As much as I try to escape it, that day has been on replay in my mind for the past few weeks. The lead up to the one year mark of the day life changed.
Terrified at the thought of what emotions this day will bring me. Angry that this day has a place in my life at all. And an overshadowing sadness that engulfs and strangles me with the thought that this is real. That it has almost been a full year since I last held him, spoke to him and kissed his warm lips. As much as I try nothing can prepare me for what this day will bring. A huge part of me wants to spend this day alone in my sorrow, hoping for my life to end. I don’t want anyone to witness what may unfold on this day. Then the other part of me screams, get out and live for him! Breathe for him, like you promised you would. He wants you to smile, but even writing about this day brings me to tears because sometimes it just hurts too much to smile.
I wrote him a letter last night in hope that it would help release some of this pain but with each day that brings me closer to one year without him, well the pain cuts deeper. And although this is my new normal life, I am angry that this is normal now. It shouldn’t be normal that every aspect of my life is affected by grief!
It’s unfair and I would give anything to have the normal that I knew before. The death of a spouse is rated the number one most difficult, stressful, life changing event a person can go through. No shit! It’s never ending and unfair is an understatement.
With this journey I have had the fortunate, yet unfortunate privilege to make many new friends in grief. These women will be lifelong friends. Some of which I speak to every day. We laugh and cry and vent our anger. And share the dry and messed up humour that comes with this grief. We share with one another what we cannot share with anyone else. We understand each other. So for this post of what a widows grief is like I will share from not just my own grief, but theirs also. In the effort and hope that it helps other women like us to express this grief.
At 357 days this is how my grief feels… and how it feels for so many others.
You wake alone or sometimes you wake clutching their shirt. There is no longer pain surrounding this item of clothing, its normal now. But still, it’s hard to put it away. It has become a comfort. Your free of thoughts for a few minutes as you make your morning coffee, you see their mug and know that was their mug but you no longer cry at the sight of it. For everyone else it’s just a coffee cup, but still you don’t dare allow anyone else to use it. So its sits on the shelf. It’s normal.
You take a shower and think about the day ahead or think of things your friends are up to. Glancing at their body wash that’s remained untouched for almost a year, you think of them and their smell and how much you miss it. But you still don’t cry, because it’s become normal. You care about your appearance now, you don’t want people to think you’re still lost in a dark place. So most of the time you make an effort to dress well and put your make up on. You have gained a sense of pride in yourself. Pride in your strength and independence, you know there is almost nothing that can hurt you now. You pause and look at their clothes still hanging stagnant in the wardrobe, sometimes you smile at the thought of the last time they wore that shirt but mostly you stare and feel numb. Empty. Hollow. Their scent no longer lingers on these items, you don’t cry though because it’s normal now.
Your morning is filled with the chaos of being a sole parent and you wish for five minutes of peace, you’re so grateful for their little heart beats because you feel lost as soon as the chaos is quiet. Without them you know your grief would be worse and so you’re thankful. Sometimes it’s painful to watch them because there are so many similarities with mannerisms and so a tear will fall. You wipe it away quickly before they see you, you don’t want them to see you sad all the time. It’s unfair, it’s normal. You smile with them, laugh with them, learn with them, you’re so proud of them. But your heart aches that there are so many moments with them that you are unable to share with your person. This makes you cry. Because it’s unpredictable. Something so small can mean something so big. Like the first time they jump off a diving board or use a high chair. Sometimes you turn to your side with a smile so wide, expecting them to be there, with their beaming smile, smiling back at you. But there not, and the disappointment you feel in that moment stings every time. I remind myself that it’s not our loves that miss out on this, we just miss out on sharing it with them. This feeling is not normal yet, I’ll be surprised if it ever becomes normal.
And for the ones without children I’m sorry, I can’t imagine!
