One of the most difficult parts of the mourning process many widowed people experience is the loss of future occasions including holidays and anniversaries. We find ourselves listening to long-time married friends, family members and colleagues as they speak glowingly of their trips and celebrations of decades spent in togetherness. While we are truly happy to hear of these special milestones, it inevitably serves as a reminder that we are not to have them for ourselves.
Many of my close friends have been married to the same person for 35 plus years which is admirable. As I’ve shared with you, my own late husband Rich passed just weeks after we’d celebrated 25 years of marriage at the New Jersey shore location where we began our lives together. And yes, I too shared that joy with others, admittedly, as everyone should.
As I’ve also shared in previous posts, in the course of the last five years In addition to Rich, I’d also lost my only sister, Manette, and most recently in May, her son,Zac, a kid that I’d help raise like a son. My youngest brother, Matt, passed in 2005. More than family members, they were my curators of sacred holiday memories and those seemingly mundane, yet extraordinary memories of ordinary days. In retrospect, they are no longer so ordinary.
In the space of two years, I’ve been at the forefront of emptying our family home of 60 plus years in Hackensack, NJ, and the home at the Jersey Shore in which Rich and I lived for nearly 25 years. In addition during that time span, I’ve also moved my parents to and from their home to two Assisted Living facilities in Georgia and Florida. Sometimes I can’t even remember for which part of these moves Rich was still with us. Grief blurs timelines.
These losses of physical space can also evoke mourning and there have been times that I’ve been so homesick for my old neighborhoods that I’m overwhelmed by a desire to move north. It passes when I realize those are just memories influencing me and those “places” no longer exist as they do in my mind. It also helps to think about the cold and snow that I DO NOT miss.
On this Thanksgiving holiday, one of the things I was most thankful for was spending time with my parents who will celebrate their 65th Wedding Anniversary tomorrow. I’m grateful that they are able to live together in a lovely facility located on Amelia Island in Northern Florida where they receive good care from a dedicated staff and have adapted well to so many lifestyle changes.
With its mix of palm trees, moss draped Live Oaks, and mild temperatures, life, and holidays celebrations held in this location have their benefits, but It’s a huge contrast to those family filled holiday events we enjoyed up in New England and New Jersey over the decades.
Being from a family of 42 first cousins, those holiday gatherings were far from quiet. Later, we’d enjoyed beautiful holiday feasts at my later sister’s home in Hackensack with my siblings and their children. Despite what everyone says, the passage of time makes the longing for those days even stronger. They do not fade away.
Years ago I read a quote that imparted, “Every day’s a holiday; some holidays are better than others.” The attribution is unknown, but my take on this is that even during the worst days of our lives, we can find something to celebrate. We do our best with what we still have in the moment. But it isn’t always that easy. Forging new paths is difficult. I’ve learned to be patient with those who offer advice to those of us who are experiencing something of which they can have no concept. My advice to those who have NO idea of what it’s like to reboot a life after a sudden life-altering loss of a life partner is to please understand that often, especially during holidays, we are just crawling from the wreckage and making the best with what we have left as we try to move peacefully forward…while genuinely appreciating the anniversaries and milestones of others.
Enjoy the season and thank you for reading, and following as I navigate Year Two of the WOW (World of Widowhood) and forge new paths.