It’s a funny thing that we, the living, do to ourselves when we’re ignominiously left behind by the Ferryman.
Any number of books on the psychological warfare that is grief will tell you that while there may be six stages, how and when we navigate them is individual to ourselves and our circumstance. Where one drowns their misfortune in alcohol, another finds fulfillment and rebirth in philanthropy. Where one regrets time lost and steps away from the corporate pressure cooker to live life to its fullest, another drowns the pain of loneliness in work. But no matter when we hit the six stages, we inevitably hit them all. Some race by while others are emotional quicksand that drag us down in a seemingly eternal emotional hell.
Merry widows, indeed.
Nearly six years in, this is what I know:
We have no concept of what the human body can withstand, until we survive it. We think we understand life and love, but what we know is really just the first layer. There will always be a missing element in my children’s world. Less coffee. More vegetables. I should have listened when my husband’s friends told me to start living again. Just because he died doesn’t mean I did. Death does nasty things to the bodies of the living. I would change some of the decisions I made. I should have done more, seen more, played more and relaxed more. I drank far too much wine.
(Go ahead and judge. When you fall asleep beside someone alive and wake up to find them dead, one bottle is worth far more than a thousand sheep.)
I left the six stages behind a while ago, but what no one tells you is that the path to new life is paved with hope and renewal and excitement and regret and fear and caution and reckless abandon. And for some, the shackles of the past linger irritatingly.
For all of the rushing forward – for all of the living we’ve done – I have waited six years to slam the door that his death left open.
The first year has vanished from memory. The second an angry blur. The third was transitional. The fourth tentative, filled with hope and careful laughter. But it is the last two that have dragged like an eternity because I have been awake and hungry and frustrated and my patience has run thin. I am tired of waiting for life to begin and the simple truth is this.
To reach the end, I must return to the beginning.