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I ran across a blog post on Friday that seemed interestingly timed given that I’ve felt the same way many times before. A few days after the 6th anniversary of Jim’s death, it was as if I had stumbled across it for a reason. I’m not really sure what the reason is, but when I read it, I felt like I could have written it. The author is addressing the fact that it has been 32 months since she’s been part of a relationship and goes through the things that she hasn’t done/had since becoming a widow.

As is often the case, I succumbed to the one-upsmanship I sometimes use, either as a defense or as a way to keep what happened to me in the top position as the “worst possible thing, ever!” because that’s what I feel it is. “32 months?” my crazy brain said to itself, “try 72. When it’s been 72 months, THEN you can talk about missing all of those things. Because I was at 32 months 3 and a half years ago. It’s not all that bad for you now…let’s talk when you hit 72. IF you hit 72.” I realize that thinking is absolutely nuts. This is not a contest. But I think what got to me was the position of how horribly long that had been and oh poor thing would she ever be told she was beautiful or be held ever again. IT’S BEEN 32 MONTHS! IT HASN’T BEEN THAT LONG. 72 MONTHS?? THIS IS AN ETERNITY!!

The thing is, I’ve felt all of those same things she mentions.

“But even knowing this, I am still in that place mentally where I would rather remain in love with him, dead, than even consider or think about loving someone else, alive. Why do I feel like this? Is it because our love was so great and so special, that I fear it impossible to ever find such a thing again? Yes. Is it because I am terrified that I will never fall in love again, in that all-encompassing way, like I was in love with him? Yes. Is it because I am scared that I will fall in love again, and then he will die too? Yes. Is it because I am afraid that I will go searching for love again, and finally decide to open my heart, only to never ever find it, and have nobody ever love me again for the rest of my life?” – Kelley Lynne, on Widow’s Voice

And all of this just serves to make me think that I’m irreparably broken somehow. A big part of me would like to have the relationship things I used to have. But a bigger part of me doesn’t want anything to do with being vulnerable. Being part of a relationship opens up the possibility that one day that relationship might end. I realize that’s a horrible and unhealthy way to live life. I don’t feel that way every day, but it does creep in whenever there’s even a glimmer of a thought about starting something new. It doesn’t feel safe to me.

I’m feeling broken again, and I don’t know where I left the Super Glue. This will probably pass in a few weeks, as April 6th gets farther away. After it passes, I’d like to stick it in a box and burn it.

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Scarring and Signs

I happened across this passage today while I was wasting time. It says well what I’ve been thinking about scarring over the wound of grief.

“You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.” ~Anne Lamott

My scar is getting thicker. The sadness isn’t as close to the surface or as raw as it has been. The Christmas season is happier this year. Part of it might be that Hadley is so into the whole thing. And part of it might be that the blessing part of the life and love I used to have is starting to burn brighter than the loss of it. The loss is still there, believe me, and some days it will not be denied. What I’ve realized is that I need to embrace it when it comes. Accept that it’s there, welcome it into the room. Fall to the floor and cry my heart out, then get back up and keep going. There is no shame in sadness and grief. I sometimes feel uncomfortable letting people see that part of me, but it IS a part of me and it’s partially responsible for who I am now.

I started to think about scarring about a week ago. I don’t remember what started it. Maybe it was just introspection. But, as has happened many times over the past years, in the following days, I had a reminder that not feeling so sad doesn’t mean that I’m putting Jim or the memories away. As I drove through a random parking lot, I saw a person wearing a coat that looked like one he used to have, walking the same way he used to walk, wearing a similar hat, and with similar facial features. It was as if he was saying, “it’s okay to be happy…to continue to move forward. I am always going to be with you.”

I might not be ready to dance with the limp yet, but I’m walking a lot better.

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I’ve been struggling with this faith thing for quite a while, trying to make sense out of what happened. Trying to figure out how to reconcile myself to the reality. Trying to figure out where I am in terms of religion and belief. For Hadley, I’ve been fully supporting the idea of heaven and that the spirits of those who have passed are always with us. I mostly believe that, but part of me feels like I’m being a bit dishonest. So I’ve been trying to find a church that feels like it fits, hoping that when I find that…actually, I don’t know what I’m trying to find. Comfort, maybe?  When I decided to try another church today, I didn’t think about this Sunday being All Saints Sunday.

