Thirty-four years ago, I walked into a health food store, and my world was never the same. It wasn’t love at first sight, this first time I saw the man with whom I would share more than three decades of my life. It was a primal recognition. Something deep inside me, something beneath consciousness, wailed, “But I don’t even like men with blond hair and brown eyes.”
I had no expectation of ever spending my life with this radiantly wise and intelligent man. It was enough to know he was alive. The world, which had seemed so inhospitable, became a place of hope and possibilities simply because he lived. Over the months our connection grew, and gradually our lives became entwined.
It confused us at times, our connection. Neither of us were particularly romantic, and we didn’t bring each other fairy-tale happiness. But we were together, and in the end, as at the beginning, being together was all that mattered.
But we aren’t together any more. Nine months ago, he died. And my world will never be the same.
I am doing okay — can even go for a week or two at a time without a major grief attack — but I still feel as if parts of me are missing. Grief shattered me, and I’ve put the pieces back together as best as I can despite those missing pieces. I now get glimpses of hope, of possibilities, of building a new life for myself. I know there will be times of overwhelming grief and times of peace, times of sorrow and times of gladness. But he isn’t here to share those times. That I cannot comprehend.
Until I became one of the bereft, I thought grief was self-centered and self-pitying, and there is some truth to that. I do feel sorry for myself at times, but mostly I struggle to comprehend the meaning of our connected lives, his dying, and my continued life. I struggle to accept that while (perhaps) there is a second chance of happiness for me in this life, there is none for him. I struggle to understand his goneness. Sometimes the need to go home to him overwhelms me, and I have to learn — again — that his being gone from this life means I can never go home. He was my home. Someday I might learn to find “home” within myself, but until then, I am adrift in a world that once again feels inhospitable.
During those first days and weeks of struggling to survive grief, I kept screaming to myself, “I can’t do this.” I still feel like screaming those words occasionally, but I have learned that yes, I can survive this, because I have. And I will continue to survive.