I once read an article written by a woman after her husband died. During the time he was dying they had talked about what her future would look like after he was gone. The woman asked her husband how she would be able to survive after he died. Her husband’s answer was that the first year would be terrible and the second one would also be hard, but by the third year she would begin coming out of the darkness. She would once again be able to see the possibility of a future for herself.
The thought of being able to surface from the darkness seemed like an impossibility to me at the time and yet here I am, seeing cracks of light in my future when I look hard enough.
By some miracle I have survived 730 days without Ben, and I find myself standing on the precipice of year three.
In my wildest dreams I never imagined that this would be my life. The death of your spouse is not something that is remotely fathomable until it is suddenly your most unwanted reality. This is not the life I asked for, but since I haven’t woken up from it yet I have to believe that it is apparently not a dream, but is in fact the actual hand of life that I was dealt. What matters now is what I do with the rest of it. I know that.
I miss Ben. I want to hold tightly to every moment and every memory I ever had with him, but the truth is that I can feel my past life moving a bit further behind. With each passing day I can feel my grip loosen slightly on the memories our 22 years together.
For those of you who haven’t experienced loss, let me tell you … discovering that any memories of your past life with your spouse (good or bad) are fading away is terrifying. When I forget a detail (who was that red haired guy we were in training with? What was the name of that kid who lived across the street from us in Sechelt? Who was at the hospital when Zak was born? … ) there is no longer anyone in the world who remembers and can fill in the gaps accurately. That is rather frightening unless, of course, I want to re write the story of my life. (Remember the time in 1994 when I was crowned Miss Sunshine Coast? Remember when I ran that marathon? Remember when I saved that infant from a burning fire?) There is no one around to argue with my “recollection.” That part could be fun. Maybe.
Loosening my grip on the memories of nine months of suffering is probably a good thing for my sanity, and I am finding more room for the happy memories as the painful ones fade. But overall I find it terrifying that I’m starting to forget any part of our life together, as though a grip loosened on the past may mean that it never actually happened. I am conflicted between feeling scared that forgotten pain means Ben’s memory is being left behind, and feelings of relief over not being able to feel that stabbing ache as intensely as I once did. It’s hard to breathe when you’re holding onto all that pain and suffering.
I can’t release my grip on the pain until I ease my grip on the past. There’s a lot of confliction going on for me right now.
The two years that have passed since Ben died have held a lot of heartbreak. Some relationships have been irreparably broken and some have just mysteriously faded away. (I hear that is common. Who knows why.) But at the same time, some of my relationships have strengthened intensely and I have formed new ones that I value deeply. I have made more changes over the last two years than I have made over the entire duration of my life. I have discovered that I am able to cope and survive and sometimes even thrive. I owe a lot of that to Ben.
At times I desperately want to cling to the past but more often than not I now find myself looking to the future. I am starting to feel hopeful more often than I feel hopeless. Maybe there is something to the whole “year-three-will-bring-more-light” theory.
Today marks the start of year three without Ben.
I would not have chosen to go through life without him, but I wasn’t offered a choice. All I can do is the best I can with the time I’m given, and if there is one thing I have learned is that every single person needs to really live each day, not just merely exist.
Through the wonders of modern technology I can tell when strangers from various places around the world have found my blog. Last night I was sent five new alerts. Five new people found my blog, and it hurts my heart because the search terms they used to find it suggest they are probably suffering through much of the same that I went through. Or that I’m going through. If any of them come back to read again, I hope they read this:
It hurts so much, I know. Whether you are losing or whether you have lost, it hurts so fucking much. And I know that right now it seems as though you will never feel peace again. The truth is, it will be quite some time before you do. But there is hope waiting for you when you’re ready, and in the meantime there is a tiny bit of peace that comes with knowing you do not suffer alone. Reach out. It helps.
To Ben The Titan … I miss you. I love you. I think about you every day and I am grateful for every moment we shared. You helped shape my life, and you are not forgotten. Never forgotten. Thank you, Ben. Xo
To my family and friends who have walked this path with me every moment and held me up when I could not hold myself … thank you.
To my kids … thank God for you. I wouldn’t have made it one minute without you. I hope I have held you up, too.
To the new people in my life … I’m sorry you never got to meet Ben, but thank you for being part of my future and recognizing that he existed.