“Lost love is still love, Eddie. It takes a different form, that’s all. You can’t see their smile or bring them food or tussle their hair or move them around a dance floor. But when those senses weaken, another heightens. Memory. Memory becomes your partner. You nurture it. You hold it. You dance with it. Life has to end. Love doesn’t.” (“The Five People You Meet in Heaven,” Mitch Albom)

A portion of the message was about the blessing of mourning. I’ve never thought of it that way. The mourning exists because of the loss of a love. We are blessed because we got to experience that love. It is awful that it is gone. It is an unfathomable pain that no one can ever be prepared for. But if the only way to have less pain is to have had less love, it’s not worth it. I used a passage from Khalil Gibran’s “The Prophet” at Jim’s funeral. It addresses the same idea. I’ve read it many times; today is the first time I’ve thought about it in terms of a blessing.

“When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”

But I say unto you, they are inseparable.

Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.

Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.” (“The Prophet,” Khalil Gibran)

I don’t think the church was the right fit, but I’m glad we went today. It was a message I needed to hear.

 

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A few months ago, one of my friends brought up the thought that maybe it was time for me to stop wrapping myself in solitude. I hadn’t really seen that I was doing that; I was just going through my days, doing what I needed to do to keep life moving for Hadley and me. But she was right. Just like with my walls, wrapping myself in just the two of us is a grand way to protect everything. When it’s just us, there’s no vulnerability, no chance of hurt feelings, misunderstandings, everything else that happens in every relationship, whether friend, coworker, partner, etc. I once told someone that anytime another person is a part of the equation, suddenly the situation is unpredictable. You can’t control another person.  They have their own thoughts and opinions.  The only way to have things exactly how you want them is to never add a person to the equation.

Of course, who wants to go through life that way? Human interaction is what makes things interesting. Different ideas, people to share things with…friends are what help people get through the crap. They show up, whether you realize that you need them or not. So my resolve started to thaw. Not thawing so much to consider dating, but to at least be more open to making new friends. She’s pretty smart, this friend of mine.

And then the whatever it is happens. The unpredictable, the perceived slight. And suddenly being open doesn’t sound so grand. So the freeze comes back. Being alone isn’t so bad. The family I do have is all I need. Being a mom, going to work, managing to keep the plates up…that’s enough to deal with. Except it’s not really. It’s easier. It’s putting the wall back up. But it’s not good.

I don’t regret the past. All that has happened has made me who I am. Without Jim, there would be no Hadley. But I never imagined that I would have to deal with any of this. I don’t like it. I want to go back to happy.

 

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Walls

I am a master wall builder. I don’t really know when it started…probably high school. Isn’t that the time when all of our baggage really starts piling on? These walls are built to last, if I do say so myself.

I realize it’s a protection thing. It took Jim literally years before he was able to make even a chink in this sucker. Even when that part of the wall was down, though, not many people got to come in. I like to think that I’m open and friendly, but the truth is, the friendly part is only a portion of the real me. Over the last 5 years, I’ve rebuilt the section of the barrier that was down. There are very few who know much about me; I don’t think there’s anyone who knows everything about me. There used to be.

The crappy part is, it’s a little lonely inside a brick wall.

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It used to be my favorite month. A birthday month, what’s not to love? We got married September 22nd, my parents’ anniversary. Now, I mostly keep my head down until I can get through the month. The birthday is okay I guess, but I remember the treatment I used to get for all the birthdays we were together. It’s not the same now, obviously. It’s mostly just a day when I get older. The anniversary this year makes it one more year I’ve been alone than years we were married. Not really much point in celebrating. I’ll remember, of course, but I don’t feel like doing anything special.

I don’t look forward to September.

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One Big Forest

Over the past couple of days, I’ve been reading through my old posts. It’s a bit cathartic, in a way. The really emotional ones make me cry all over again and I realize that I am slowly making my way through. One thing struck me this time, though. There have been a lot of times when I felt like I was almost through this awful forest of grief. When I was optimistic about almost being to the other side. And still, I don’t feel like I really am. I understand that this grieving journey is different for everyone. Some find their way through in a few years, while others take a very long time…if they ever find their way through at all. I’m definitely in the slow camp. But the dark isn’t quite as dark consistently now. The scar tissue is tougher. I can answer questions about what happened without choking up. But I’m starting to think that maybe the forest doesn’t end. Maybe you just get to a thinner stand of trees. I’ll take that.

 

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