First Anniversary of New Life

 

Today marks one year since my husband passed away.  It’s interesting that I feel even worse. I wonder when a person starts to feel a little better after the loss of someone who was a part of their life for two-thirds of that life?

To keep busy this year, I went back to teaching school again. It worked great because teaching elementary school is an all-consuming job when you’re in the middle of it. But then, I get home, and — yup, he’s still dead.  It’s interesting that life just keeps imposing itself on you even when you feel that your existence is on pause. The trash has to go out to the curb. The car still needs gas. Your stomach growls reminding you that food is needed again. I do the laundry, I clean up the kitchen, I wash my hair, and I water the plants. The world is turning, and I am living in it still, but it often feels like I’m just watching my life from a distance.

One beautiful thing about this date is that the moon is full tonight, so I know I can go out there and admire it and laugh knowing that My Sweetie is up there admiring it with me. The moon is my new symbol of him. Last Saturday, I sold the motorcycle. Finally. I found a person who appreciated its craftsmanship and wanted to ride it, not just pick off the parts. As I was waiting for the fellow to arrive at my house, I also used a primitive pinhole camera to check out the lunar eclipse. The day began to dim, the way my mood was dimming, because I was selling a very sentimental item.  Then, the moon continued in its path, allowing the sun’s rays to shine down uninterrupted.

When I considered what had caused this eclipse–the moon– I relaxed. Just as I have learned to smile and feel comfort when I view the full moon, I felt okay to continue on with the sale of that Shovelhead chopper that I’d sat on for the past 39 years, snuggled up behind My Sweetie. That eclipse, on the day I was selling the bike, was as if he’d said, “I’ve checked out the buyer, I’ve checked out the bike. Go ahead. It’s a good thing to do. Move on…I am.”

Soon, the sun returned to its bright, mid-day state of glory. We loaded the motorcycle onto the trailer, and I waved as he drove it off to its new home and new life.  I’m in a new life, too, and eventually I expect I’ll figure it out. Probably. Maybe. Right now, I really don’t like it.

This photo is from 1974, the year we were married.

This photo is from 2019.

Yes, different bikes, but the second one we got in 1987, so it’s the one that had so many memories involved.

Published in Marriage
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  1. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    People who mean well will tell you that time heals all wounds.  That the pain you feel will just disappear, if you wait long enough.

    That’s absurd, of course.  The pain doesn’t go away.  You just sort of get used to it.

    .At first, you feel guilty just laughing at silly jokes.  But after a while you start to laugh again, and as you observe, life continues to continue, the way it does.  You’ll learn to be functional, and live your new life.  But you’ll always wish he was back with you.

    I explain it to my patients like this:  Suppose you’re in a car accident and you lose your right arm.  At first, you’re helpless.  You can’t button a shirt, you can’t use the toilet, you can’t cook – you were so used to having your right arm, that you don’t know how to live without it.

    But after a while, you learn how to do things with your left arm.  You figure out how to get dressed, how to do chores, and so on.  After a while, you’re back to living a perfectly normal life, and enjoying yourself again.

    But the day never comes when you think to yourself, “Goodness – I’m so glad that I don’t have my right arm anymore!”  No.  That day never comes.  You always miss your right arm, even if you’ve figured out how to be functional without it.

    Sometimes, being functional, and living your life – sometimes just that is a beautiful victory.  You’ll get there, if you’re not already.  It’s not so easy.  But I’m rooting for you.

    So is Your Sweetie.

    • #1
  2. Fritz Coolidge
    Fritz
    @Fritz

    As a widower now for 16 years after a 38 year marriage, I will attest that the survivor’s first cycle through the calendar after the loss is the toughest: every special day you shared, every event, every holiday, every family birthday, and all the other anniversaries you shared, still come around one by one, but this time you are flying solo.

    But I will offer this hope: that as time goes along, the pain lessens, new occasions and experiences occur and become part of your new solo history, never forgetting the one who’s gone, but forging ahead into the days that come.

    And at some point, equilibrium of sorts is achieved. No, one never “gets over it,” but one can come to live with the new reality and hopefully find some joy in the days left, because each one is a gift to be made of what you will.

    I wish you peace and blessings as you move ahead.

     

    • #2
  3. Red Herring Coolidge
    Red Herring
    @EHerring

    Cow Girl, Thank you for sharing your feelings. I will bookmark this.  The advice you received from Dr B and Fritz will be valuable in the future for all of us happily married folks when the inevitable happens. Take it day by day and I pray each day will be easier than the day before.

