Hardly seems possible that two and a half years have gone by since Don’s death. That’s over 900 days. I think the most time we ever spent apart was a few weeks, when he would go on location for a film shoot.
A lot of life has happened in the past 30 months. Our kids are all here in the Los Angeles area and are working hard at building careers. Don would be so proud of each one of them for the unique ways that they are pursuing life. It’s been awhile since I’ve posted and much has happened in the past six months as well. I adopted a sweet little puppy in October. I took her to have her spayed, only to have the vet call and tell me I was too late! We had an unexpected litter of three puppies over the holidays. Not what I would have chosen, but they were a welcome distraction during the hardest part of the year for us.
People have asked me many times over these months, “Are you keeping busy?” “Are you busy enough?” If you know me, you know that I’m a “stuffer” of my emotions and I’d rather do anything than have to feel them. However, somehow I instinctively knew that I couldn’t stuff this level of loss, and that I needed to actually pull back from things I was doing to allow myself time to feel, to grieve, to experience the pain. I know that everyone handles loss in different ways. For example, I had one person tell me that the best thing she did after her husband died was to accept every social invitation that came her way. I must’ve looked at her like she had two heads as I thought to myself, “That’s the most insane thing I’ve ever heard!”
This spring has brought with it a new feeling for me. I can see an open space in front of me that I am beginning to recognize as life. An invitation to stick my big toe back in. For the first time in so long I am able to look a little bit outward, rather than inward all the time. Life doesn’t necessarily feel good, but it feels a little bit better. This open space scares the hell out of me because I don’t know what to do with it. A friend who also lost her husband describes us as on a “path of reinvention”. It’s a path I’ve resisted at every turn. I don’t want to reinvent myself. I want to be who I was. Who I was with Don. His wife. Parents together of our kids. It’s not where I would ask to be, or want to be. It’s just where I am. And figuring out what to do with that is the journey.
Another friend whose son died of cancer describes us as puzzle pieces whose shape has been forever changed. The picture on the puzzle box looks different than I had imagined or dreamed. I am a different person than I was two and a half years ago. That’s inevitable. It’s just the truth. My edges are different and I don’t fit into the puzzle the way I used to. I’m not a couple anymore. I go places by myself. My conversations with our kids are my own now, not ours as parents. To be fair, my kids and friends never make me feel out of place – it’s just part of my own transition. I’m learning how to be comfortable with (that’s the challenge) how I fit into life now.
I’m at that stage in life where a lot of my friends are starting to look forward to the next chapter, the next big adventure. Weddings and grandkids. Downsizing from the family home. Retirement and travel. All really good and life-giving things. When I look ahead to those things my sadness is that Don won’t be here to experience any of them. All the joys in life he is missing that will always be “less than” without him. But I also realize that I can’t resent other people’s happiness – it’s not fair to them, and it would make me a bitter, sad woman. That’s not how I choose to live my life. As Don said, God does indeed inhabit the bitter and the sweet.
I know I have many more chapters and many more adventures ahead of me. So I’ll continue to figure out how my piece of the puzzle fits into life. I don’t have any answers yet, but at least I’m beginning to ask the questions.