Here we are. We come to this place every year. An anniversary.
There are plenty of anniversaries to be had – job anniversaries, wedding anniversaries, home-buying anniversaries – but this particular anniversary is a death anniversary. Specifically, it’s my husband’s death anniversary.
Which leads to my yearly rumination of exactly how does one celebrate a death anniversary? Do you put on all black and hope others will notice and join in your sorrow? Do you plan something your lost one would love and try not to think about the irony that they aren’t here to enjoy it?
I’m still not sure, but as I write this morning – 41 minutes from the moment my husband took his last breath four years ago – it seems like the proper time to reflect on all I have learned while on this journey.
Four Years as a Widow
In no particular order, here’s some of what I’ve learned in the past four years since my husband died:
People will disappear. Not just any people, but the people you would have thought were most likely to help. These people will often say, ‘You’re doing great and your husband would be proud,’ as if that absolves them from providing any further assistance.
Other people with appear from the sidelines with food and comfort and house cleaning supplies. You will wonder what you did to deserve such amazing and supportive friends, and they will make up for the people who leave you hanging.
Grief is a physical sensation.
When you are caregiving for someone terminally ill, you’ll often think, ‘Later, I’ll have so much free time.’ You’ll fill up a lot of that free time staring at the wall.
No matter how much time you’ve had to prepare, you’ll still stare at your husband’s unbreathing body and think, ‘WTF just happened?’
There comes a point in grief when simply getting out of bed and brushing your hair is a major victory.
The logistics of raising five children alone are exhausting.
The loneliness of ending each day without someone to check in with is profound.
You will want to die. And you won’t tell anyone because you are terrified of someone calling CPS and causing more trauma.
Then, one day you’ll realize you no longer dream about missing the curves while driving alone.
You will forget what your husband’s voice sounds like, and you’ll try not to think too much about that.
Throughout this journey, people will say the wrong things, but it won’t bother you because you know it comes from a place of genuine love.
Someday, you’ll wake up and realize this is your life now. And instead of feeling depressed or angry or bewildered, you’ll think “It’s ok.”
But you’ll never stop crying.