A New Life
I can see why people equate losing a spouse with losing a limb. It’s traumatic, obviously, and you know your life will never be the same. The initial struggle just to survive the loss becomes a grinding slog through numbness, then pain as the reality of everything you lost makes itself clear over time. It takes a long time to adapt to the loss, to wrap your mind around the new reality, to learn new ways of getting things done, to let go of desperately wanting your old life back.
Yesterday I was grocery shopping at the Harris Teeter where Michael had been a pharmacist before he retired. I’ve been there dozens of times since he died, it wasn’t a place I considered in the red zone for memory meltdowns. But as I walked down the aisle, out of the corner of my eye I saw a man about Michael’s height, in what I thought was a white jacket, and for a split second I thought, “Oh, there’s Michael.” Of course it wasn’t, and I felt that familiar punch in the stomach feeling as tears started to trickle down my face. I don’t pretend to know if these moments will ever stop, but I know that it’s OK now if they don’t, it’s OK to miss him, and even if I find someone else to love, I will always miss my Michael, just like I will always miss my Mom and Dad. They are irreplaceable. This is life: finding people, losing people, learning to be strong and to incorporate all that I love about these people into my own soul, my own heart, so that who they truly are can never leave me.
When I left my home last June, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I knew that whatever happened, I would come back a different person. I left everything familiar in order to make my life my own, to see what I was capable of, to see who I was without the influence of Michael, friends and family. I jumped out into the world not expecting to forget the pain or run away from it, but to learn a new way of living. Everything that happened to me there-every time I got lost, hauled my own luggage up and down stairs, learned the train systems, struggled with communication, met people- every single thing good and bad, showed me how adaptable and strong I was, how unique and independent. I couldn’t have done that if I’d stayed here in my safe bubble. When I first left, it felt like anything could happen. I could meet some handsome foreigner and be swept off my feet, or I might decide to quit my job, travel and work abroad for the rest of my life. But I quickly realized that it wasn’t about starting over in that way, it was about being truly happy again in the reality of my life back home, in my routines, my job, my new single life.
I don’t have to go anywhere or be anyone different than who I am. I am happy just being.