I am now 302 days into living, for the first time in my life, alone. I lived with my mom and then became a wife at the tender age of 18. To say it has been a challenge is an understatement. I have always functioned very independently and took pride is my ability to conquer anything I set my mind to…but this is different. For 302 days I haven’t had my person to come home to, to share with, to confide in.
I believe, with all my heart, it isn’t the initial shock or the funeral or all that goes with these catastrophic events, but the learning to live without the one you love that is the most difficult. It doesn’t matter what the loss is, but your life will forever change without them in it. I do believe the loss of a parent is one of the most difficult because they are the first people you look to for virtually everything. They teach you to use a spoon, read, ride a bike, basic math and every single life skill that becomes your compass. If you grew up with both parents, you probably saw them as a team, running the house, working and providing what the family needed. Many had only one parent at home and that mother or father did the work of both. Some grow up with aunts, uncles, grandparents and they become the parent figures. These are the first people you learn to trust and that filters into the rest of your life. The loss of a mom or dad is like losing your foundation. The challenge is to see if the rest of the structure can stand alone. Tall order I think, but we do because honestly we aren’t given a choice.
Child loss is a loss that destroys something inside of you. It’s a deep, searing pain that you honestly don’t know if you can survive, but you do, because we aren’t given a choice. Your child is a part of you, two people who come together to create something extraordinary, a human being. If you don’t think this is a miracle, you haven’t been fortunate enough to watch a baby enter the world. It is without a doubt, the most miraculous event you can witness. I have seen this thousands of times in 40 years and it is the same feeling every single time. It’s pure unadulterated joy. So when something starts with pure joy and ends with pure devastation, it is a challenge to even get out of bed. The highest level executive, the most famous actor or actress, the highest political offices, the clerk at the local grocery, the truck driver, or the nurse, it doesn’t matter. We are all equal when it comes to grief. I remember when Lindsey died that I felt the same as Carol Burnette, Marie Osmond and even Barbara Bush. We were all moms and that put us on equal ground.
To lose a child is to lose a piece of you. It is part of your identity, it is who you are. You don’t know how to be anyone else, you don’t know how to go on. There is a real thing called “Broken Heart Syndrome” that many believe is a depth of grief that actually causes physical illness leading to weakening of the heart and symptoms of a heart attack. This is actually written in medical journals and is very real. It can be treated and if not can cause damage that can follow that person the rest of their life. Valentines Day made me think of this a lot. When everyone was talking about love and buying heart shaped everything, how many had a broken heart? This, like everything else, has to be a process, one of work and eventually healing. It doesn’t mean you don’t love and miss your child the same as the day they died, it just means you incorporate the loss into your everyday world in a way only you can do. Memories become treasures and you change, because you are not and can’t be the same.
This brings me to my 302 days of being alone. I think I miss not being able to share news, good or bad, more than anything. If something happened, my first thought was to call Rick and that’s exactly what I did. He would listen intently, sometimes having no real idea what I was worked up about, but he was always there and always supportive. He was my person, good or bad, in sickness and in health, for richer for poorer, we had many challenges, but in the end, we always had each other. That, I think, is the hardest part for me. When you lose your spouse, it feels like half of you is missing. You no longer feel whole. In a marriage, each person takes on different roles and each marriage is different. It becomes like a well choreographed dance as you move through life. When one person doesn’t show up, the dance is not the same and although the show must go on, the dance is not the same and will never be the same.
Yesterday was one of those days. I stopped in the maze to call Rick to share my news that our precious Lucy passed her test for The Alliance of Therapy Dogs. This had been a goal of ours since before we got the dreaded news that changed everything. This was a retirement goal for us, to bring smiles and maybe moments of joy to those in poor health, nursing homes, hospice care etc. We wanted to give back and use retirement not only for us to have fun, but to fill voids for others. I made it my mission to follow through, although many tears were shed along the journey. It’s official now and as exciting as it was, I felt alone. I miss him, but this is the way it is everyday. I miss those I shared so much with, my mentor, a piece of my heart and my other half.
That being said, I’m doing ok. I live life everyday with an appreciation of even the tiniest things. I have my girls, my grandchildren and countless people who check on me, send cards, remember me when the world keeps spinning and a wonderful work family. I am touched when others share their loss with me. I am constantly meeting someone who is struggling, whether it be recent or in the past. I have Facebook friends and readers of this blog that I don’t even know, who send messages of encouragement to me as well as telling me how I helped them. That, my friends, is a gift. Feeling like I have touched someone through my experiences is a blessing and one I do not take lightly. Thank you as always for taking your valuable time to read my thoughts.
Lucy and I strolling through the maze, sometimes slowly, sometimes at a brisk pace, but always, always going forward.