I have now survived two months without my life mate — not easily and not well, but I have managed to get through all those days, hours, minutes. The absolute worst day, though, was last Thursday. You would think it would have been the day he died, but that was a sadly inevitable day, one I actually had looked forward to. He’d been sick for so long and in such pain, that I was glad he finally let go and drifted away. After he died, I kissed him goodbye then went to get the nurse, who confirmed that he was gone. She called the funeral home, and I sat there in the room with him for two hours until they finally came for him. (They came in an SUV, not a hearse. And they used a red plush coverlet, not a body bag.) I might have cried. I might have been numb. I don’t really remember. All I know is that I sat there with him until almost dawn. I couldn’t even see his face — they had cleaned him and wrapped him in a blanket — so I just sat there, thinking nothing.
But last Thursday I spent all day cleaning out his closet and drawers, and going through boxes of his “effects.” He had planned to do it himself, but right before he could get started, he was stricken with debilitating pain that lasted to the end of his life, and so he left it for me to do. I did know what to do with most things because he had rallied enough to tell me, but still, there were a few items that blindsided me, such as photos and business cards from his first store (where we met). Every single item he owned was emotionally laden, both with his feelings and mine, and I cried the entire time, huge tears dripping unchecked, soaking my collar.
How do you dismantle someone’s life? How do you dismantle a shared life? With care and tears, apparently.
A couple of days later I started cleaning out my office (I have to leave the place we lived for the past two decades, as if losing him isn’t trauma enough). I didn’t expect any great emotional upheaval — it was my stuff after all — but still it turned out to be an emotional day, though nowhere near as catastrophic as Thursday. This is the first move as an adult I will make alone. It will be the first move I ever made with no real hopes, no lightheartedness. I’m going to a place to write and to heal, not to settle down for good. And my mate will not be there.
Part of me is glad to be getting away from this house, this area — our life here started our with such hope and ended in such despair. Part of me feels as if I’m running away from the pain of losing him, but I have a hunch the pain will always be with me. At least I will never again have the agony of clearing out his things. Oh, wait! I’ve sent several boxes of his stuff to be stored, the things I cannot yet get rid of. Eventually I will have to dispose of the things I can’t use, but perhaps I can wait until it won’t be such a traumatic event. I never want to live through another day like last Thursday. I’m surprised I lived through it this time.
May 28, 2010 at 7:16 am
Sending you hugs and prayers. I don’t know the pain of having my husband die but have experienced that of my mother, father and brother dying. When my mother died, I had a month to go through her stuff in the house that she lived in for 40 years. I was real tough, cried everyday. I hope that you can stay in the same place or at least for longer. It is too hard to handle moving on top of grief.
Will keep you in my thoughts.
May 31, 2010 at 7:42 pm
I really don’t have a choice about the move, and yes, it is hard to handle both things at once. I will survive this, though. Of course, I will cry every day, too.
May 28, 2010 at 9:43 am
Thanks for posting this, Pat. I know it’s painful, but you can’t imagine the people you’re helping. I think this reinforces the need to share our grief. It’s personal, but there is so much comfort in sharing. For both sides.
May 31, 2010 at 7:43 pm
Joylene, I think about you often and the loss of your sons. Your grace and dignity are an inspiration.
May 28, 2010 at 11:28 am
i can so relate to you, even though it was 6 years ago that my mate passed on. There is nothing that i can say to help you heal, all i do know is allow yourself to feel the pain and then slowly the happy memories will appear and you’ll laugh again Don’t stop being the writer you are and sharing because that will help you heal.
May 31, 2010 at 7:45 pm
Jamie, I am so sorry about your husband. My heart goes out to you. Thank you for the advice — I am trying to allow myself to feel the pain.
May 28, 2010 at 10:49 pm
When my husband was doing grief counselling he used to suggest that, if possible, the surviving spouse not make any major decisions/changes for the first year because they were too often impulsive decisions, later regretted. But it sounds like your impending move isn’t of your own choosing.
When will you have to make the move? This is an especially difficult time to have to leave a familiar home behind, despite the mixture of sad and happy memories it contains, but perhaps the bright side is that a new location literally gives you a fresh start for this new phase of your life. I hope in your new locale you’ll be able to indulge yourself and make your writing place a special haven that reflects your personality and special interests. “A room to call your own.” 🙂
May 31, 2010 at 7:48 pm
Carol, I had always planned to stay here a year after his death, but circumstances planned otherwise. I’ll be leaving in a couple of days. I’m hoping the trip becomes a quest — a quest to find myself in my aloneness, but even if it doesn’t go as planned, I have the rest of my life to undertake this quest. I too hope for a special room, a room where I can write.
Thank you very much for your continued support.
December 2, 2014 at 6:44 pm
[…] his effects — things so emotionally laden that I simply could not dispose of them during that worst day of my life when I cleaned out his closet and drawers and prized possessions. And now I have to figure out what […]
June 29, 2015 at 12:51 pm
Having lost my soul mate and love of my life through cancer two months ago, your blog means so much to me. At this stage I’m wondering whether I will ever be able to feel ok about life again? Just don’t know how to live without my Kevin?
June 30, 2015 at 3:11 pm
Oh, no. I’m sorry. You are still so very new to this thing called grief, of course you wonder if you will ever be able to feel okay about life again. I guarantee that you will. It will take more time than you can ever imagine, dealing with this pain you are becoming so familiar with. But yes, one day, perhaps on the third or fourth anniversary of his death, you will feel a renewal of life. Meantime, be patient with yourself. Find comfort where you can, scream, if you must. Don’t let anyone tell you to get over it or to move on. Grief will take you where you need to be. Read my grief blogs. (If you haven’t yet found them, if you click on the link for grief posts at the top of this page, it will take you to my writings about grief.) Stop by whenever you need to talk about your situation. This blog has absorbed the tears of many people who have lost their soul mates, and eventually, all found a bit of peace. Wishing you peace, too.
February 3, 2016 at 8:36 pm
Looking back and reading your comment again today it means even more now. He is now gone nine very very long months, I feel a hundred years older and my hart went with him but reading all your grief posts definitely helps in some way. Mainly cause I’m reading so often what I really feel but didn’t had the words for.
February 4, 2016 at 8:17 am
I’m glad my words help even a little. Grief for such a loved one is indescribable, which means no one can understand what you are going through. You are in pain longer than anyone can fathom, longer than even you can believe. You will eventually come to a time where a renewed interest in life pushes the pain to the background. In years to come, you will find peace and maybe even happiness, but you will always miss him. Take care of yourself. I know how hard this is – the hardest thing you will ever do.
February 3, 2016 at 9:35 am
This is a very interesting read I’ve recently had to endure the traumatic heartbreak of having my brother taken by a murderer
Another serious matter is that television companies can screen the stories of murder without the consent of the families which I feel is disgusting and immoral so I’ve started a petition to end this if you could please read and sign I’d very much appreciate it
February 3, 2016 at 9:47 am
I am so sorry about your brother and all the horror you’ve hadvto endure. I’ll help spread the word.
February 26, 2020 at 10:21 pm