No, I will not tell you about my grief

I know you want to be my confidante. I know you want to be my savior. I know you don’t know what to do and that watching me in pain brings you pain. 

But, no, I will not tell you about my grief. 

If there’s anything I have learned in my 10 months of widowhood, it’s that a lot of people don’t “get it.” They love you, they love your dead loved one, they want to help, but their frame of reference for grief is pop culture, platitudes, and incorrect assumptions about what they would feel if they were in the same place. 

Here’s the kicker about my flavor of grief: only I actually know what it’s like. Even fellow widows and widowers get close, but don’t actually “get it.” They get their approximation. They have a pretty close sense of what I’m feeling. But the only one who does and will ever get it is me. 

What so insidious about this kind of loss, this “out of order” loss, is that even I don’t know what I need. I have been trained for loss with pets, grandparents, the odd distant relative. But to lose my partner, to lose my person, well, there’s just no preparing for that. 

People who have come before, people who have experienced the loss of their person, they have some sense of the pathway ahead of me. They know about Grocery Store Lagoon, where the most mundane of errands has become a veritable minefield. They know about Random Chore You Never Knew They Did Desert, where you suddenly realize something you never noticed is actually a Crucial Part of Your Home and now you’re in charge of it. They also know about Decision Fatigue Oasis, where suddenly your domain increased exponentially and occasionally you have to say “fuck it” and everything falls apart for a bit. They also know that this isn’t a conscious decision, but one that happens subtly until you’re wading in undone laundry and dishes and your child is having to wear the same shorts two days in a row because you totally missed that they were out of clothes. They also know that in Decision Fatigue Oasis comes in the inevitable Flash Flood of Crippling Guilt when you realized the neglect that has happened in the Oasis. And also that you never even noticed you were in an oasis, so it’s not like you actually rested or recovered from the Desert. You just dropped to your knees and stayed until the flash flood and now you have to swim like you’ve never swum before only to be back in the desert. 

Yes, they know this landscape. But they do not know the particulars of how I need to travel. Like that I need reminding to drink water, but also that I eventually grow to hate water unless it is flavored or bubbly. But you know who did know that? 

My person. 

My person knew all the facets of who I am. He saw sides of me I couldn’t and he saw how they gleamed and shone and cast rainbows on others. He knew I needed more sleep. He knew I needed to have my hand held. He knew how to actually alleviate the burden on me so I didn’t have to do my own forensics on what I needed so I could tell him and then he would get it. He just quietly walked beside me, occasionally handing me a treat. 

No one else knows this. And I don’t know how to unbake the cake to tell people what I need. It’s ironic that the one person who could get me through this is the one person who isn’t here anymore. Isn’t it ironic? Or is it cruel? 

In any case, no, I won’t tell you about my grief, dear friend who has no frame of reference for this because your family is intact. I would say “I appreciate your concern,” but I kind of don’t. Please don’t ask me to talk about it. What I actually need is for you to follow along behind me, watch me, read the signs, and then provide what I don’t see I need and can’t articulate to you. Because for a long time, someone else noticed these things and took care of them for me. Even as he lay dying, he told me the things about myself that I didn’t even know needed knowing. 

Watch. Learn. Act. Please. Don’t make me tell you about my grief. 

We deserved better

We did not deserve the ending we had, where you are floating in the Otherworld and I am still tethered here, in my corporeal body.

We deserved an ending worthy of a romance novel or a movie. We deserved to ride off into the sunset. To have a real happily ever after where “ever after” truly means “ever” and not “after.” 

We deserved to live a full, beautiful life where we could walk through the doorway of oblivion together, when we were ready. 

In the end, you were ready. I was ready. The life we had adopted, the one where you were not who you wanted to be and I was so, so tired, that was not the one we wanted. So we were both ready to move on from that life. 

But we were not ready for what came next. Or at least, I wasn’t. 

Now, I’m here, in our “ever after” alone. People tell me you’re here, you’re watching me, to talk to you, to listen for you, to see the signs of you everywhere. And many days I believe that. That you are near even though you are far and I am not nearly as alone as I feel. 

But what if you aren’t? What if our letting go actually released us from our beautiful love for each other and now you are nothing and I am untethered on this plane until I become nothing, too? What if this isn’t spiritual, or beautiful, or a temporary separation? What if this is it? 

I feel you here. Over my shoulder. Hand on my back saying, “It’s ok. I know it feels too hard. But you’ve got this.” 

It’s too heavy some days. Even attempts to lighten this, to create airiness in the meringue of this life, fall flat. Do you know what flat meringue is? 

Gross.

It’s gross. And that’s what this is. It’s disgusting that this is where we are. I can’t necessarily believe in an “after” because then it feels engineered. This suffering feels engineered. Like some cosmic thing decided that we deserved to suffer. Or at least I deserved to suffer. 

We deserved better. We deserved an ending for the ages not because it ended before its time, but because it lasted for ages. Our dense life, our life well-lived, was not gross. It was beautiful and sweet and pleasant and something we could indulge in for decades without ever feeling sick. 

