Sometimes I worry that I’m not in enough pain.

I feel my loss for Andy every day, but it’s not the piercing, debilitating way that I thought it would be. I’ve had moments of debilitation, but they have only happened a handful of times over the 6 months since he’s been gone.

6 months. Holy hell.

Sometimes it feels like a lifetime. How has it only been 6 months?

I thought I would be more paralyzed, more apathetic, more aloof. I’m sure that having a 3 year old accounts for a solid 80% of the forward momentum I’ve experienced. He cannot fend for himself, so I get up every day and care for him. And I’m afraid of irreparably harming him, so I do the work to be there for him.

So, in a way, I feel the pain every day. Sometimes it’s an ache or a slice. Sometimes it’s a soft smile, a laugh out loud. I feel the pain directly and I feel it with love.

I am very lucky that Andy had a good death.

In light of all that’s happening with COVID, I’ve been taking in a lot of information about people have good and bad deaths; what distinguishes them. For so many right now, they are having bad deaths. They are isolated and alone without having had the experience to tie up loose ends, say the things they needed to say, finish their business. I often wonder about how many spirits will haunt us after this ordeal has subsided.

Andy and I talked about his death for the 1 year 10 months and 24 days we had from his cancer diagnosis. We passed information back and forth. I asked a lot of questions, he gave a lot of answers. He got his affairs in order, checking beneficiaries, writing down passwords, telling me about how and when to clean gutters and how and when to show up for our son in Andy’s absence.

When he started hospice, we talked about his funeral service. We got very clear about who would speak and what order things would go in, who would be our host for the evening (the same man who married us), how to support all our friends who have children during the memorial, and how to support the children themselves.

When Andy died, he was by no means ready. He wanted to live and have a life with me and his son. He wanted to watch Ronan play soccer, likely be the coach of the soccer team. He wanted to maybe have another baby, maybe travel to Australia with me, maybe get a dog. He wanted to get an RV and go on long road trips with me and Ronan. He wanted to see the next phase of Marvel movies and see how Star Wars concluded. He had a whole other life he wanted to live.

When Andy died, he wasn’t ready, but also, he was. He did his work, he processed his stuff, he said his goodbyes and took one last nap with his son, his big hand on Ronan’s tiny chest. He told me I was the best choice he ever made in his life.

Because of all of this, the pain flowed alongside the love for 1 year 10 months and 24 days. I worry that I’m not in enough pain, but I realize that because I did the work of feeling it and saying it out loud and sharing it with him, the pain isn’t quite so sharp. It’s not quite so debilitating. ’Tis a flesh wound as opposed to a mortal wound. I can tend to it with my good first aid (that Andy taught me) and continue to live my life.

As I type this now, tears flow gently, my son sits behind me quietly playing. Love and grief live side-by-side. Because, it turns out, they are one and the same.


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