    • #3
  4. Painter Jean Moderator
    Painter Jean
    @PainterJean

    I’ve just passed the two-year mark since losing my husband of over 35 years (almost 37 years in each other’s lives).  Several fellow widows have told me that the second year is harder than the first, and I guess I’ve found that to be the case. The first year was adjustment; there’s still adjustment, but now there’s more  this is it.

    I too have wondered when it starts to feel a little better, and at times I wonder if perhaps it never does. I agree with Dr. Bastiat’s likening it to losing a limb – it really does feel like a large part of me is simply gone.  

    “It’s interesting that life just keeps imposing itself on you even when you feel that your existence is on pause” – oh, do I understand that feeling. It feels like life is over, but yet life goes on. The grass needs mowing, or the snow needs shoveling. I do laundry and clean the cat litter box. I pay my bills. At times it seems as if I am treading water, waiting for….what? I don’t know.

    I have benefited immensely from having friends who have also lost their spouses. My closest friend of many years lost her husband eight years ago. After my Dave died, I called her and told her that I wished that I had known what she was going through, that I was sorry I wasn’t there for her more – but the truth is that no one who has not lost their beloved spouse knows what this is like. It’s not like losing one’s parents, or siblings, or friends. Do you have widow friends?

    You’re welcome to PM me anytime. I wish you peace.

    • #4
  5. Manny Coolidge
    Manny
    @Manny

    I have not lost a spouse, so I can’t speak from experience but I would imagine it’s like adjusting to similar trauma. Getting involved in activities with other people can provide some solace. Perhaps if you belong to a church they may have some groups to participate in. It will not make all the pain go away but it might lessen the frequency of the pangs. 

    • #5
  6. Painter Jean Moderator
    Painter Jean
    @PainterJean

    Some more random thoughts…You mention keeping busy, and I keep busy too. It’s important. I have a friend who lost his wife unexpectedly three years ago, not too long after retiring from his career as an airline pilot. He told me that he would sit on the sofa, staring out the window, for hours and hours and hours. His hobbies – falconry in the fall and winter, fly-fishing in the summer – weren’t enough to occupy his mind, which made it more likely to end up in dark places. He’s more active now and is doing much, much better.

    People don’t have a clue as to what you’re going through. Six months after my husband died, I was having lunch with some friends, and one of them said to me, “I can tell you’re still grieving Dave because you said our house, not my house.” I was really taken aback. I got through the lunch OK but when I got home I found I was quite rattled and upset. I talked with my close friend who is also a widow, and that helped immensely.

    • #6
  7. Headedwest Coolidge
    Headedwest
    @Headedwest

    After my dad died (suddenly and unexpectedly) my mother lived over 30 years more. The first year was the hardest because every birthday and holiday was full of pain. Each year that diminished though it never went away. Dad’s death benefits were reasonable in 1968, the year he died. But then came the 70’s and rampant inflation. She scrambled and got a job with benefits that got her through the next few decades. I think the financial stress and work occupied her mind and dismissed the loss. But I’m pretty sure she would have traded the best day after Dad was gone for any ordinary day with him.

    • #7
  8. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    We have friends whose eight-year-old daughter died suddenly and unexpectedly (myocarditis) — that was 16 years ago this fall. And even now, as my own daughters struggle with their health issues, I think on their loss and I know they’ll never get over it. I wouldn’t. I don’t think we’re meant to get over the loss of loved ones. 

    Our two families recently took a trip together with their remaining daughter (my youngest’s best friend from kindergarten — they’re 21 now) and we made new memories and had joyful times together. It is possible to carry on with the pain and still find happiness. I pray you’ll reach that compromise over the next years without your Sweetie. I’m willing to bet that’s what he wants for you.

    • #8
  9. Painter Jean Moderator
    Painter Jean
    @PainterJean

    Do you give yourself things to look forward to? I have found that having something to look forward to helps a great deal. In my case, I have found that traveling is something that I enjoy, especially if I’m with people (Ricochet meetups, for example). Is there anything you have found that you enjoy, that you can plan for yourself from time to time?

    • #9
  10. Headedwest Coolidge
    Headedwest
    @Headedwest

    Painter Jean (View Comment):

    Do you give yourself things to look forward to? I have found that having something to look forward to helps a great deal. In my case, I have found that traveling is something that I enjoy, especially if I’m with people (Ricochet meetups, for example). Is there anything you have found that you enjoy, that you can plan for yourself from time to time?

    I think planning a road trip is a fine way to look ahead for something you can enjoy. We do several road trips each year, and planning exactly where to go and what to see is an enjoyable process. 

