In every store you visit the shelves are lined with colorful, foil wrapped chocolate bunnies. They stand neatly organized in the aisles, adorned with ribbons and bows. At first glance, these holiday treats catch your eye because they look shiny and decadent. But, things aren’t as they appear. We know the bunnies are hollow inside even though they look substantial.
I am a lot like these chocolate Easter bunnies. I appear to have my life together. I look solid. But, the reality is that inside I feel empty. This may come off as slightly dramatic, but it is the truth. After over 16 months, my life looks shiny and newly restored. *I originally wrote this blog in 2018 – keep reading to see my “updates” throughout.
Outwardly, things have remained stable and solid. In many ways I am a vision of “widowed success”. I returned to a good career, I still have the house, the car, and the kids. On the outside, the condition of my life looks good. Aside from Mike’s death, my life may even be enviable to some; but things are not as they appear. Like the aesthetically pleasing chocolate bunnies, I look to be well dressed and professionally presented; but, inside me there is something lacking. Inside of me, the landscape of my Soul is barren. I am hollow inside like the foil bunnies. On the inside of me there is ‘nothing’. Where there used to be unbridled joy there is now emptiness. *Huge fucking sigh.
Now, most certainly, there is a dullness in my eyes that was not there before. There is an emptiness inside me that I don’t know how to fill. Before Mike died, I did not know that you could be swallowed alive by a sorrow that is born in the depths of your Soul. I ache for him and I am less engaged in my own life because of his death. Some moments, the intensity and rawness of my grief consumes me from the inside out.
Thankfully, these gutting days are less frequent as time goes on. Time has tamed the wildness of my grief. The edges of my shattered self are smoothing. My tears do not last as long anymore. My inconsolable sobbing has turned into quiet crying. And, now, my aching is somewhat refined – if that is even possible. Nearly 3.5 years later, this mess that is Mike’s death is a tiny bit easier to navigate.
I am beginning to slowly digest the reality. Mike is dead. And, he will stay this way forever.
My mind knows this and, finally, my heart is working to come to terms with it too.
Mike’s death has altered me in ways I didn’t expect. Since he died, I feel like I participate in my life without enthusiasm. And, after all these years, this is not acceptable to me, and; in truth, it never was. I want more. I am desperate for more living and less sadness; but, at this moment, I am still not capable of living more fully. As I live forward without him, my heart is hopelessly trying to make sense of what my mind knows.
This is my life now – I accept it. However, at 16 months and 11 days, when I sat writing this, I remember that I felt like I was without direction. I was aimless and drifting. And, still, I am searching for purpose and progress feels slow at best. To say I have grown restless is an understatement. Nonetheless, I am convinced I will find my footing – eventually.
Without doubt, I know that I have the stuff to make it through this “mess”. But, I am impatient. I want to breathe in life again. I do not want to live with this endless emptiness forever. And, I know that it’s up to me to change this. The future is in my hands. I need to play the shitty cards I was dealt. And, I’m telling you, I plan to play the hell out of what I’ve been given. That is what he wants. The girl he loves would do this. She would throw this shitty hand on the table and look the dealer in the eye and say, “I’m all in. Let it ride.” Yet, despite my “all in” attitude and brave talk, a part of me is scared of the unknown.
Early on, when I looked in the mirror I didn’t recognize myself – my eyes looked so very, very different. They were dull. Maybe even lifeless. My eyes did not reflect back joy the way they used to. But, slowly, in the years since I originally wrote this, I see a glimmer of life returning to my gaze. That’s progress and I’m grateful for it.
Still, despite these modest gains, I am forever changed. This change is not all bad, but it isn’t altogether good either. Whatever it is, good and bad, it is permanent. His death can’t be undone and neither can the changes in me. *Sigh, again for the millionth time.
