In a week, Mike and I will be going to the courthouse to sign marriage papers. It will just be the two of us, and Shelby, with a big celebration hopefully sometime next year with everyone we love – though things are still too uncertain to plan a date. There have been a LOT of emotions for me this past week. Both excitement and grief. Lots and lots of grief.
I had a full-day cryfest the other day… the kind where you just can’t seem to keep the tears from pouring out at any little thing or any little moment all day. By the end of that day, I was sitting in bed with Mike and still more tears were there. I couldn’t even believe I was still crying, and honestly hadn’t been able to pinpoint exactly WHY I was crying so much that day. I kept searching for the specific reason… that none of our friends will be here as we get married. That my sister will not be here. That I’d dreamed of this moment being so different. That maybe it has something to do with not getting to marry Drew before he died. On and on… but none of those really seemed like the reason.
Most of that stuff is just temporary, and we WILL be able to see everyone and celebrate later. So it really wasn’t that. And though I do have sadness about not marrying Drew, it typically just makes me grateful I’m getting to share this experience with an equally wonderful person that I believe Drew chose for me. Finally I talked it out to Mike and realized it was just one thing: My parents will not be there. More specifically, my MOM is not here.
This isn’t because of some pandemic. It’s because both of my parents are dead. It’s also not new for me. My mom’s been gone now for almost 30 years and I’ve had countless milestones without her. But the pain is always there when milestones come, just the same. I would be crying about this the week before my wedding no matter what my wedding looked like. Just like I cried the week before graduating college for the same reasons. And for every other milestone in my life. Yet somehow, the pain of it surprises me each time.
I’ve done a lot of grieving already this year for what our wedding was going to be, but the grief about my parents is one that has not truly welled up in me until now. I’ve known logically that this part was going to be hard, but it hasn’t felt close enough yet until this week. This is the week that I suddenly have this yearning to share with my mom everything I’m feeling – both the happy and the sad. The last-minute panics about how we planned to do things and if it will be the “best” way. All of my usual overthinking and overstressing about perfection is searching for her words of wisdom, and she isn’t here. Suddenly the void is so enormous and so surprisingly vast.
As soon as I places this piece of the puzzle into my heart, it fit exactly, and instantly deep sobs came out of me. I cried long and hard and just let it all flow out. Because sometimes, that is all there is to do when the ones we love aren’t physically here to share in the big moments. Sometimes we just have to cry it out. Almost immediately I felt such a deep release, and felt calm in a way I hadn’t all day.
Then Mike said something about having a piece of my parents with me at the courthouse and instantly imagined having a photo of my parents in my back pocket as we sign our marriage papers. This huge smile came over my face and I realized, for me, for this moment, that was the answer. That was the thing that was going to get me through the pain of grief and allow me to feel like they are with me. That is the thing that will help my heart be at peace so that I can be fully in the moment with Mike. It seems like such a small, silly thing… but sometimes you don’t need much, just some simple thing that makes you feel like your loved one is there with you.
To that note, I may even take a photo of Drew with me too, and maybe even photos of all my closest loved ones who are still living but unable to be here because of COVID. Maybe I’ll have this whole hilarious stack of photos in my back pocket to have everyone here… everyone who has helped me become the person that Mike first met at Camp Widow five years ago and fell in love with. In some way, they will all be here now, and it brings my heart the peace it needs to finally move from the grief to the joy. I’ve been feeling more and more excited in the days since. Much more optimistic and lighthearted.
I think it’s important to share not just the parts of my life that are affected by being widowed, but also the parts that are affected by having lost my mother as a child, and also my father in my late 20’s, because I know your children will live through milestones of their own like this. Maybe sharing this will help one of your own kids have a new way to keep their mom/dad with them, right in their back pocket, on important days. Or maybe, on your own important days, you might want to keep your spouse’s photo in your pocket too. It seems like a nice, simple way to bring them with us as we continue to live on.