Got this for Tim our last Christmas. We both loved Doctor Who. I need to get a matching Tardis

In a week I’ll turn 32. This time last year, I just wanted my 30th year to be over. I figured no matter what, 31 would be better than 30… and it has been better. Now I apprehensively approach my birthday, and I can’t help thinking that I feel old these days. There is so much behind me at this point, and even more hiding in the blurry future beyond my peripheral.

30th Birthday, 2014

When Tim first died, I thought time would bring closure. It doesn’t. Closure is a myth. People are as desperate to see it as they are a miracle, and it’s as intangible as God. I have given up the pursuit of closure.

Though time hasn’t brought me the answers or closure I wanted, it has given clarity. I married a fantastic person who loved me wholly through a sickness that took his life. It wasn’t weakness that killed him. His disease cannot undermine the amount of strength it took him to fend off his darkness for so long and be successful in many different ways. I take some credit for that success, because Tim and I made each other better.

At this point in my process, I can find joy in reminders of him instead of only pain. This happens often on Facebook through their “On this Day” notifications. Sometimes they show a picture of him doing something ridiculous, and I get a small flutter of joy because I loved the person in that photograph. He was the smartest person I knew, a total goofball and one of maybe five people I could be my total, unfiltered self with. I spent almost ten years with that person, and man – what a gift that was.

I talk about him often, to friends who knew him well and those he never met. They’re little stories that make me smile and showcase his stubborn, questioning nature. A timely one is about when Tim learned the truth about Santa Claus. In his version of this story, he’s around five or six years old and asking his Dad questions.

“Is Santa real?” he asks.

“Well, it’s a make-believe story adults tell children to celebrate the magic of Christmas.”

“So just a story?”

“Yes, just a story some people believe in.”

“Cool. Just like Jesus then?”

“Er…”

And that was the day  my late husband became an atheist.

Christmas 2009

It’s easy for me to talk about Tim, effortless even. He’s as deeply ingrained in my life as my love of horses or passion for writing. You can’t separate things out – they’re just me. What’s harder is the tone I take when I talk about him. I know better, but I talk about Tim like he’s away on a long trip. It’s hard for me not to tack on, Just wait till you meet him! 

Sometimes I make myself remember. This is the person you loved the most, and he is not coming back. He is not replaceable. He drifts further away from you. When I entertain this thought spiral, all of the “bravery” others have pegged me with disappears and I am the same sniveling, broken person I was eighteen months ago. I take comfort where I can. Now that it’s cold out, I wrap up in the quilt made from his t-shirts. In those moments, I address him out loud like I did in the first weeks after his death, “I miss you so much.” Then I blow my nose, dry my eyes and go to sleep to start the next day with a smile whether I feel like it or not.

The truth is, nights like the one described above are rare these days. He drifts away, and I am torn in-between wanting to hold on to this grief forever and needing to let it go. When the person is dead, the ashes are scattered and many belongings have been re-purposed grief is the only thing that is left. If I’m not grieving him, what am I? If I’m not always sad, who was he to me?

Christmas 2012

No one can grieve forever though, no matter how great the loss. The mind protects itself by dulling the image of that person, and washing over the darkest moments. My eyes, even if they are tired from crying the night before, begin to focus on new people. I have one foot in the past, and one in the future. I spend as many days being confused about my new life as I do grieving my old one.

When you’re faced with a tragedy like mine, there are three options: you can deal with a lot of bullshit in the attempts to start your life over, you can settle to be unhappy or you can die. Dying was never an option. I’m attempting to start over, but it’s not easy. Right now I’m living every meme of “me trying to get my life together” that you’ve ever seen. The one that comes to the forefront of my mind is the baby horse trying to stand up straight on the ice.

Most days I am happy enough. My battle right now is not to exist or not, but how I can thrive again. I don’t know. I’m told it’s foolish to think my best days are behind me, but it’s hard to believe otherwise.

The truth is I learned to live without hope
as well as I could, almost happily,
in the despoiled and radiant now.

– Stephen Dunn, A Postmortem Guide 

Christmas 2014

Those lines from the same poem I printed on the sheet at my husband’s memorial sum up my life right now. I am scared to hope for anything. I’m going through the motions, but I am afraid.

14 COMMENTS

  1. Hope is creeping back in your life. I see it from time to time. It peaks out for a moment. And you smile. And we smile. And the moment passes. But it’s there. A glimmer of hope.

  2. I often struggle on how to respond- I want to reach out (a virtual hand) but I don’t want to sound patronizing or give a pep talk. So this is what I have learned and it’s probably bullshit because I spend too much time thinking and have no claims to any wisdom.

    I have found that there is no one path through grief. In fact there is no path at all. There’s just taking that in and figuring out how it has become part of you. I don’t believe that there is letting go of grief, there’s just absorption. He will always be a part of you. Grief is not always pain, there is joy in it too because the person you loved brought you joy.

  3. It’s hard for many of us to stop focusing on the destination, and realize that life is what we see and do on our way. I’m especially guilty of that, and I work all the time to try to embrace that <3

  4. Beautiful. But, you are wrong about grief being the only thing left! You even say so yourself when you describe how pictures of him doing goofy things make you smile and telling stories about him make you laugh. Hopefully, the grief will subside more and more as both you and the grief are ready to move on. Then, I hope, you will be left with the memories, pictures, and stories to hold on to, and yes, maybe a little tiny bit of grief as well. You’ll always have those parts of him that as you say are ingrained in you 🙂 And maybe, just maybe, death IS a long trip? How are those of us on earth to know? I consider myself agnostic, and I imagine that our energy has to go somewhere after it leaves our bodies – even though I have no idea where that is. Anyway, just my thoughts on your thought 🙂 Hugs, puppies, alcohol, & ponies ♡♡♡

  5. You grieve when it feels right and move on when you can. There is no set path for healing, or deadline for when you absolutely must be there. It’s not like the train is leaving Right Now! and if you’re not there to be on it, you’re stuck in griefland another day, week or month.

    I think people get all caught up in what they expect it *should* be like, but when they are the one in the middle of it all, they realize how far off base their previous ideas and perceptions are. Healing is a personal thing. I love it that you are embracing how lucky you are to have had the fun and good memories with Tim while you could. Those are certainly things he would want you to remember and cherish.

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