Day after day, my tired eyes stare blankly at everything. It is as though my eyes are wide open, but shut at the same time. Now, I wander aimlessly through my day. Case in point, at the grocery store, I stop and take a deep breath because the smell of fresh baked dinner rolls reminds me of him. The jugs of Clamato juice stare coldly at me as I pass by. The red roma tomato waves to me and the dusty russet potato calls my name. Sometimes the allure is too much and I stop and hold the gritty, dirt covered potato in my hand while I bite my bottom lip to keep my hot tears from streaming down my cheeks. Then, a few aisles later, in the frozen section, his meat pies, in their cardboard boxes, glare at me. Finally, as I am leaving the store, the bouquets of red roses coyly wink at me, then they whisk me back to him. I am aware that I can not let frozen meat pies and red roses control me if I am going to move boldly towards life. I have to get a hold of myself.
Since he died, I have created all sorts of new rituals and homespun attempts to soothe myself. Now, without thinking, I often look up at the sky, close my eyes and then proceed to talk to myself. As I speak, I encourage myself to “get it together”. After work, I’ve stood in countless parking lots looking upward, trying to “get my shit together” before I go home to ‘adult’ and parent my children. I completed this ritual at the grocery store at sixteen months; and, sometimes, 3.5 years I still do this. I do this because it is hard to come to terms with the permanence of Mike’s death. I still struggle with it and I think a part of me always will.
On bad days, I feel like the poster child for a broken middle aged woman who is completely overwhelmed and underwhelmed all at once. I yearn to be like the other women in the grocery store who are simply buying groceries, not daydreaming of a dead man while they stand in the produce aisle. My life borders on madness. And, sometimes I stand there in awe of the complete fuckery of it all.
I am consumed with memories of a life that no longer exists and because of this, I have become more and more detached from the people around me. I am aware of all this, and I think that it was necessary. I desperately want to re-create my life and this involves going inward before I move forward. While I was busy detaching from others, I was growing closer to myself. Looking back, that was a good thing. It was necessary for me to examine my heart before I committed to any bold moves in my alternate life.
In the parking lot and in the produce aisle, I have asked myself what I want to do with my life. These are some heavy questions; and, admittedly, these questions are too big to be pondered in either of these locations. But, nonetheless, what is important is that I have taken the time to ask myself these significant questions. I believe the answers will come to me – eventually.
Many a night, I have stood washing dishes, looking out into my backyard, asking myself what I want. At 16 months, I didn’t have a well thought out plan; but, now, I feel like I am getting close to knowing what I need to do. Nearly 3.5 years since his death, I can FEEL a plan coming to life inside me. And, let me tell you it feels pretty good.
At the heart of it, I have always believed that I have the capability to achieve whatever I want.
The issue isn’t my ability – it is fear. Fear of more change.
Early on, I felt scared to make a move without him. And, because of my fear, I lacked the courage necessary to make changes. And, as I reread this blog from the vantage point of 3.5 years, I know that it is no longer fear that holds me hostage, now it is mostly lack of motivation. It’s complacency. I have felt dead inside for so long now, it’s become somewhat “normal” to me to be only skimming along and partially participating in life.
I know that I have been engaged in life only on a surface level all these years without him and the motivation to change this eludes me. I have less spark than before; and, truth be told, most days in the beginning I was not even motivated to strike a match. For many years, I chose to exist safely. I needed to pause and reestablish my footing. And, thankfully, I did outgrow the comfort of the limitations I have created for myself. But, I will never forget those early days of grief. I was so unhinged because of his death that I couldn’t manage much more than limping through the day. But, as time has progressed, I understand that this staggering was necessary. I had to experience the process of faltering and coming undone, in order to move forward. Now, I understand that I needed my toes to touch the bottom before I could re-surface. That was part of the process. It was unavoidable. And, it served me well.
I know that, eventually, I will find the momentum to get me to where I need to be. I’ve come a long way these last 3.5 years and I don’t want to undersell my success. I see what I’ve accomplished without him; and more importantly I feel it. I like the woman I’m becoming. And, he’d like her too.
I have always had grit. And, if I ever doubt my capability, I remind myself that once upon a time I was his. And, Mike loved me because I was solid. There is nothing hollow about me.
Wrapped in grit -not foil,
Written: APRIL 02, 2018
· Edited April12, 2020