“Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken.”- Shakespeare, Sonnet 116.
Love is an ever-fixed mark; it does not fade from sight or be removed from the simple act of life being altered. It is a permanent tattoo that never bends or is cast aside. Just because someone dies doesn’t mean their love for you dies, it doesn’t mean your love for them dies. It is fixed through space and time.
Widows are challenged by time–trickery that seems to push us to our limits by taking us to task for “not getting on with it.” But time is like a black hole for widows, especially young widows. It stretches out like a disc and freezes you in a cycle of grief. You move through it, walking a single step at a time, yet you move at a snails pace. Outside of the disc, everything else speeds up, resuming all natural course of time, 24 hours in a day that just ticks by.
One doesn’t move through grief and suddenly becomes fine. Grief is a shadow, it lingers and stays in the dark corners even when you think you’ve moved on because the grief was never really dealt with. It was pushed aside as all desperation for normalcy is clung to. We throw ourselves into work, isolation, exercise, fantasy (binge watching escapist type movies or shows), alcohol, sex, “retail therapy”. These tricky little short cuts give us reprieve but never truly fix what is lost. Some are unhealthy and dangerous, others benign yet avoiding. I, myself, have done some of these; movies that allow me to escape, exercise, isolation. The difference is, I recognize that I need them temporarily but ultimately I need help to move through the hurt and loneliness I feel from my husband’s death. This is why I go to counseling–each and every week. I admit to myself that I’m scared, that I don’t know how to heal my heart, that I’m lost. I have moments of strength, and I recognize those too. But my challenge is time. After a year without him, I feel as if I’m supposed to just “be better.” I’m supposed to be healed and getting on with it. But when you have a deep, profound love like Mike and I had, and nearly 2 decades of life intertwined as one, it takes more than a year to find a way forward.
Heading into this season of bliss, hope, and joy for most, I have walked into it dreading the weeks ahead. This was our favorite time of year; from Halloween-Christmas. Our wedding anniversary is in a few short weeks. A ceremony that was profound, spiritual, and filled with soulful love and faith. I do not see this season like others do now. At times, I feel like Kevin from Home Alone–walking through the late night snow, staring at houses filled with warmth, families all enjoying each other’s company, music, laughter, and love. For Kevin, it’s a reminder of what he is missing, his siblings and parents. For me, it’s a reminder of missing the family I had and the family we were supposed to have. Seeing children so excited for what’s to come and parents huddled up figuring out the “midnight plan.” I wanted those memories and have been robbed of them, only left to wonder if I’ll ever have that. On top of that, parts of my extended family are missing, no longer able to be near me for one reason or another, so traditions that were once familiar and welcoming are now filled with dread as I wonder what the holidays are supposed to look like now.
This is the path that many young widows walk–it is not dramatic, it is real, it is hard, and it can be a very lonely path even when it’s not. If you are on this path, just be honest with yourself. Recognize where you are, how you feel, and allow yourself to feel the way you do. Don’t allow others to make you feel guilty for feeling what you feel. You lost your spouse. BUT–don’t do it alone. Allow others in, try to recognize that the above “short term” time biders are not really allowing you to sit with and move through your grief. Seek help when you need it, don’t numb your pain or push it aside.
Mike reminded me recently how strong and powerful our love truly is. Before he became to sick, he wrote a simple but powerful note to me and hid in one of my dresser drawers. I don’t know when he thought or expected me to find it, but the Universe knew when I would need it. I knew he hadn’t written it any earlier because early that last summer before he got really sick, we had cleaned out and organized all of our dressers to “declutter” a bit. I had been in that drawer and pulled the entire thing out to empty what I no longer wanted. Then I didn’t go in it again until after he died (3.5 months later).
After he died, I must have opened that drawer a dozen times to grab clothing, never knowing what laid taped thoroughly to the inside. Then a couple short weeks ago, on the very weekend of his memorial service a year ago, I prayed. It was Friday night (the night of his “viewing” a year ago), and I asked God to let me hear from him. I needed to know Mike was with me and that I wasn’t alone. I needed to know he was watching over me and then I said, “I love you more than life and wish I could hear from you.” The next day (Saturday), the exact day of his memorial service a year ago, I went into that drawer in our bedroom–now my bedroom, and grabbed a piece of clothing, only to notice the knob was loose. I reached my hand around the inside of the drawer to tighten the screw only to find it was blocked by something. I wrenched my head to look inside the drawer. There, taped to the back of the inside of the drawer was a note. It was Mike’s handwriting (his handwriting after he was diagnosed, because his handwriting style had changed slightly after his surgery). I immediately peeled the paper away from the inside and read it. Mike had found a way to let me know how much he loved me and that yes, even now, he is here with me. And, the Universe waited till I needed it most to send his message to me–a year after he died, on the anniversary of his service.
Shakespeare is right, love is an ever-fixed mark. It never leaves us. It is a tattoo on the heart.
If you’d like to hear a bit more about the note, listen to episode 8 of The Game On Glio Podcast.
Know that Grace, Guidance, Gratitude will always light your way.