When I woke up this morning, I read the new email subscription on grief I’ll be getting for the first 365 days of this long journey. They’re actually pretty good at speaking to where I’m at each morning. Today’s email spoke about the fact that when we grieve, our grief is often complicated because any other losses that we have not fully grieved in the past, will resurface- and guess what- we’ll have to grieve those as well. Terrific.
But seeing it in writing, I realized immediately that much of the sharpest pain I’ve been feeling during this process, is related to past losses that I had never looked in the eye. There are so many layers to this thing. Besides the loss of Dan when he left, I also grieve the loss of the Dan I met at 23- and my younger self as well. When I write of our early dating days, that is when I feel the sting the most.
This morning I headed into the city for my second meeting with my new grief counselor. I really like her- she listens mostly- but has much wisdom in her eyes. I know she has also grieved deeply and that helps. She asked me what I fear most, or what other emotion comes up the most, and I shared about the loss of the younger Dan and Julia that I’ve been grieving. She told me that life had gotten busier and there just hadn’t been as much time for that initial romance, “especially once you have kids.” “But that doesn’t mean you didn’t love each other.” This is true of most marriages, I know- but I am still grieving the loss of those people we started out as eleven years ago. I don’t think I realized until now- just how much I’d been missing them both all along.
The city had toughened Dan up considerably. He was attacked on the subway platform by five young guys and stabbed in the chest- 1/2″ from his heart a few years back, and I don’t think he was ever quite the same. They didn’t take any money. I imagined how terrifying that experience must have been- but after maybe one free therapy session the city provided, he said he was fine- though he continued to have dreams about those guys a lot which he would share with me from time to time.
He had been so innocent and so kind, and just the daily grind of living and working in NYC had really taken its toll on him. I remember when we lived in Bay Ridge and he came home one night and told me he was too disturbed to sleep. “I think it was demonic or the devil,” he’d said. He described a homeless man sitting on the subway platform absolutely covered in live bugs, but he made no effort to remove any of them. Dan just could not get the image out of his head.
I showed the counselor two photos I’d brought of Dan. In one he was smiling- but in a more recent passport photo he was sullen and cold. This was the face he’d come to put on for the world- not his friends or family- but the people who bump into you on the subway rudely or stereotype an Asian male a certain way.
I also grieve for myself, the girl I had lost and the one I’d become as well. I too had become considerably hardened towards the world and even towards Dan. I told the counselor that now, when I watch a video of myself from just a few months ago, I kind of disdain that girl. She seems so silly now. So ridiculously silly in her concerns and even behavior, which I find I am too ashamed to put into words. I had very much closed my heart to Dan as he came and went this past year. It was hard to say welcome home when I knew it would be followed so closely by another goodbye.
And so this abrupt ending comes at a time when our relationship was quite strained- after a rough couple of years: moving, having a new baby, being apart-and just not having a lot of fun together. The timing is excruciating. A good friend tells me, “Just because he was taken at a difficult time, that doesn’t define the relationship of Julia and Dan.” That helps, and I think it is wisely said. But still- it is a loss I must grieve.
Tonight after Audrey was in her crib, and I went to say goodnight to Dan and kiss his photo- I told him that despite all of that, “It was a wonderful love story, Dan. We had a wonderful love story.”
The counselor told me that I would find healing for these losses and become whole again in many ways through the grief. That is such an ironic and extraordinary thing to me, but I am already finding it true.
As I surrender to the crucible, I find healing- not from this grief or the loss of Dan- but from all the other crap in my life. It’s burnt up like ash in a furnace. It will be interesting to see what is left.
I always tell friends that your entire relationship changes each time you have a child. You have to relearn how to communicate w/your partner. It's incredibly stressful, right when you have a new little audience!