There’s a strange phenomenon taking place in my house. It’s not a huge place. We always thought it was the perfect size, for two, and possibly a third. But I just realized, as I went upstairs to my office, that I hadn’t been up there in days. Maybe even weeks. It almost felt like I was walking into a stranger’s office…a half empty mug of coffee, dried up and hardened on the table, papers here and there, a poster had started curling off the wall. It looked abandoned. Un-lived in. Un-loved. It would seem that I’m only living in half of the house.
And then there’s the matter of the old calendar, stuck and spooling in the month of December. I can’t bring myself to take it down. While I know I should be kind and patient with myself, I can’t help but wonder about me, and my life, circling around in the twilight zone of last year. In this house, where rooms are half empty, half clean, a mess of his stuff and mine, some things have been moved, to accommodate some semblance of future as a single dweller, and some things, like the little bowl with two pills (one of the last things my husband touched) are practically cemented in place. Relics of another time.
It’s just one of the many ways of grief. You feel schitzo, splitzo. Stuck in a very uncomfortable pose, stretched between past and future, using all your strength not to go into a complete free-fall. Up against the go-get ’em slogans of our times: Change your life! Seize the day! Do you know what they tell you when you are grieving? Don’t make any big changes, lower your expectations, and don’t be surprised when friendships change. Really? I just lost my husband, now my friends, too?
Of course it’s not as simple as that, everyone experiences grief differently, but needless to say, it’s a confusing place to reside.
I really don’t know what I am going to do, with the house. Our house. My house. I struggle to get back into a routine of yoga, healing for my body, and I don’t know what I am going to do with my mental walls, either. The neglected rooms, the half decorated ones, the unfinished projects. Our unfinished life. I am trying to get it back into some sort of order. I dust off his desk, I put air in the tires of his truck, I have taken over “bird-feeder duty”, and was just rewarded by the visit of a gorgeous red cardinal and his mate. And, to be fair, to be optimistic, right next to last year’s calendar sits this year’s calendar, themed Yoga Dogs, though still unwrapped.
They just might have to live together for a while longer, the past, the future, in this precarious place, this shelter and prison, this half-occupied house, of love and loss.
Precarious place to be. No doubt. I myself was faced with decisions around this. Do I move to the house we were buying together? The one we picked out the countertops and floors for? The community we had long talked about wanting to be a part of? Or, do I stay where we had built a life together? Our first home, where all the memories live? In the community that knew us and loved us? Hard hard decisions. The point isn’t the house or the community. The point is living in the past, where I knew I was safe and happy and he was still everywhere or moving on and wondering what would happen next. Wondering if he’d stay. I chose to stay in the memories. I stayed for a year and two months, then I moved to another house about 1/2 mile away. A bigger house, a house I could build new memories.
He came with. I swear, and I mean this absolute, I turn on occasion and see his shadow. I feel like he’s here every second. He’s never forgotten and he knows it.
It’s hard not to teeter with that burden (and it is a burden). It’s hard not to beat yourself up to make a decision. I mean, living in that rollercoaster of grief makes you feel like it’s been an eternity. It makes you feel if you will EVER be better. Try not to be TOO hard on yourself. You are doing fabulous. Your focus seems to be working through it, and that’s what it takes, right–work.
On the one year anniversary (I know you have read this in my post), I bought a past, present, future ring. Again, not about the ring. It was about finding a way to connect my past with my future. That ring, a visible reminder, was just the piece I needed. I hope you find something for yourself. Maybe it isn’t jewelry, but something else.
So beautifully expressed!
My daughter’s room remains pretty much untouched. My son insists that it remain this way and while it isn’t what I want, it is what he needs and so I leave it just as she did…dirty dishes, dust, things on the floor, all of it. In the beginning it made me feel horrible to have the door open and I kept closing it. My son kept opening it. After a couple of weeks, I started opening it because the cold room reminded me of how cold my daughter’s body was and how I desperately wanted to warm her. Once I started opening the door, my son started closing it. Again, it’s what he needs so I will leave it. I guess it’s just an example of the ways that we do grieve and move through mourning uniquely.
We have agreed that when the time feels right for him, we will go through things together and fill a special trunk with the things that mean the most so we can sit in the room and be with her that way whenever we want to.
When my father passed away, my mom had his stuff, all of it, out and gone to Good Will without a second thought; ripped out the carpet, got rid of the furniture, bought a new bedroom set, within the first month! She said things like, “Thank God, I never have to iron another shirt!” Wow. I remember feeling she was being so harsh and so selfish but she had a different relationship with my dad than I did and she was doing what she needed to do. I would have liked to hug each one of his sweaters, maybe take one to snuggle up with when I miss him or when I’m sick. I would have liked to look through his dresser drawer like I did when I was a kid and he was at work. I still feel a little bummed that I didn’t get that chance.
I can’t imagine… well, I can only imagine, how it must feel to be moving through all of this on your own. The only thing I do know is that you can’t do it wrong and I admire all the ways you are doing it.
There’s an old calendar in my office too. It’s stuck on September 2012 although that month has no meaning for me. And in the next room over is a bunch of stuff laying all over the bed. Old pictures, a jewelry box that my mom gave her. It is filled with all of the jewelry that she loved. She had such pretty and small hands. And she loved rings so much. They’re still in the jewelry box. I don’t know if or when I will ever be able to go through it or get rid of it.
You’ve spoken about so many things that I can relate to even though I’m missing my sister and not a spouse. She is still someone I loved with all of my heart.
I just wanted to let you know that your blog is beautiful and I’m glad that you’re doing it. Because I think you are touching lots of hearts and helping others too.
Hugs to you, Judy. Your sister was a wonderful, special person. And you two had such an incredible friendship, I know how much she meant to you. Thank you for visiting my blog. And thanks to you, I also have the Yoga Dog calendar…to keep stearing me forward 😉
Thanks for the kind words sweetie!
When my husband first died one year ago last Friday the first few months I was absolutely sure I’d start condo shopping at the one year anniversary. I felt a strong need to escape….but the more time I spend here, the less I really want to leave. What used to make me feel sad and lonely about the house now gives me comfort. I’ve changed a few minor things like a shower curtain and throw rug, etc. and if I stay I’ll do some redecorating. But all and all I’m glad I decided not to make any major decisions about moving until I hit this anniversary. When I do make a decision about the house I don’t want to be running away from something; I want to be running TO something if that makes any sense.
Beautifully written, and it really hit close to home. I still have items from that last load of laundry sitting where I left them at the end of July. It’ll be a long, long time before I can move it. Or the book that was left on his side of the bed.
These are the hard things. Take your time; no right, no wrong way to do it. One day you’ll look at something and just know what to do; and you’ll do it. When it’s time, and not one minute sooner.
This brought tears to my eyes, touched my heart. We’ve lost different people from our lives, but grief is the same in so many ways.