Grief is a lot like pushing out a child- the heaving and pressure that something must come out when you keen- sometimes with no sound.
Both labor and grief have a certain rhythm though labor can be charted with minutes and seconds and grief can not.
Six months and less is what the young widows board that I don’t frequent had considered “newly widowed.” So I guess I’m an old widow now. It is all just beginning.
Taking down the Christmas tree last Friday was much harder emotionally than putting it up. The dry needles falling off, the stray piece of tinsel- these were always depressing, carrying that anticlimactic- back to reality feeling with them.
Six months is reality.
Six months means you are never coming home and your photos, flat and frozen in time will be all I see of you and will most likely help me remember you slightly wrong. I find my favorite photos are the ones that are not posed, that capture not a smile, but a precious expression and maybe a close-up of your fingernails or your freckles.
I often wonder how everything was so clearly done and so sharp that day I received that phone call. I was in shock, but I also knew and understood the information given to me enough to set things in motion immediately- choosing a funeral parlor, church, cemetery, notifying your family, parents, friends in a few days.
At six months I revisit the fact that this is permanent, but also intriguing to me is that I knew deeply in my soul of the permanence the instant I heard the words on the phone. I knew and I felt it. You were gone and it was the single most permanent fact I had ever encountered in my life.
Was thinking yesterday that this grieving process- at least the first year is like the opposite of the year of our engagement.
The engagement starts with anticipation and joy and over the course of the year it is building, higher and higher, as preparations are made. It culminates with a ceremony.
The death begins with the ceremony followed by a year of paperwork, coming out of shock and straight down, down, down, to reality. There is no culmination- just to go on living.
I do not want to erase you- your name from our bank account, your clothes from our dresser and hamper, your shoes from the entryway.
I feel more incapacitated these days…physically weighed down the way I was in the early days.
It is impossible to say what is “hard” about this because it is all very, very painful and there are so many layers and piece to it.
But it is hard that when you left, there was so much tension in our marriage. Though we emailed and spoke lovingly about missing one another once you’d left, the words, “let’s resolve this when you get back,” had even been spoken days before you left. And then you died. This is hard.
Not getting to say goodbye or tell you how much I’ve loved you- this is hard. So I say it everyday in my own way. “I adored you,” I speak to the evening behind the glass of our window. This is hard.
Watching a little girl sleep tonight who will not have you as a father- because you would have been an amazing one as she grew, as you were the twenty months you knew her. I would’ve wanted you as a father, I think, so I grieve the unfairness of her loss. This is hard.
The loss of expectation- that tension that a married person has and becomes accustomed to- waiting for the phone call, the door lock turning, the evening when you can unwind and tell someone about your day, the end of the week to be relieved and enjoy time together. Gone. This is hard. I had become so comfortable with that tension, especially with you always playing late gigs at night and being away the last year of your life. Tension, I realize, is beautiful. It’s what holds all good art together. Sixpence None the Richer had a song a while back with the lyrics, “the tension is to be loved when it is like a passing note to a beautiful, beautiful chord.” Without the tension, life is flat, monotonous, insipid.
And that is where grief differs so much from labor and from engagement. The moment of climax, the phone call, comes at the very start- is the very start…and from there, it is a slow realization of
the missing tension
the absent expectation
the tired, naked christmas trees laid out on the curb waiting to be picked up:
it is over.