alone.
  • Cathy
    commented 2016-09-30 07:12:10 -0700
    “I am in the process of accepting the fact that I will never live another moment without the grief of my loss.”

    That’s where I’m at, too. And once I realized this, that the grief will always be there, I was able to accept it, and not struggle anymore trying to get over it. Made a big difference in my day to day existence. I, too, had a hard time looking at pictures, wanting that life back. That’s gotten easier, too, memories are good triggers these days. Thanks for sharing, it does help to read that others feel as I do.
  • Linda Tevebaugh Keeling
    commented 2016-09-29 18:34:19 -0700
    I like the idea of the collage….i too can look at my pictures and get comfort and smiles…..though i am enjoying my life now…with a remarriage..different addrees…etc…this missingness is always there and will be….thanks for sharing…
    I truly love your posts…Best wishes in the new job🤞
  • Lisa Richardson
    commented 2016-09-29 11:57:12 -0700