    • #10
  11. Painter Jean Moderator
    Painter Jean
    @PainterJean

    Headedwest (View Comment):

    Painter Jean (View Comment):

    Do you give yourself things to look forward to? I have found that having something to look forward to helps a great deal. In my case, I have found that traveling is something that I enjoy, especially if I’m with people (Ricochet meetups, for example). Is there anything you have found that you enjoy, that you can plan for yourself from time to time?

    I think planning a road trip is a fine way to look ahead for something you can enjoy. We do several road trips each year, and planning exactly where to go and what to see is an enjoyable process.

    I agree completely! I think one reason why it’s so helpful for widows is that planning a road trip or other travel gives us something to look forward to in the future. To be honest, otherwise the future simply looks so bleak I avoid thinking about the future at all. I know I’m not alone in this – a widow friend told me that she couldn’t bear to look back and couldn’t bear to look forward. I understand entirely.

    • #11
  12. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    Painter Jean (View Comment):
    a widow friend told me that she couldn’t bear to look back and couldn’t bear to look forward. I understand entirely.

    I’m there too, although lately — 10 years after my kids’ health drama began — I’ve been trying to bring back happy memories from their early childhood for both them and me. But, the future? Nah, thinking about (worrying about) the future just ruins today. 

    • #12
  13. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):
    But after a while you start to laugh again

    This is key.  One of my closest friends lost his son in a motorcycle accident.  It took him a while, but he eventually returned to his usual, humorous self . . .

    • #13
  14. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):

    Painter Jean (View Comment):
    a widow friend told me that she couldn’t bear to look back and couldn’t bear to look forward. I understand entirely.

    I’m there too, although lately — 10 years after my kids’ health drama began — I’ve been trying to bring back happy memories from their early childhood for both them and me. But, the future? Nah, thinking about (worrying about) the future just ruins today.

    I love gardening. It has gotten me through a lot of worry. It is an act of utter optimism. 

     

    • #14
  15. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    MarciN (View Comment):

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):

    Painter Jean (View Comment):
    a widow friend told me that she couldn’t bear to look back and couldn’t bear to look forward. I understand entirely.

    I’m there too, although lately — 10 years after my kids’ health drama began — I’ve been trying to bring back happy memories from their early childhood for both them and me. But, the future? Nah, thinking about (worrying about) the future just ruins today.

    I love gardening. It has gotten me through a lot of worry. It is an act of utter optimism.

     

    Oh, yeah! I’ve become busier than ever in the last years, even going back to work after a 25 year hiatus while raising the kids. Gardening, music, church stuff, in addition to still being a mom and making a home. My therapist calls it “productive distraction.” It’s a good thing.

    • #15
  16. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    My dearest friend of 40 years passed away a week ago. I miss her terribly. She was my husband’s older sister.

    She was 81, so most people would think she had a good run. And she did. But that doesn’t take the heartache away.

    Her friends, her son and his wife and three grandchildren, plus many more are gathering this coming weekend for a mass and memorial service.

    My husband was what they used to call a “late-life baby.” He had three sisters. The oldest, Elaine, was sixteen when he was born. Then there was Diane who was eight years older, then Mary Jane who was six years older. Elaine had four children, and Mary Jane had three. They both died of cancer about twenty-five years ago. So my husband lost his dad, his sister Elaine, her husband, Mary Jane, and his mom in a space of about five years. It was a terrible time.

    Diane took over as surrogate mom to Mary Jane’s and Elaine’s children. Elaine’s kids were mostly grown but still in need of a motherly connection in life. Mary Jane’s kids still had their dad, but he was not the warmest person in the world. So Diane was close to them too.

    There is no one on this planet I have more respect for than Diane. She was my fellow cook and gardener. And she was best known both in her home town of Peabody, Massachusetts, and then Raleigh, North Carolina, for rescuing animals. She had more strays over the years than I could keep track of. She wants her ashes scattered in Nahant, Massachusetts, together with the ashes of the 17 pets she has had over the years. When she retired to Raleigh to live near her son and his wife and their grandchildren, she started to volunteer at a local pet shelter. They needed operating funds, so she took a payless job at a local thrift shop that was set up to raise money for the shelter.

    Her entire life was an act of service to others.

    It has been a sad week here, and I will miss her so much, especially through our favorite holiday, Thanksgiving.

    It’s always so hard. I’m just an in-law. I feel very torn. I need to give my love and support to her family–that’s kind of what in-laws do–but she was my friend too. My heart is aching.

    • #16
  17. CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill
    @CarolJoy

    Cow Girl, I am hoping you realize how much you have been missed here and how good it is to hear from you, and know you are somehow bearing up under your husband’s death.

    A hug from me to you  through the keyboard. As well as prayers for your well being.

    • #17
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