It’s the little things

It will be 17 months on the 29th of this month.  I’ve had to deal with a lot of the big things that changed after  Kevin died.  Looking after the house on my own, paying the bills, facing everyday without him.  Unavoidable, unrelenting reality.  You can’t not face it and still be considered sane.

Thus, over the course of time, most everyday things go back to a state of routine.  Newly created out of necessity, but still a state of routine.  Sometimes there is a flash of sadness, anger or resentment about it, especially when something isn’t going right, but overall, it becomes just the way it is.

Always, though, there are those things that come out of nowhere.  Unprepared, they are like a sucker punch, you just didn’t see it coming.  It’s okay when you are alone or out of public sight, but when it happens at work, or someplace public, it is just darn awkward.

This week a coworker returned to the workplace after having been off due to the death of an aged parent.  Sorrow is still sorrow and I know that, but the selfish side of me is bitter, and I feel ripped off.  I don’t begrudge the sorrow of my coworker,  I just hate the unfairness of it all, why does one person live to a ripe old age and not another?  The force of my emotion surprised me.  I am embarrassed that I can’t express my sympathy and ashamed that I feel the way I do.

It’s these types of things that make me realize that, although on the outside I may appeared healed and on the path to closure, actually I’m still far, far away from the even keel I so want.  I want my composure back, securely fitted, so that it doesn’t slip off revealing anything raw or weak or ugly.   When things are going along smoothly, without any ripples, I almost believe I am there.  Then, it just takes one little thing, and that little thing can come from just about any direction.

Can you ever have what you had before?

This is a question I have had float in my brain on many occasions.  When something is so good, so special, and the feeling so amazing, and in that moment you feel confident, strong and sure and intensely aware of the fact that you are in a very good place.  It happens throughout life, sometimes associated with the ‘firsts’ that we experience, other times when the stars seem to align in all the right ways.

I’ll answer my own question because I have thought about it many times before.  Life keeps moving forward so, no, you can’t ever have what you had before.  You can, and will, have new moments to savour, enjoy and cherish while living in the present.  Right now, at this very moment, you can work to sustain what you have or you can set out to create something new.   There is no going back.

I guess those few words are key: ‘living in the present’.  It’s a choice that has to be made after a loss, whether the loss is of a job, a relationship, or the death of someone dear.  To stop or to start.  To stop living, experiencing and feeling.  It’s easy, believe me, to stop looking forward, to want to stay in the past where things were known and established.  In this state, the pain of loss becomes familiar and there is no room for anything else.  To start living again opens up the potential of new experiences, feelings and, of course, hurt.  It means one has to reconcile what the past meant and continues to mean with what the expectations of the present and the future are.

For me, no, I can’t ever have what I once had, and that’s my great loss.  But I am coping with it; better as time goes on.  Sadly though, having gone through what I have, I realize that a great many people in this world don’t appreciate or cherish what they do have.  It’s a matter of slowing down now, to enjoy the moment, before life harshly forces one to stop.  When that happens, it seems the universal response is to look back at what once was, hopefully without regrets.

Just In Passing

During the last week or so I have had some conversations, minor ones – basically asides, with colleagues at work, conversations that have stayed with me. I’ve thought about what was said over and over again; it has become a sort of validation for me. You see, it’s been 13 months since Kevin died and I still have awful days, days where I miss him so much I get that fullness in my chest and ache near my heart, where it’s hard to breathe and all I want to do is hide. When I get like this I feel like I must be weaker than most people, I feel ashamed, after all, shouldn’t I be holding it together better by now.

These conversations that I had recently, and I initiated them all, spoke to the hardship and ongoing adjustments death leaves in its wake. When I asked one co-worker how her sister was doing (her sister’s husband had died shortly after Kevin), she hesitated and I could hear the catch in her voice. She told me that it is still a struggle and that her sister’s journey continues to be painful, a pain she too was feeling judging by her tone and the sadness in her voice as she spoke. Another co-worker lost a sibling just before Kevin died, and again, when I inquired, the response spoke of turmoil and the waves of profound loss still resonating through the family.

I spoke with one of the members from my grief group that I happened to meet, by chance, at the bank. Our conversation was brief, but very connected. It’s hard to describe what I mean by a ‘connected’ conversation; to me it goes beyond language, a shared experience that creates a multilevel exchange of communication. There is the shared touch, we always touch each other, the intent gaze between us and then the conversation itself. Even the conversation is different. The question “how are you” is a meaningful one, a loaded one; we share loss, pain, confusion and loneliness. The answer to that question is very important.

