It’s been nearly two months since my last post–a good deal has happened in that time including the coming and going of the third anniversary of L’s death. I spent that day here in Wisconsin doing much of what I have done on the other anniversaries–driving around and past all the places we lived, taking a long walk along the lakefront, looking through pictures and most of all playing back the awesome audio tapes he left for me so that once again his voice filled my world.
Once again I have turned my living situation on its ear–in Florida I found that I was unsettled and restless. The place I bought two years ago has never felt like ‘home’ for me even after I surrounded myself with items from the life we shared. One night I decided to make a change and so I went looking for another place to call home down there–found it–bought it–moved in and put the old place on the market. Now I wait for that to sell. L never would have done things in that order and I can only imagine that he is up there shaking his head and trying to figure out how to help me get back on a solid trail. And yet I can feel his approval–feel him saying, “Yes. This is good. This is what you need to keep moving forward.”
For that was his hope for me–that I would step by step find my way to a life I could enjoy and find peace in. He understood there would be stumbles along the way–although he clearly thought there would be bigger stumbles than there have been. This new place feels as right as my apartment in Wisconsin–it feels like me–like us–like ‘home.’
But a dwelling does not make an entire life–for that we need family and friends and human connections. I continue to work on that as well–a harder task for this introverted loner, but one that has been successful enough that I see the power of having those connections. And there is activity or work–meaningful, fulfilling. For me that is, of course, my writing. It gets me through many a tough time. Sometimes I am able to escape into the stories I am writing, but sometimes–like now–just writing down my feelings about what’s been going on in my life is therapeutic in its own way.
I know there are many of you who follow this blog who may be struggling with loneliness and the sheer agony of having to make the effort to find your way. I believe that making that effort–excruciating as it sometimes may be–is worth it. I hope you will open your hearts and minds to the possibilities around you–the hidden messages your loved one is sending your way to say, “I am here. I know it is hard, but know that I am walking with you as you make this journey.”
Hard to miss the fact that today marks one year since L’s death. Friends have been overwhelmingly concerned and supportive as the day approached–today there have been calls and cards and wonderful vibes of their love and support surrounding me.
Last night I found myself reliving those final hours and counting my blessings that I was with him and that it was just the two of us at home as he had always wanted. He was so afraid that he would die in hospital–he hated that idea.
I also found myself looking back over this last year and realizing how I have found my way–sometimes with sadness and even anger; most times with the assurance that I was moving forward as L had wanted me to–that I honor his life by moving on with mine. At the same time I know that I have more “promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep” on this journey. In some ways marking this anniversary makes tomorrow feel like a new beginning–a second year–perhaps a little like the freshman in college feels having completed that first year and moving on feeling more experienced and equipped to handle what may come.. There are–I am certain– many more lessons to be learned, many more tests to be endured, many more slips and slides that will make me cringe. The one thing I know for sure is that L has kept his promise to be there with me every step of the way. I feel his presence, hear his laughter as well as his concern with every decision I make. And with that in mind I look back on a year that has gone by with excruciating slowness and at the same time seems impossible to believe. Wasn’t it just yesterday???
Here are a few of the lessons I learned on my journey–year one:
- The need to fill in the time gaps—times when I would have been doing something with/for L—planning dinner, watching TV, going to doctor appointments, picking up meds, setting up social dates, working on newsletter for his volunteer work, talking, laughing—even arguing. Hours and hours every day that were suddenly empty and without purpose.
- The disbelief lingered all year—there are still days when I am in the middle of something and I simply cannot believe that he is never coming back.
- The restructuring—of the rooms in the house, of plans for each day-week-month, of relationships suddenly shifted by the absence of L.
- The loss of self-identity—who am I now? (That’s actually the title of a song added to the film: FUNNY GIRL!) Who will I become? How will I achieve that?
- The surprises – travel held little appeal; buying the place in Florida felt incredibly “right”; the fact that I could continue to work—lose myself in the stories and characters for hours each day was a surprise and a blessing.
- The physical worries—what if something happened? How would EMTs get in? Who would they call? The weight gain. The disinterest in eating and so the improper diet. (Plan for start of year 2 = health/weight.)
- The friends—who was there throughout the year—and who was not. The wonderful gifts of friendships that blossomed where they had been only buds before.
- The ongoing confusion about how I was “supposed” to feel–was I grieving enough? There was always a bit of “survivor” guilt going on and it does linger.
- How to explain that although I am doing “fine” I am still a work in progress and what is “fine” today may have shattered by tomorrow. A pronouncement of some future plan or intent made today may be taken back tomorrow or next week.
- The connection to others through this blog and in books and in real life. The comfort of knowing that there is no formula–no right or wrong–for finding the road through grief.
- The acceptance that for decades I have lived in a couples world and while those ties are strong and unbreakable, the fact remains that I need to find ways to broaden my world–to do the very thing that L feared I would not do: reach out to others.
With so much yet to do–I suspect that the entries to this blog will be ever less prolific–but I will continue to record the journey and I hope that it will continue to comfort and support.