Thursday, July 4, 2013

Grief: Fireworks, Family and The Empty Space

Holidays are for celebrating  Today is Independence Day.  All over the United States people will be getting together with family and friends to have a good time.  All over the United States many people who don't have family and friends may feel an extra pang of loneliness.  All over the United States many of us will be able to have a good time but be conscious of the empty space where the person, people and/or pets we love should be and can never be again because they are dead.

The thing about holidays is expectation.  Marketing surrounds us with them.  They are in our e-mails, in our drugstores, on the news.  Holidays are group days.  it takes a certain amount of courage to spend a holiday alone.  It takes a certain amount of wisdom to spend a holiday alone and not feel as though there is something essentially wrong with your life.

Sometimes I walk down the street and it seems as though everyone is part of a couple.  I look for people walking down the street by themselves.  Sometimes I go see a play with friends.  When I go by myself I don't mind doing that.  I'm an independent woman.  I still look around to see if there are other people by themselves, as if there is something wrong with me that I am - as they say - a party of one.  How can one be a party?

When Artie first died and I still lived in Carmel, CA I would go out to dinner with a married couple we loved to eat dinner with.  Then the empty chair was a huge thing.  Sitting at a table for four with an empty seat next to me was heartbreaking.  I know today some of you will be eating at a table and for the first time there will be that empty chair.  It won't be easy but you will get through it.  It's okay to talk about who ever used to be in that space.  I'm finding as I get closer to the fourth anniversary of Artie's death everything is turning into an Artie story.  There may not be new memories but there are a lot of old stories to tell.

Something odd about today for me is that I can't remember if Artie liked fireworks or not.  I think he did but I'm not sure.  I want to ask him.  He probably doesn't care about them now - but I know he cares about me.

When Artie died I got an unwanted Independence Day.  I got to be be very uncomfortably independent.  I am still uncomfortably independent.  I liked being dependent on him.  Some people feel being dependent on someone is wrong.  They call it co-dependence.  Artie and I used to call it interdependence.  My independence has been a challenge.  Finding out who I am without Artie.  I have had many good experiences along the way.  It still hurts.

Someone, who has a chronic illness, wrote that when she is happy - please don't think she is better.  That is how I feel about grief.  I am often happy, but I am never "better".  Artie is still dead.  When he first died sometimes I would pretend.  I would come home and say, "Hi honey.  I'm home.  Oh, you're not here.  I'll see you later."  I couldn't face the finality of the empty space.    I don't do that any more...but the reason I'm not "better" is that the empty space will always be there.  It may be filled with his spiritual non-body being if that is what you believe - and it is what I believe both because of evidence but also for my sanity - but that is not his physical being.

It's okay to go out today and a have a good time with family and/or friends.  It's okay to stay home and not do anything.  It's okay to go out and have a good time by yourself.  The empty space accompanies you wherever you go.  I used to slightly cup my hand outwards while I was walking down the street and pretend Artie was holding it.  I don't do that any more but I kind of wish I did.

When there is a death there is a space created in the world and in your heart and body and soul that will stay empty.  I honor that space.  I don't try to fill that space.  That space belongs to my beloved husband.  I don't want to try to have anything or anyone take THAT space.  What I have done is try to fill as many of the spaces I can around it with laughter and helping others and the creation of good memories.  Because I have done a good job of that someone said to me, "You LOVE your life."  I made a face but she couldn't see me.  She couldn't see what the people who really know me see.  I love parts of my life.  I will never love the empty space.  The empty space hurts.  I want my husband back and to want the impossible is a daily challenge.

I love fireworks.  I am lucky to have a daughter and a granddaughter.  My little blue eyed Gwendy is a year and half and is getting very fierce in her opinions. She is sitting on the bed next to me watching a cartoon called Peppa Pig.  She is waiting for me to finish writing.  They live near Boston.  I live in New York City.  When I go home Gwendy comes into my room in her house and looks for me.  She was sleeping this time when my daughter picked me up at the train station.  She opened her eyes and there I was.  She looked a little surprised.  She first looked away - because I had left her - but then she smiled.  When I said "Bye bye" before we went to sleep last night she didn't look up at me.  Then i said..."I'll be here in the morning.  I'm not going away tonight."  With that reassurance she smiled and said, "Bye!"

We are all that small child.  We are searching for the person who is not coming back.  Whether we had a chance to say goodbye or not we are sad and angry that there can be no returning in this life.  That is okay.  We are our own fireworks!!  Sometimes every day.  But for all the noise and bang and explosions - fireworks are beautiful.  They don't last very long that doesn't make them less special.

Here's to a day every day where the beautiful memories linger to caress and support us.  Here's to a lot of meaningful and happy moments to surround and support the empty space.  I think today I'll make a toast to Artie.  Having a good time, wish you were has taken on a whole new meaning.  xo

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