The most difficult thing for me to navigate after Carlleena passed away was creating a new normal. Developing a new normal in the reality of learning to live without that person is quite a soul makeover. I showed myself how strong I truly am and unleashed parts of my essence that few people got to witness. I showed myself what I was made of! She was 32 when she passed away. In 2012, I was 33 and a widow. I know “they” always say “never say never” but I really NEVER, ever thought I would be a young widow.
While your life continues, that person is missing in the physical and now the task is to figure out how to make a new normal with the fresh, vacant time that exists. You have to learn how to live without that person with so many physical reminder of their existence within your home and in 20 years of memories. You develop new patterns and will have to push your self out of an unfamiliar door as you face the world while navigating within your grief. Sometimes that time until you feel like a semi normal human being again takes months or years. Grief is a continual process and in some ways, lifelong.
Everything is different…every single minute in my day is now foreign within this immediate grief. Waking up alone, eating meals, no laughter in the distance as she talked on the phone…the anticipated phone call or text during my day were no longer fulfilled. Reaching for someone that is no longer there…Going to work, coming home from work, going to the grocery store, going to important places that cause memory triggers. Going to sleep at night…it was full of deep breaths and tears. I cried every day for a year. I never hid my tears. I cried in some very public places, IKEA was one of them LOL. I ran out of a restaurant a few months after she passed because “our” song was playing. I cried at work, I cried when I went running which is not the most convenient time to cry, but grief doesn’t wait for convenience. I cried in the frozen pizza section at Harris Teeter once. I still cry some days. The tears now are filled with appreciating for knowing, loving and having been loved by such a magnificent person.
I remember the first day that I went back to work after she passed. It was difficult to know that this large chunk of my life, going to work everyday and coming home from work would forever be different. It would no longer be a normal moment for me to come home after work and greet her in her art studio (our garage). Everyday for about 8 months, I came home from work, locked the door behind me, took off my shoes, placed my bag on the chair and walked through my living room, through the kitchen and into our garage looking for someone I knew would not physically be in there painting or doing research on the computer. The day that I broke that routine, I was proud. I knew I had to change my pattern to make my own new normal so I can continue healing.
I had many moments of being proud for making it through certain tasks. If you are grieving, it is so important to be patient, and praise yourself in what seem like the small victories because they really are huge! Be proud of yourself for taking out the trash after not taking it out for 16 years – we had a compromise LOL. Be proud that you drank one of her favorite beers or you picked up one of her paint brushes. Be proud that you burned the last of the Nag Champa incense left in the studio. Be proud that you rearranged some furniture. Be proud that you had moments in your day that you were happy and felt good. Be proud that you allowed yourself to finish a whole pizza and at ice cream (yep I did lol). Be proud that you were in charge of the grill now 🙂 Be proud that you finished off that jar of Nutella that she started. Be proud that you sold one of her paintings. Be proud that you can look at pictures of the two of you and no longer cry. Be proud that you no longer ask why…Be proud for waking up and making breakfast. Be proud that you ate that breakfast alone. Be proud that you finally had their cell phone shut off. Be proud that you stopped wearing her favorite shirt. Be proud that you finally took that trip alone. Be proud that you no longer smell that perfume bottle everyday. Be proud that you laughed, that you watched a favorite movie. Be proud that you thought someone else was attractive. Be proud that you had the universal blessing to have felt love so deeply that it hurts this badly.
It is what you do with that time that truly heals.
My mindful participation with the rest of my life is my savior.