Unpacking

Ronan and I spent almost two weeks in Florida on what I am calling our “Grief Tour.” We have a series of trips planned this year that are specifically designed to help us as we navigate our first year of grief.

The first trip was in early November 2019 when we went with Andy’s family to Iron Springs. It was what we thought would be the last trip we’d ever take with Andy and instead turned into a special weekend of spending time together as a family.

The second was in early December 2019 when I took Ronan to Disneyland for the first time. We had his godparents with us and his godmother’s brother, so 5 adults to 1 toddler, which is the ideal ratio in my opinion.

This trip was an extended tour of Florida that included visiting my best girlfriend from college and her husband in Tallahassee, staying one night in Orlando to see friends from college, and then heading to South Florida to stay with my brother and his family.

We had a time. I won’t say a good time, it was a time. Nothing really feels good these days. There are moments that feel brighter, but overall everything has a wash on it, a filter that makes everything a little blue.

We’ve been home for two days and I feel as if in a fog. Interacting with family and friends was a helpful forward trajectory, but I’m realizing now just how much I would cut off from the world if I didn’t have regular external input from friends and family. It would be easy to stay in my house all day, puttering, ignoring basic responsibilities and settling into the typical images associated with widowhood.

Being with my family and friends sort of forced a feeling that things were ok. I didn’t really cry while on the trip, but coming back I’ve cried a lot. Like a lot a lot. Ronan and I had such a fierce tete-a-tete last night that we both ended up in heaving cries, me inducing a sort of low-level panic attack and him throwing up. I’ve heard that kids sometimes keep it bottled up until they’re in a safe space to let it all out, and I think we both experienced that on the trip. It shook loose some parts of grief, but also kept us from fully engaging with it.

I don’t know if this was overall good or bad. I know being with my brother and his wife was among the most soothing things I’ve experienced in months. And Ronan took to his cousin so well it was sort of shocking.

Being home has felt surreal. The house was tended to while we were gone, so we came home to a clean house with a fed cat. But, Andy’s absence is a presence. It presses in on us and sometimes I get paralyzed with the scooped-out feeling I have in my heart.

Today we returned to some normalcy. Ronan is off to school. I have therapy and work. We have beloved friends coming over for playtime and dinner tonight.

Before the trip, I felt like my life with Andy was something that happened in a movie. It was a reality so at odds with my experience that it didn’t feel like it had happened to me. Now, I feel the loss in a new, deeper way. A part of me has shaken loose the feeling of other-ness. I canĀ feel the things I experienced with him as if they happened to me, not like I’m imaging what they felt like to a movie character or something.

That’s a new kind of gift, but also a new kind of intensity I was unprepared for.

So today, I’ll go to therapy, talk about this whole experience, go coach some clients, and then maybe come home and unpack. Both my luggage and all these feelings.