There’s nothing I can do about it except say: We deserved better. 

That’s all.  

National Widow’s Day

So, right now in my house I’m dealing with a pretty major plumbing issue.

About a week ago, my tub started backing up. I thought it was a weird clog, so I did a couple of Drano treatments. We have weird plumbing that is original to the house from the early 50s, plus plumbing from a remodel by the previous owners that seriously violates code with the size of the pipes and the amount of turns in them.

The morning following my Drano treatments, it seemed fine, but while running the washing machine, my tub started backing up again. So I went to Home Depot and rented an auto-rooter to try and clear up the clog. I had done this bit of home maintenance within the first year of homeownership. At that time, I had to take apart the toilet to get the rooter down the drain easier and very quickly the problem was resolved.

This time, I removed the toilet and did so much work with that damn rooter and thought I had solved the problem. But, two evenings later, my tub started backing up again. I called a plumber to come, who arrive the next day. After breaking up the clog and putting a camera in, they discovered that my big, beautiful tree in the front of the yard had finally made its way into the original clay sewer pipes and had damaged them to the point of replacement.

The plumber drew up an estimate to replace the pipe and do some additional work on the pipe under my asphalt driveway and the total came to…$20,000.

This is the moment I find myself in a lot as a widow. I have a huge decision to make and not having my partner here with me means that I am limited to my own perspective on the issue. When Andy was here, we would have stopped to discuss the options because the stress and anxiety of doing the initial repairs and the monitoring of the water level and the research of what to do would have been spread amongst the two of us. Maybe even mostly on him. So, I would not have had the built up anxiety to GET IT FIXED NOW.

I told the guys to get it going, but I’m glad I had the need for connection so deep that I reached out to a few friend groups. In one group, my Mom Coven, a friend immediately suggested a second opinion. I felt so tired at that option and given what the plumbers had told me, felt like it wasn’t an option because we needed to GET IT FIXED NOW. Then a friend in the second friend group, the Circle of Zehn, suggested I get a second opinion. Huh. That’s a pattern. So I called CoZ friend and talked through it. Finally, I called Ronan’s godparents, who had just picked him up to take him to their house to be out of the way of all the coming and going. Ronan’s godmother, like me, is prone to wanting a solution ASAP and I knew I could talk through all I had heard with her and come to some reasonable conclusion.

So, I decided to seek a second opinion.

I stopped the work, got them to get things to a reasonable place, knowing that things could start backing up again as soon as that same evening, and asked them to email me their bid while starting the process of finding other companies.

I’m waiting to get that second opinion, plus more, and have had so many conversations about this thing. The most notable was when a friend and her husband got on FaceTime with me after reading through the bid and wanted to make sure I wasn’t getting fully taken advantage of.

This help was immense and relieving and also…exhausting. Where once I had one counselor, now I have 14. This story got told and retold to 14 people. That’s a fuck ton of emotional labor. And while it’s so helpful to have their love and support and perspective along the way, it highlights for me just how hard things are.

Widowhood is desperately difficult.

Not just because of the parenting decisions I have to make or the home decisions or the lack of support right there, but also because even to fill in 80% of the experience I had with my husband requires 14 people.

I had a meeting with my grief support group yesterday morning, the day before National Widow’s Day. We had an extensive conversation about having relationships beyond our person. There will be no “moving on” from them. Whomever I partner with next needs to be at least as wonderful of a man as Andy was. And, they have to be ok with me being in love with another man the entire time we are having a relationship. It’s a big spiritual and emotional ask and one I’m not willing to compromise on.

I don’t think people who haven’t been through this realize just how difficult this is. It’s not just because my best friend is dead. It’s not just because I’m now a single parent. It’s not just because I’m a homeowner alone. It’s because of all the extra work it takes to do the due diligence akin to what a conversation with my husband was like. And it’s the thought that this feeling of being deeply in love with him will never go away. That I will forever feel this gap. There is no time when it closes up.

It’s the ultimate unrequited love.

So today, National Widow’s Day, also the 7 month mark of his death, I want to document not only the loss of Andy, which is immense and still reverberating loudly through my family and community, but also what the true fallout is of his death. It’s a never-ending ordeal. There is no point where it gets better. It just gets more. It’s more devastating as I learn about what I have to truly do without him. It’s more tragic when I see what I and others are truly missing now that we’ve run through 7 months of scenarios without him.  It’s more sweet to think of him and reminisce. It’s more unjust that this happened to me and my son.

Being a widow is a lot. Alotalotalot.

And that’s it. No sweet but message at the end. No silver lining. It’s just a lot.

Love your widow friends today. And love them everyday. Our burden is so much bigger than you could ever imagine. And it’s one of the few times in my life where I really don’t want anyone to walk in my shoes to learn this. So, believe me and other widows. And then maybe send us some dinner because some nights that’s as hard as a major plumbing repair.