I had a friend, a widow, tell me that she had been sleeping on her couch for 5 years since her husband died. I had lost the bed my late husband and I slept in to the Memorial Day floods 2015 in Houston, Texas only one year after he passed away. But I thought, because I was sleeping in the same room I had slept with my Hobbit (my nickname for Sam), at least compared to my friend, I was doing pretty good with recovery. That was just sleeping spaces, however, and being inexperienced with grief of this kind, I did not know how long lasting and deep grief would be.
Life Goes On
I remarried in October 2015, and my new husband, John, knew I was still recovering from the loss of my late husband. Unlike other men before him, he never abandoned me when I cried, stopped me from talking about Sam or asserted I was comparing the two of them. John is in the Texas National Guard and I understood this would mean extended times he would be gone. I knew this, but I never thought about it. Not really.
Sam was once offered the chance to go and study at the Hellen Keller Institute. He refused because it meant too much time away from the family, and more specifically, from me. I do n’t know if it was the right decision, but because of the nature of my relationship with Sam, we were rarely more than 10 miles from one another and never more than normal business hours. For the last 9 months he was alive we were together almost 24/7. I thought this was a blessing, and it had been. Sam’s last post was how much he loved me, his wife. We had a great marriage. We both agreed on that. We were close and maybe that was a problem for my future husband. But of course, at the time, I had no idea I’d have a future husband. I thought and was planning old age with him. Now that I’m planning old age with John, these memories mixed with grief and unthinking fear have often come to a head without warning.
Johns First Trip Out of State
John is divorced (like me and my marriage before Sam) and his kids live in North Carolina with their mother. Recently he took a two week trip to see them…without me. I did not have anxiety leading up to his departure, at least none that I could discern, but the evening before he was scheduled to leave, I started to cry and I didn’t stop crying even after he left. I cried for nearly 18 hours straight convinced that John would never come back. It was an irrational fear that I could not dislodge with any amount of logic.
I understood what it was. I understood where it came from, but nothing could replace it. When John asked what he could do, I told him I didn’t think there was anything he could do. I needed to suffer through the fear and dispel it with the fact of his return. Did it work? I won’t really know until he has to leave again.
There are other signs I am still in recovery. I no longer write every day. I’ve not been able to finish my works in progress or even edit what I’ve completed. I haven’t been able to stick to an art project from concept to finish. My paper supplies like up, but the output has been extraordinarily low. Not to mention my lack of finished projects made me feel somehow dysfunctional or broken.
In an attempt to fill in blank spaces with John, I have taken many pictures and produced a Mixbook of our Valentines Day retreat, lots of little scrapbooks for John with a little storyline like comics because I knew her like them. It helps to fill the spaces I am so, knowingly, desperate to fill up with memories of John and me.
Though this is a familiar creativity, it is still not “me.” Its not what I normally do or did. Maybe I haven’t found my new normal. Maybe I am no longer a writer or artist of any kind. Death claimed my biggest fan and grief killed my muse.
Eventually I will find a new normal. My muse may be resurrected, reborn or rebuilt. But there is no question in my mind that grief is a much more potent and long lasting shadow than I suspected or understood. I don’t want it shadowing me, but the only way to keep it out of the shadows is to expose it to the light.
So now you know.