In the beginning, it is just a ridiculous notion to even think about putting away any of your things. I read in a lot of the books on grieving children that some parents do actually do this and it affects the children in a negative way. They put away the photos and clothes to forget. This was unimaginable to me.
But now…a few months into this thing, I am starting to see.
It is becoming too painful to see your shirt hanging over your chair every night in front of me while I lay here. Too painful to see your shoes at the door every day when I take mine off or put them on. Too painful to open a drawer and see the boxers with the hearts that I gave you for Valentine’s Day eight or nine years ago.
I keep a lot of your things around for Audrey’s benefit which is tricky. I don’t want her to think that you’re coming back, but since she has no understanding of the permanence of death anyway, it doesn’t really matter what I do. So I keep them there so that she can stay connected to some of her memories of you.
I also thought moving from our apartment- the last home we lived in together- would be horrifying, and I still think it will be very, very difficult…but I also can see the benefit of being in a new environment at some point in the future – down the road a bit of course when I figure things out.
Does all of this mean I’m tasting the acceptance stage? I don’t think that’s the appropriate word, “acceptance,” because it’s not that I’d ever accept your death, but accept that this is my reality now. They are slightly different and very different things.
I tell my friend on the phone that I have a huge list of what I call “memorial projects” on my giant to-do list, and that the further I get with those, the more I will feel able to put some of the other things away. They are things like making a small photo album for Audrey of photos of just you and her- getting her a teddy bear with a voice recording of you using the audio from one of the old videos I have (I’ll probably get one too), one day having a quilt made of your t-shirts, buying acid-free boxes to store all of the gifts you got each of us, putting together the memorial book with letters from friends and family, and a few other projects. As I accomplish these, you will become less the “missing” Dan that I ache for- who used to occupy the shirt that hangs on your chair now, and more the “loved and cherished” Dan that I have memorialized in these ways.
If not quite acceptance, it does feel like…acknowledgment- that you are not returning. I can not have you back…but I will keep you. I will hold you in these ways.