With hindsight, I know that there is no way I could have better prepared for what has been required of me since Mike died. Widowhood is something you have to live to fully understand. There is no way to adequately explain this life in words. It is something that has to be experienced first hand to be comprehended.
This being the case, there is a strong kinship among those in the widowed community because our hearts speak the same language. We speak in fairly simple, yet carefully chosen words. The dialect of this ‘language’ can not be learned or interpreted – because it is not understood unless you are one of us. The aching inside us, the emptiness within us, and the sadness in our eyes is spoken in Grief’s mother tongue.
Widowed people do not need an interpreter. In fact, we often have the exact same tone in our voices . We can easily recognize what is said by others who are fluent in grief. And, maybe, more importantly, we hear what is not spoken by those who have lost the one they love. In short, we understand one another without words because there really are no words to adequately explain widowhood and how very gutting it is.
Grief itself has many shared characteristics no matter who you are. The feelings of grief do not discriminate by gender, race or socio-economics. I believe that the emotions of grief are somewhat universal. Yet, our own grief is unique to each of us. It’s ours. No one person feels the exact same way about losing their person.
We widowed people understand one another without words or explanation because we have lived through those lonely nights that we thought would swallow us whole. We have nearly crawled out of our skin yearning for the touch of our person. We have gasped for breathe because of the permanence of our situation. Their absence is forever – for the rest of our lives – and this changes everything about our future. Hence, we have been brought to our knees. We have laid on the cold, hard floor sobbing and wishing this was not our reality. We each know exactly how these things feel because we have done these things many, many times since they died. Thankfully, grief is fluid. The rawness of grief changes with time; but surviving the initial months of grief is something that is etched into your Soul. Outliving the person you love is something that changes you forever…
As time goes on, my grief has softened around the edges; and, for the most part, I appear to be “okay” – except that I’m not. And, recently, I have accepted that this is the way life is for me right now. And, I am okay – that I’m not okay.
I think that this is part of grief – to just accept that you are changed and working towards a future that you can’t yet imagine. In grief, one must just breathe and have faith that things will work out – eventually. I now know that there is nothing I can do to “heal” myself – other than just live. I have to live the best way I can, and I must learn to forgive myself when I exist poorly some moments. Ironically, whether I like it or not, Mike’s death is teaching me about living.
In the first years, I found that I was continuously lost in my own thoughts. I spent hours imagining the future that we wanted to live together. I wasted far too much time wishing things were different. And, I also spent a lot of time convincing myself that his death was actually real. Now, at 3.5 years, I am aware of the realness of Mike’s death. I no longer doubt its truth. In my mind, I have accepted that he died and I am working on fully accepting his death in my heart.
I still miss Mike. This will never change. I think of him all through the day; especially, now during the isolation Covid19 is forcing upon us all. And, I still continue to imagine our future together. I wonder what it would be like to be with Mike while I shelter in place. I think about how much he would love spending all this time with me. I think of him and I miss him so very much; but, the intensity of my grief is notably lighter than it was when I first wrote this blog in 2018 when Mike had been dead for only 1.7 years. This is not to say that time has “healed” me. It hasn’t. Time does not cancel out intense grief. It can’t.
Time does make grief grow softer, but it does not erase it altogether. I do not miss Mike less now because of the passage of time. Grief doesn’t work like that. No matter how much time passes, I continue to miss him because he is missing from my future. I will miss Mike endlessly. And, now, I accept that this will be my affliction for the rest of my life. With time, I have just learned how to live with the emptiness inside me a little better. I’m more practiced at being his widow and it shows. There has been progress in the way I carry my grief, thankfully.
Still, I can not believe how drastically different my life is without him. I still ask myself “NOW WHAT?” … What the hell am I supposed to do without him? I don’t have the answer. In truth, I have more questions than answers and I think that’s okay for right now. It has to be because it is what I’ve got.
Maybe, I will find the answers to the questions I ask in the stillness and in the quiet of the lockdown Covid19 has created. Maybe, while distancing from others, I will become closer to myself. And, perhaps, I will “hear” what my Soul has to say while I retreat into mandatory solitude. Maybe, I will figure out the direction of my life when I am forced to be alone – sheltering in place without the man I love.
Mike dying has affected every part of my life. I have learned that in grief nothing is sacred. Every bit of me has been affected by his death. Nothing, not one, thing has been left untouched. The way I live is forever changed because he died. And, as I type this, I wonder how time will alter the affect his death has on me. I wonder how his death will feel to me in 5 years? 10 years? or even 20 years from now? I guess only time will tell…
Outliving your spouse affects every single part of your life. In short order, your whole existence must be rearranged. Since Mike died, I’ve had to become: a spider killer, a barbecuer, a moss killer, a plumber to name just a few of my new jobs. I do not want to do these things, but I don’t have a choice in the matter. Mike is dead and I am the one who is tasked with these things now. Formerly, I did not have to do any of these jobs, but because Mike has died these tasks now fall under my charge whether I know what I am effing doing or not. When your spouse dies no one gives you a manual that outlines side-stepping all these new responsibilities or the darkness of grief. Grief, like these new “jobs” is something that must be done. You need to rise to the challenge and learn new skills because there is no other option.
My new life requires me to adapt and take on new responsibilities. And, concurrently, grief demands my time. I need to absorb the ache of my grief into my being. To be successful, I have to be an active participant in my life and in my grief. Time alone can and does not relieve my sadness. Yes, time has softened the edges of my emptiness. Yes, time has given me more experience living with his absence. But, time itself has not “healed” me.
As time goes on, I am continuing to rebuild and restructure my life. With time, I am gathering more momentum. I am creating joy around the emptiness inside me. And, slowly, the hole in my heart feels slightly less gaping. Yet, nothing – so far – can fill the emptiness. Eventually, I know that I will build a solid life around my loss. However, I think that there will always be a small sense of him missing that will always be present. I don’t think it is escapable.
Years ago, my dear friend Maureen suggested that I build not around my emptiness, but around the LOVE that Mike gave me. I liked her idea. Today, I still remember her wise words. I am continuing to build around all the love he gave me; and I eventually, somehow, I will create a new life worth living. I’m not there yet, not even close; but, this is the direction I am heading…
So far, I have concluded that there will always be a place in my heart where I keep Mike. His physical absence does not lessen the love between us. In fact, I think our love is even more profound. Our love has grown even stronger because it is reduced to its purest form. Now, it is just LOVE. There is no longer anything physical to our love, it is simply love itself.
Ours was a beautiful love and it still is. However, in my heart, I know that I need a physical love in this dimension. A type of love that Mike can no longer give to me. I know that I can not live the rest of my life with the love of a dead man as my only source of love. I need a tangible love. I used to feel awful admitting this; but, 3.5 years later, I am okay with this. I wish Mike’s love could continue to be enough, but for me it just isn’t. For me, part of recreating a new life includes new love and I am at peace with saying this.
So, as I live forward,
I will build a new life – around Mike’s love.
And, while doing this, I will find love with a man who is not him.
I know that this will not be easy.
But, I also know that it is possible.
As I move forward, I will continue to love Mike in his absence.
And, at the same time, I will continue to LIVE – without him.
Our Love is Eternal.
And, after all these years,
I realize that my grief will be with me forever too.
My longing for Mike will remain with me, in some capacity, forever.
I don’t know much, but I know that LOVE is stronger than sadness or grief, or anything else in this world.
And, this is why I know that one day I will truly be “okay”,
*Written: JUNE 25, 2018 Edited: April 26, 2019