“I don’t understand how you’re doing so well right now. I really, really don’t. How are you even standing here and talking?”
I don’t think this is ever said with the amount of jealousy that it always sounds like it does, but still. I never know how to respond to this. Would it make people feel better if I curled up in my bedroom and didn’t come out for a while? Should I be ashamed of doing okay most days? I feel like I should be. I feel like I have seen people crumble under less stressful circumstances and that somehow or another I’ve failed others purely by BEING here and..well…going through the motions at the very least.
I did my first meet up with other widows and widowers this last weekend. It was good to talk with other people who understand my language and understand the various nuances of the loss of your spouse. We were all at varying stages of grief and at various parts of our journey, but the camaraderie was definitely there. Then the inevitable “How long has it been for you?” questions start. I’m the “youngest” in the group by several definitions: My age and that its been only 6 months since Alex died. There is this momentary “Wow” look on everyone’s faces before the follow up questions start: How are you even here? Why are you even here? I’m so glad that you’re doing this now, I never could have. Did you know he was going to pass away? Is it easier because of that?”
That gets me thinking about the challenges I’ve faced as far as loss goes. Losing Alex has killed a part of my soul that I’ll never get back and I know that. I’m comfortable with that wound as it heals. Its a dull ache that is constantly present. But really, what were my other choices other than to push on after he passed? What was the appropriate thing for me to do? What is the appropriate level of grief for me to express publically? I’d love to say that its none of anyone’s business but I feel like it is.
Alex passed away a month after what was supposed to be a life saving surgery and having spent a month in the hospital between June and July 2016. He’d suffered for MONTHS before hand, and actually I’d argue for several years before hand. I did everything I could to be strong and toughen myself up for him. He told me that I was the only thing keeping him sane…that I was his light. It would have been so easy to let that light go out as soon as he was gone and believe me..I wanted to. I still want to. Not many people know the details of what happened that morning and I don’t know that its necessary to run through it. I went from being the strong one…the rock…the light….the Partner and Wife to a beautiful person to just being Sara in the blink of an eye. I had to make decisions about my future faster than anyone thought I should or could. The world went from vibrant color to shades of black and white so fast that I don’t know if I remember what color even looks like. But there I was…I had to decide whether to keep standing or fall. I chose to stand. I choose to stand every single day still. I give myself reasons why I have to sleep, why I have to get up, why I have to eat. I have to give myself permission to cry and grieve because I lock it up so hard. No one sees the struggle, and I wonder sometimes if that’s to my detriment rather than anything else.
So if you see me, and I look like I’m doing okay: don’t worry. There’s a storm raging inside of me that you can’t see and I don’t talk about unless I’m really comfortable enough to do so.