For bystanders who might witness one of these exchanges, the conversation might seem disjointed, because there are no parameters around what is next said when you are speaking with a fellow traveler through bereavement. What is next said is usually “big” in the grief journey. For her, when I saw her last week, it was, “I wore his hat in the garden.” She always wore his hat before he died, it was a game they played; she couldn’t for the longest time, last week she did. My response back was, “I went to the cottage.” Our own code – plain, bald statements of small personal successes.

So yes, here I am 13 months later, and some days I feel like it is two steps forward, one step back. I want it to be all steps forward, even if they are baby steps, but it just isn’t happening yet. Life is still not normal for me. I haven’t fully developed or accepted my ‘new’ normal yet. When I hear that others are as messed up as me, it doesn’t make me feel better and it’s not comforting. It just is – statement of fact. Some cope well, some don’t.  Some days I am in the former group, others the latter.  That’s the hard part, not knowing what the day will bring.






Death or Divorce

I met an acquaintance the other day.  I was  out shopping and met up with a woman I hadn’t seen in about two years.  The last time I had seen her she was going through a very public divorce. Married about 25 years, her husband had strayed and the rift was irreparable.  She was shell-shocked when it happened and closeted herself away.  I remember the whole ugly beginning well.  Then I descended into my own world of hurt and pain where there was no room to think about other people’s problems.

I saw her at the store I was in and stopped her to say hi.  I don’t think she wanted to, something I could sympathise with, but I stopped her anyway.  She had no idea that my husband had died; I had no idea that she was still in her own personal hell.  When we started to talk it was crazy, the words wouldn’t come out fast enough.  She was sorry, I was sorry, we were both sad.

I think though that I may have been in a better place than her.  The man I loved had died, an awful tragic thing, but he died surrounded by love and still giving love.  For her, she loved a man who had rejected her, who had pushed her away and out of his life, and her hurt went so deep.  She’d sustained emotional damage and it had undermined her sense of self-worth and self-value.  She is still at a very low point, feeling inadequate – about what, she has no clue.  She’s been replaced in his life, completely, and the hurt from the realization that all their time together ended up meaning nothing to him has left her devastated.

In my own twisted mind this supports the notion that for my future it’s better to be alone.  The sorrow and grief I felt after Kevin’s death is indescribable.  I have no desire to ever go through it again.  I mentioned this to my friend and she immediately responded to the contrary.  “More than anything,” she said, “more than anything I want to find someone to love me, really care about me, and share my life.”  I must have looked astonished, after all her divorce had been epic, because she carried on, stating that, really, all she wanted to do was just get it right.

Maybe, in my case, I got it right the first time and that’s the difference.  Maybe I will feel differently as time goes on.  Or maybe I won’t.  Maybe I’m crazy or maybe she is.  Who knows?  You make the decisions that are right for you.  At the end of the day, you just have to do what’s right for you.





The New World Order

There are lots of things that you realize, feel or miss after losing a spouse or someone close.  There are some soft things and some hard things.  Conversation, shared meals, watching movies, hugs, glances – those are soft things.  Income, chores, family responsibilities – those are hard things – things that require decision making, effort and action, things with consequences.

When Kevin died, over half of our annual income went.  I became responsible for all the expenses and payments related to where and how I live.  I also inherited oversight for every single chore associated with my home and I became the sole parent of three grown children.

There are days when this can all seem so overwhelming, and then there are days when I don’t even think about it.  The other day I stood in my driveway and looked around and felt overwhelmed – the property is large and, for one minute, I thought ‘just get rid of the place.’ The next day was sunny and bright and, as I walked up the driveway returning from walking the dog, I thought, ‘gosh I love this place.’

That pretty much sums up how it is – day by day.  Right now it’s a love-hate thing I have going on; some days I love being surrounded by the things we worked hard to achieve, other days they just represent chores to be done.  My least favourite: I hate taking out the garbage – just hate it, but I always did.  Thing was, Kevin would do it.  Now it’s just on me.  Some weeks when garbage day comes around I go to a dark place; I slam the bins around and drag them to the curb, head back inside and feel sorry for myself.  Other weeks, I am resigned to my new duties, and so I might have a conversation with Kev in my mind.   I know if he was around he’d tell me to get over it, that it is stupid to waste any energy on a task that has to be done.  That if he was here he’d do it, but he’s not, so to figure it out.

I am figuring things out and I know it.  Doesn’t make it any easier and it doesn’t mean that I like it.  But I am going with the flow.