A year ago, I wrote the words that marked the beginning of my new life, the first chapter: A Widow’s Journey Begins.
A year ago, I walked blindly towards that life I was thrust into, unprepared, and numb.
My days faded one into another, a seamless blur I stumbled through semi-conscious. There was no time to think, no time to process, there was only getting up, surviving. I lived so many months in a mental and emotional fog, a pilot of someone else’s body.
The second year, I am told by those who have walked this path before me, is when the sobering reality of life hits you the hardest. As the blurred edges of existence come into focus, you are forced to face life with eyes open.
The second year is when you realize that nothing will change. You aren’t going to wake up from the bad dream. Your husband is still dead and will not be walking in the door any moment like you secretly thought he might. Life around you has moved forward with no regard to the fact that you are still rooted to the same spot.
This is it. This is the life that is now yours. What now?
I stare around me expectantly, waiting for an answer that is not coming. There are no answers, only loose ideas about what this life might look like. I am still stumbling, but only now it is with the clarity that I am doing so.
The era of the seconds has arrived. The second time my daughters will have a birthday without their father, the second time he will miss their recitals, summer vacation, back-to-school, my birthday, every holiday there ever will be. I’ve been through this once, I should be emotionally prepared. Yet, I am not. I am still consumed by anger and anxiety every time he is not there to witness and be a part of any important moment in our lives.
The sting of emotions is underscored by the disappointment in myself. I should have a better grip on these things by now, shouldn’t I? I have been here before. This is not new territory.
I received an email around the one year anniversary of my husband’s death. A well-intentioned sort of email from an acquaintance. She wanted to let me know that we were in their family’s thoughts.
I hope now that a year has passed, things are getting easier.
A year has passed.
There is a human need to measure and quantify life. We number our days by the rising and setting of the sun and mark our existence by milestones. We strive to keep a neat and orderly tally on things, people, and experiences and construct our world accordingly.
But you can’t count grief in days, or months, or by the number of holidays your loved one is missing out on. If grief is measured at all, it is in breaths and heartbeats and the ability to get back up when you find yourself on your knees, knocked senseless by relentless memories.
Yesterday, I crawled. Maybe today I will stand. Tomorrow I might run, or I might find myself lying on my closet floor, looking at a box of his shirts and wondering how I ended up sharing my life with a ghost.
We speak about grief in metaphors, but it is not a path you walk. There is no end destination, no mile markers along the way to confirm you are headed in the right direction. There is no light at the end of this tunnel. There is just more tunnel. Sometimes there is light and sometimes there is nothing but darkness.
Grief is an ocean. Some days it pushes you to the shore and allows you to lie still, letting the sun warm your face. Other days, it pulls you under and fills your lungs with salt water till they burn and you are certain you will never taste fresh air again. At some point there is only acceptance and surrender, as you learn to wait for the break between waves.
It is the beginning of year two. The scars on my heart have thickened, but they remain and have forever changed me. There is no going back, no getting past this, there is only continuing, turning the page on my next chapter.