So you’re all packed, ready for the next step of your journey — but you have no idea where you’re going. Aces. Actually, that might not be a bad thing. Heck, you’ve already traveled a road no one ever listed on their bucket list. Who, in their right mind would ASK to go to Grief City — instead of Licorice Castle? That squared highway from hell you’ve been traveling hasn’t had great scenery but, look at you – you’re still standing. That’s a good start.
The even better news is that it’s your road and only you plot the course. It didn’t come with a map or snacks for the trip. You’ve been here before. But, though you played the cards well, your multicolored road ended not in Oz but a very lonely desert with nothing in your backpack but a broken heart. If you were lucky, (as I have been!) there was kindness of friends and family along the way, people who provided emotional sustenance. Maybe there was a support group of other travelers but, in the end, the trip is yours alone and you’re the only one who decides where to go next and how. It’s your game board.
Will you continue to wear your wedding rings? How about keeping your other half’s car? When is the right time to give away their clothes? You are the only one with those answers even if you don’t have one right now. They were YOUR person,YOUR other half and any decision about them is YOURS alone. It is you who carries the game pieces of loss every day in ways no one else does or can. No matter how deeply anyone grieves your loss, no one misses that person as intrinsically as a spouse. Sorry, that’s just a widow fact.
You’re the one who reaches over a pillow to find just an empty space. It’s your couch that’s missing a person each night, and your phone that no longer rings with ‘hi, hon’ on the other end. You’re the one who sits in a now silent house each night where there was once kibitzing about hating broccoli served in a plateful of healthy eating or zealously competing in Jeopardy. You’re the one hand clapping in a home two shared, decorated, cried, ate, and slept in. And you are the only one who feels that person’s absence there, not just as a fleeting thought in the day but entwined in every facet of your 24/7 life. You’re the leftover half of the sandwich.
Friends and family still go home to a hand to hold, a goodnight kiss, a loving hug, a shoulder rub, a warm presence, and the person who stands next to them as an emergency contact. And that’s exactly the way it should be. It’s their time just as it was ours. It’s no one’s fault or responsibility that our life made a complete 180. We are all living in the now; ours just had some unwanted surgery. But it’s the roll of the dice that changes everything.
We take a lot for granted in this life.They say hindsight is everything. Now isn’t that special? Life moves so fast that it’s impossible to hold on to every moment, like Hansel and Gretel’s breadcrumbs scattered to find our way home to when things were picture perfect. Well, nothing’s picture perfect but you get my drift. The little things that escape the day to day are the sames ones that come back with a vengeance when we grieve.
I watched a movie this past weekend and though I can’t remember its title or much about the plot, there was one scene that brought me to tears. (where’s a good comedy when you need one?) No one died, thank goodness, and there wasn’t any pathos just a scene where knowing looks were exchanged between spouses that said everything. Ouch. I know, crying over such an innocuous scene seems a mite unhinged yet I suspect it’s well understood to anyone who’s lost their partner. Shared glances that speak volumes understood only between two people are something that reminds you of a missing puzzle piece that’s forever lost. And no matter how hard you work at matching up the scattered pieces of your life into something that resembles a going-forward picture, the puzzle will never be complete. Even a 3-D printer can’t build a puzzle piece that love created.
There’s no Google map for loss. We don’t know where the hell we’re going or where we’re going to land. All we know is that it’s up to us, minus judgment or expectations (even our own) to figure it out. Yell, cry, be sad or even laugh. Journal about your journey. Be patient with yourself. Take care of your heart. There is no timetable on your grief.
Life is no Candy Land game. If it was, I’d always pick Gum Drop mountain over Molasses Swamp but, like any board game, we move ahead or lose our place at the whim of the dice. This month, book-ended by memories of our first date, wedding date and so much in between, I got stuck a few times in Peppermint Forest. But that’s the way life goes. This past year and a half I’ve inched my way, in fits and spurts, across the board but Candy Castle is still a long way off.
But in the end, I guess I’m more badass Gramma Nutt than Princess Frostine anyway.