Day 346. We have almost moved fully around the sun. We have weathered fall and the holidays and a wedding and his birthday and The Master’s and Father’s Day. All that’s left of the ‘firsts’ are the Fourth of July which is a big one for reasons I may or may not explain down the road and The British Open, which formed the backdrop for Steve’s death and I will always, always think of it that way.
So, nearly one year in, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on what I’ve learned and how I’ve grieved and grown through all of it. Over the next few weeks, I hope to share more with you about what I’ve discovered because I think it might be helpful for those coming behind or alongside me in the adventure (?) that is widowhood. It also might be useful for those of you hoping to encourage someone experiencing the grief journey that is losing a spouse. My mind works better around lists, so I give you: The Twelve Things I Really Miss About Being Married. (And, duh, there are more than twelve – but also, there are some good things in my single-life season, which I will share in a future post.)
- Let’s start with one that won’t seem important, but I promise you it is: I hate fastening my own necklace. Steve used to do that for me and it was sweet and intimate and romantic and made me feel really cared for and loved. Again, I know it’s weird, but it’s exactly these sorts of things that create the rocky terrain of navigating loss. It’s not usually the birthdays and holidays, it’s that moment alone in my bedroom when I go to fasten my necklace that says “brave” on it and wonder: am I really? It’s been a tough one.
- I miss having someone to call on my way home from work. Or after a tough meeting. Or when I’m waiting in line at Starbucks and don’t want to wait alone.
- I miss having someone else drive. On the rare occasions Josiah and I travel in the same car, he always drives and I really like that. But it’s different and I think most widows would agree.
- I miss having someone tell me if this outfit makes me look fat. Mostly, I miss Steve’s answer because it was so amazing that sometimes I asked him just so I could hear him say it. (Yeah, I’m not going to tell you what it was.)
- Vacations. I know I can still take them and I can take people with me who love me. But it’s not the same. My husband made me feel comfortable and safe. He made each place home just by being there.
- The very empty bed thing. I actually sort of love having all the closet space, but I do not enjoy sleeping alone. Even though Steve was in a hospital bed during the last two years of his illness, he was still there with me and I didn’t feel as alone.
- Decisions. I miss having someone to collaborate with on decisions, big and small. What car to buy. What to give our kids for Christmas. Where to go for breakfast on our day off. Should I say yes or no to a speaking gig that falls on one of the kid’s birthdays. There’s not a single one of these decisions that I am incapable of making, but it was so lovely to have someone else weighing in and even carrying some of them entirely. I get tired of having to figure everything out on my own.
- Weddings. Ugh. Seriously. Weddings are a surprising tough spot for me. I’ve tried to think through all the reasons and some are obvious, but some are more subtle and sneaky. I don’t really want to explain it all, except to say: I am an introvert (no, really) and while I actually do enjoy going to them, I do not enjoy going to them alone. Also, it’s worth noting here, for the sake of those who want to say the right thing to widows: resist the urge to offer easy answers. Often, when I share a painful point like this – especially on Facebook where it’s easy to give fast input – people will respond with one-sentence solutions, like, “That’s why you have a son! Make him go the wedding!” Please understand two things: 1) While having Joe go with me to an event is a blessing, it is not the same. 2) Josiah is also navigating the waters of grief and fatherlessness. There is a limit to how much of my load I want him to carry. If I know he will also enjoy the event, I will ask him to go and he will say yes because he’s fantastic like that. But if the event would not be fun for him, then I’m essentially asking him to pick up the weight of my loneliness and I’m not going to do that. I determined early on that I would not place the “man of the house” title on the shoulders of a 16-year-old and I am sticking to that commitment even if it doesn’t make sense to the rest of the world.
- Kids. I don’t miss my kids -they’re right here – I just miss having someone who loves them in the same way I love them. I miss having someone who knows their history and their weaknesses and that one thing they did in fourth grade that made us laugh til we cried. I miss having someone to tell me what to do when I don’t know what to do as a mom or would be willing to pray through the night until we found the answer. In fact, the thing I just said about Josiah and not wanting to accidentally make him the man of the house? Sometimes the lines are unclear and I’m not sure how much is too much to expect of him and I go to ask Steve and he isn’t there and, yeah…this one is just really hard.
- Mayonnaise jars. Though I’ve yet to run into one I couldn’t break into, sometimes it’s quite lovely to be able to feel like the weak, helpless female. Sometimes I really miss being rescued, even though I know I can usually save myself. I mean, apologies to feminists everywhere – but also: it’s true. I think sometimes men want to be rescued, too, and that’s just fine.
- I miss the lovely language Steve and I shared. We understood facial expressions (especially in the last few years as his communication was forced to become increasingly non-verbal) and had developed a certain lexicon over thirty years of life, love and battle together. Maybe a better way to say this is: I miss feeling understood by a spouse, and so I gravitate toward friendships that offer easy understanding and acceptance and away from those that feel laborious. Maybe someday I’ll be ready to invest in relationships where I have to do the work of explaining myself, my history and my idiosyncrasies, but right now I don’t have the energy.
- I miss being part of a team. I really liked that and I think I was pretty good at it. I also think I’m doing well at going solo, but sometimes I miss having someone who is always on my side, no matter what. And I miss him.
Those are my honest thoughts and I know they might not seem very encouraging, especially if you are also facing an uncertain future. But I promise I’ll share the good stuff I’m learning, too (and there’s a lot of it!) – maybe even tomorrow!