"I Know Exactly How You Feel"
After finding my wife not breathing, the first thing I did was call for my daughter. Perhaps the less said about that, the better, because it was a special kind of torture to inform our daughter, by showing her, that her mother was dead. You don't want to hear cries like that, when you're a parent.
From the very first day, there were chest pains and headaches that alternated back and forth. the chest pains were so severe that I thought I was having a heart attack, and I wished I would have. The headaches hurt so badly I wondered if I was having a stroke, and again, I wished I would have. The reality was, though, that right off the bat I knew I had responsibilities to stay alive for, and I intended to do that, even though I had no real desire to do it for my own self.
People say all kinds of things, thinking that they're helping you find your inner strength or a will to keep going. What they're really trying to do is help, and you always know it, but there are some things you can't explain to them - well a lot of things.
For example, they don't know that the entire future you've outlined for yourself is GONE; completely wiped away. They don't understand that if you planned last week for you both to try a new kind of food this week, all of a sudden this week doesn't even exist anymore. There's only one person now. It's not worth exploring new options anymore. WE don't exist anymore, only I do, and I hate that. One of these days you should try to count all the teeny little plans you have in place inside your mind, so you can understand the enormity of what it's like when your spouse is suddenly dead and not able to do any of those plans. No more "we ought to" or "someday we gotta." Someday just died, too. "Ought to" just fell off a cliff.
But you have to be strong. You have to. It's not like half of your life disappeared. No super important person from your life just ceased existing or anything. You can't hurt or cry. That's not human! Be strong, you wuss!
Oh I had not mentioned bitterness yet, had I? That's okay. There's only 4.2 billion things to remember. Yes, I am very, very bitter. I did not expect to have 13 years of marriage, though I was still young when I got married. I did not expect my wife to die before the age of 60. I did not expect to have to force my children to cry gut-wrenching cries and hurt for the rest of their lives with a pain I CAN'T TOUCH! I am incredibly angry that my daughters will miss their mother for the rest of their lives, all because she had to die, and father is just...not...the same.
“I know just how you feel.” Unless you have lost a spouse to death, no you do not. You cannot imagine the scope of it. It’s more than just A loss. This is a big mother of a loss. This is not just a person. This is your entire LIFE gone, because in a successful marriage, you plan for the couple, and that couple has now been destroyed, leaving only one person, and THAT WASN’T THE PLAN!!!!! No, you don’t know, and please don’t pretend you do. You can try. You can imagine, but you don’t KNOW, and if you say it again, I know a splendid support group of widowed people who will help me knock you out.
This is not a divorce. She didn’t leave me. I didn’t leave her. There was no other person waiting for us, unless of course you count God, which I do, but not in the romantic sense, of course. Neither of us knew on May 5, 2018 that our marriage would end the following morning, because we didn’t choose to end it.
That last night, I posted a picture of our niece on Facebook, saying how gorgeous our upcoming graduate was. I told my wife about how beautiful our niece looked, as always. My wife said how much she loved the drink she bought herself at Sonic a few hours before. I helped her get into the bed. We said our goodnights. And then I woke up about eight(ish) hours later to her dead body sprawling off the side of the bed. She was face down in a box, with her face a purplish mask of what it should have been.
It’s not the same. I can’t have her back, except to hold her urn and wear her ashes in my urn ring or the urn necklace (or both). I can’t talk with her, only to her. She can’t answer me out loud. I can’t call her and apologize for the seemingly million things I did wrong. I can’t explain what I REALLY thought and meant so many times we argued. I can’t tell her how badly I miss her and how all-encompassing my grief is because of how all-encompassing my LOVE is.
A fellow widow says:
“Mention the sadness you feel when you are in the Urgent Care with your 15 year old, after he sprained his ankle, and you have no one to call to share that the ankle isn't broken.
Or how overwhelmed you can get when the guy who comes to give you an estimate on a fence tells you that the deck he had built is rotting, and it needs to be replaced. Then you see the fence along the front of the house is broken and now needs replacing. The retaining wall needs to be fixed because it is bulging, and the landscaping is out of control!
The list of things to fix in the house has grown to a full page of notebook paper. He had been sick for almost 2 years and planned to fix it all ‘when he got better’. But that didn’t happen, so now I just want to crawl into bed, under the covers, and cry.”
The sprained ankle and the notice of the broken fence happened in one happy, peppy day. Yeah, that was sarcasm. There’s nothing happy or peppy about it.
You don’t know exactly how I feel, unless you’ve been here, too, and if you have, I feel so desperately sorry for you. My mother used to say to me, when I’d complain about aches and pains, “Welcome to the club. Don’t come too far inside the door.” I can’t tell you that last part, because when you enter THIS club, you’re shoved violently right to the center of the dance floor. Alone, at first.
Then you find support in other, lovely people who also feel exactly the same things. Other bereft people, married or not, having loved and lost, provide a special kind of support. Yes, there are different details, different causes of death, different lengths of time as a couple or time since the losses....but we know. We all know.That makes it bearable.
Then there’s the topic of wanting love, still. The idea of finding love again is against every fiber in our beings, because it can’t be with the one we lost. But it’s also such a craving, to have the love, the touches, the physical support and connections we have had, accepted as a lifelong comittment, only to find that it only meant ONE life, not both.
I trusted and relied on Laurie in a way I never expect to find again. But I also had enough years of it to get used to it and very spoiled by it. I took IT for granted – not her, but the security of that bond. And then the bond broke physicality and drifted heavenward. Now I’m broken, and the one I lean on is GONE. She’s not there to lean on. I am on my own, for the first time in a long time. I never thought I’d be alone this soon – maybe someday, but not yet.
What options are there? I can live alone, which I desperately do not want to do. I can find a partner, which is somewhat appealing but still very repellant, too, because nobody will be Laurie, and I want Laurie. But Laurie is gone. I am here.
Am I strong enough to continue the journey alone? YES, I am. That is not in quesiton now, a year after her death. It was at first. The very first week I lost her, it felt deadly not to have her embrace, her words, her kisses, her arms around me. She was the one who told me how it would work out, how the person I loved and lost was in a better place. She was THE ONE.
So what am I? THE HALF? Am I still one? Am I one AGAIN? What the hell am I?!
I am a human being who misses the intimacy of my relationship with my wife. I have an interest in starting a relationship with another person, not as a replacement, but as an addition to this life I lead now. I want to go to someone out of strength, WANTING that person, not out of weakness, needing that person.
So that is what I’ll do, when the time is right. That’s the trick – how do I know when the time is right? I guess my only answer, for now, is to utilize trial and error. Try it, and if it works, fine. If not, give it time, space, and keep open other options.
This really is a unique place in life. You may think you know what it is like, but you don’t, unless you live it. I would say that I hope you never have to experience it, but no couple lives forever, and it is rare that both parties die at once, so perhaps I should say that if you love your partner – truly love that person – the most selfless thing you can hope is that he/she never lives through this loss, which would mean that you will.
I would never, in a million years, want my Laurie to be feeling about losing me what I now feel about losing her.
© 2019 Herman Forstmann