Songs on the radio still grip at your heart and your taken away to a memory or the thought of a future you were forced to let go of. And still when you’re alone in the car alone with your thoughts you occasionally cry. There are times that you see passes by and take a second glance because for a brief moment you think it may have been them. But it never is. For me the fog has somewhat lifted, he is no longer on my mind constantly but rather every hour and brief minutes in between. I do not cry though because this has become normal. Constant reminders of them and the life you shared are everywhere you go, coffee shops, friends’ houses, service stations, beaches, parks and shops. Memories that you have reminisced so often, they bring with them smiles and longing. Then there are the places you can’t bring yourself to ever go to again. Places where the memories turn into an anxiety attack because they are a deep reminder of the perfect life you had that was lost. It’s unfair. There are moments that you spend wishing you could run away, escape this new reality and start fresh somewhere different, where there are no reminders. For some of us this is the only way we can cope and for others we feel we must stay.
And something so small and insignificant to everyone else can throw you into a spiral of thoughts, longing, wishing, memories, unanswered questions and pain. Like snow falling the first winter without them, the sight or mention of hospitals or medications, hearing of another’s cancer diagnosis, the smell of baby wipes, and finding a pumice stone as you walk along the beach, knowing how much they liked to collect them.
Wonder surrounds your days, wonder of where they are, can they see you, and are they happy. Then there are some of us who just know. But we all ask the question why? Why did this happen, why them, why our lives, no one deserves this pain. It’s not fair. The question why will never be answered and so we try hard to let it go. You re-read old messages and conversations and you laugh at the loving sarcasm and banter between the two of you. In your head you can hear their voice as you read the words they wrote you. Then you read lines like “see you soon” or “I’ll call you on my way home” this makes you cry because they can’t call you and so you wish, plead and pray that you will see them again soon.
You crave physical touch, to be held and feel loved, desired and wanted again. Guilt riddles you when your mind thinks of what it may be like to meet someone new. And some of us feel undeserving of new love, feelings of judgement by others who have no idea what a widows path is like. Then there are others who feel unwanted because a widow’s life is so complex. Thoughts like “who would want to be with someone, who will always love another”. The advice from widows further down the track is that, the heart expands and you are capable of loving again, there is no first choice or second best. This life was not a choice. People are not replaceable. Then there are the ones who could never go through this pain again, who will never feel safe enough to risk love. Who worry that happiness is temporary, too good to be true and surely another love will die.
You hate to be alone, so you surround yourself with friends and family as often as you can. The silence in your home is haunting and you miss the sound of their voice, but you do not cry every night now because this life and longing has become normal. Normal that every aspect of every day is in some way touched by grief. You wish you never knew this normal. You hate this normal. You’re so angry that this is your normal. It’s not fair! And some nights it hits you hard, as though you’ve been taken back to the first day this new normal began. So you scream, you cry, you lay helpless and alone in pain, not wanting anyone to witness this sight but wishing someone was there to hold you and take it all away. This is the side of grief we rarely share, the side that stays unseen, unheard and unspoken of because there is a stigma that we should have moved on with our lives. That because we smile in photos now, we are okay.
The other day I sat in the car with a friend of mine and she asked me “What’s wrong?” at that question I burst into tears and said or rather yelled at her “Its 10 days!!” Ten days left till 365 days. This is not yet normal for me. It should never have had to become normal for anyone. Grief never ends because love never ends. In time living with grief just becomes normal. And yes it is unfair and brutally painful, but in an effort to move forwards with our lives we accept the way that grief has changed us. More often than not grief makes us stronger and kinder creatures, in this way beauty is found in grief. You see with grief comes a life altering perspective that never would have been obtained any other way. You feel everything deeper, you’re able to love harder, you know how precious and finite time is and so you try not to waste it. You live life in moments and appreciate the breaths you’re given because you know how quickly everything can change. You notice all the little things, strangers’ smiles and body language, you can tell when a person is hurting while another will not notice. Your heart is larger and your soul is softer and kinder because you know pain. You give yourself fully to the ones you love because you know better than anyone that is what life is about. It’s not about money or your job or social status. Life is about love, living, making moments that touch someone’s heart. Moments that will eventually become someone’s cherished priceless memories of your life and the way you touched their life. I would rather live with the everlasting sorrow of outliving him than live a life not having experienced our love at all.
Sending you all peace, hope, love and strength. Kaiti
Credit to two beautiful grief friends of mine. You know who you are, I love you and thank you xox