10 months ago, I described myself this way one day when I returned home alone:
I sobbed my way into the house and cried so loudly on my living room floor that I was sure the neighbors were going to hear my awful wailing. I imagined my heart as a flower that was wilting, all the petals drooping and falling off one by one, like whatever was inside of me keeping me alive was dying. I was crying so hard I could barely breathe. I was so exhausted I could barely move. I called my mom and probably scared her half to death with my sobs as she answered. Rick always comforted me when I cried. Now I'm back to needing Mommy.
9 months ago, I described myself like this:
I put my grief in a box and keep it there as best I can throughout the day. I make appointments with grief for later, when I'm alone, when I'm able to self-care.
Of course, there are times during each day that the box is blown open and I'm unable to keep it closed. Maybe it receives a jarring and something falls out of it unexpectedly. Other times, the box is dumped upside down and I scramble to put the contents neatly back inside again.
But often, on my own terms, I open my box of grief and stare inside. I count the items and instances that are seemingly alive in there, writhing in agony. I give them permission to come out, to be present with me, and to have a voice.
That's when I write... eyes bleary and blurry with tears, fingers flying over laptop keys, the stillness of my house heavy around me.
The box lies empty before me and my grief surrounds me, exposed, dark, precious, real, and vulnerable.
And 8 months ago, I wrote:
There are these questions that always seem to be ever-present in conversations of grief and loss. How can I be whole again? When will I be whole again?
I don't worry about that. I know it's possible, because I was always whole to start with.
I existed before this death - long before Rick came into my life, in fact - and I was whole. I slept, I breathed, I played, I worked, I laughed, I cried, I wrote, I talked, I lived...
I knew myself and I still know myself. A work of art, with lots of layers of paint and detail, I am now simply a work of art with extra layers and extra detail. This death has enhanced me, not broken me apart.
I am whole.
I'll always be whole.
I'm not half of a person...I'm not lost because Rick is no longer here...I'm different, but I'm still me.
And it will take a lot more than death to break me down.
Wholeness comes from within, like peace... like happiness. It's an inside job, and if complications come my way, as they certainly and inevitably will, I'll still be whole.
I embrace the grief, but I don't give it power it doesn't need to have. It does not have power over me.
This grief comes and I greet it - sometimes it feels like a friend and other times it feels like an enemy. But always, I greet it the same way, the way I would any person I meet in life. I teach it to treat me as the whole person I am.
I felt so many things those first 3 months and here I am now, embarking upon the last 2 of this first year. Changes have happened around me and also inside of me. I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel a sense of pride that this life-shattering event never broke me. It's still difficult for me to get a handle on the concept of time - I feel sometimes as though ions have passed since that terrible day. I do look at other people my age and feel I'm decades older at times, though my looks belie what has aged inside me.
And yet, the moral of the story is: The flower that was my heart has been watered and tended back to life, blooming more vivaciously than ever. The box of grief has emptied out and been filled with beautiful lessons and experiences. And as an already whole person, I'm not looking for someone to complete me - just someone to say with words and actions, "Sign me up for life beside you!"