Life is made up of milestones.
Certain birthdays are celebrated because they grant us the privileges of driving, voting, and drinking.
Milestone events can herald the accomplishments of completing education, attaining military rank, receiving job promotions or starting businesses… and uniting in marriage.
Marriage comes with its own set of milestones which includes yearly anniversaries, purchasing homes and becoming parents.
For some, marriages don’t always work out and they face the milestones of separation or divorce—not uncommon events, unfortunately.
The rest continue on in marriage for years… even decades, but those marriages have to end too… with the loss of a spouse.
Both sets of my grandparents were married for over fifty years, as were my in-laws. My own parents were married for forty-five years before my father’s death.
I only got 35 years, 8 months, 13 days, and 4 hours before I lost my husband.
I am not ungrateful. I know many saw their love stories end far sooner.
I wasn’t married to reach milestones or set records.
I was just happy to have a life with a man who understood me, knew all of my quirks and many flaws… and loved me, anyway.
Losing a spouse doesn’t signal the end of milestones. They may even multiply them.
I started by counting the hours and progressed on to days.
Den died on a Thursday, so it is a day I have come to loathe. I don’t have to look at a calendar to know it’s Thursday. My heart knows. I wake up every Thursday angry. But that anger is heavy and destructive. I blamed him for leaving me. I blamed the kidney disease that plagued him for years. I blamed his doctors and the dialysis center. No one was above reproach.
Did I feed him healthy meals and made sure he got enough rest? Did I make sure he took all his meds on time? Did I miss anything? Why didn’t I fight harder and insist he keep the Urgent Care appointment I made for him the day before he died instead of giving in and canceling it as he asked? It could have saved him. And me.
And maybe it wouldn’t have. Eight hospitalizations over three years for the same issues were stacking the deck against us. Until that fateful Wednesday when everything changed, Den’s biggest complaint had always—and only—been fatigue. Now I realize I didn’t know just how tired he truly was.
Our last conversation was him asking me for a pain pill and water. This made me uneasy because Den never took the prescribed pain meds. Then he said he’d nap a bit before getting ready for dialysis and insisted I go to bed too. I balked at that and we fussed for a few minutes before he said, “Babe, please.”
I gave in and went to sleep only to wake four and a half hours later and find him gone.
Now I’m alone meeting milestones I wasn’t ready for.
Today marks two months since Den died. I tell people I’m okay… but I’m not. How can I be when the dynamics of my entire life have changed? How could anyone be all right after that?
People have been so kind to me but some, with their tired expressions of Time heals all wounds, It will get better in time, and the horrid Just think positive make my blood pressure rise.
Don’t ever, ever say these things to someone who’s lost a loved one regardless of if it’s a spouse, child, parent or family pet.
I’ve apologized in my mind a thousand times for any time I’ve ever said these things to anyone. I never knew how generic, inane, and outright stupid they are until I was on the receiving end of them.
Loss induces grief and we must grieve. We cannot think or wish it away. It’s a process we have to go through. Some people will take longer than others. There is no set time limit.
I have to say that again.
There is no set time limit for mourning a loss.
If anyone says anything like, “You should be over it by now,” remove them from the front row of your life. You are not accountable to them or their timetable.
Find peace and comfort in your memories and the things you loved and shared, especially your children. Though miles separate us, our three adult children have been my biggest source of strength and support since losing Den. Having them has helped keep me grounded because I’ll always be a mom.
I’ve also found comfort in browsing poetry and life sites. Many of the quotes, memes, and inspirational messages speak to my mind and emotions.
But, finding the poem I’ve posted below was like a gut punch not just because it spoke directly to my heart… but because it sounds exactly like something my pragmatic husband would say.
We watched the movie, Titanic, together many times. Without fail, near the end when Rose tells Jack she’ll “never let go,” Den would smirk and say something like, “I’ll take Causes of Mental Instability for $500, Alex.” (He was quite a character!)
We’d banter back and forth each time as I tried to explain the depth of Jack’s love for Rose was so great, he was willing to sacrifice himself so she lived. He’d come back with, “Exactly. The man is giving up his life so she can have one… and that’s exactly what she’s supposed to do. Live.”
I hated it when he was right.
The movies make it all seem so simple. Real life… not so much.
I know I have to let Den go. One day. But not now. I’m not there yet.
It’s another of life’s milestones I’m working toward.
(I wish I knew the author of this beautiful, simple poem. I’d love to give them a big hug.)
Image from Pinterest