September is a tough month for me. The beginning of the month is our wedding anniversary and the end of the month is Raymond’s death anniversary. For me, I feel that there is nothing to celebrate at either date. My first wedding anniversary without Raymond was almost a year after his death. I took myself on my first date and did the things we would do; dinner and a movie. I did not go out much without my son during that first year so it was nice to get dressed and do something on my own. But it was also very lonely and uncomfortable doing those things alone. In hind sight, I did not think that one through. I had anxiety and felt like everyone was staring at me because I was by myself. I was mentally unprepared to go out in the world for my wedding anniversary sad and all alone. I did it though. It was very uncomfortable but at least it was a Tuesday night.

My second wedding anniversary was very different than the first. I was able to go out of state for a dear friend’s wedding, a bestie whom I have known since I was 9 years old. It worked out that I ended up in a girl’s trip to California. My husband was born in California and I was able to spend our anniversary day at the beach, soaking up the sun. I felt a connection to him because he spoke so fondly of California but we had never been together. Also, I was not alone on the trip so that was an added bonus.

This year, year three, I had a work presentation so I was very preoccupied. Maybe a good thing? I went to the cemetery after work and it didn’t feel like an anniversary anymore. It felt like an event from history. I guess that makes it historic. I was not sure how I was feeling but as I stood over his grave I become overwhelmed. All I am thinking is that it is not a day that we can celebrate, but it is remembered. It was an experience. A great, wonderful, fun experience. And we made it to six years married before his passing. This year would have been our ninth year of marriage. One thing I know for sure is that our love will forever be treasured.  I am entering a new journey of self-discovery but I feel compelled to say that it does not take away all that filled us. It does not mean that I did not enjoy “our” things. I just need to discover my thing without him here anymore. Acknowledging that hurts me. Every day I walk confidently, I conquer, I manage, and I thrive. But, this day I am reminded that my heart still aches.

As I was reflecting on the last three years since becoming a widow, I realized that I don’t hear Raymond‘s “voice” anymore. I don’t know if others can identify with what I’m trying to say. I know the first year, especially, everything I did had him in mind. The events that my son and I went to, the types of activities we did, the food that we ate; all things that Raymond would approve of and things that Raymond would have also enjoyed.  It was always in the forefront of my mind about who Raymond would give updates to or send our son’s picture to or what he would get excited about; whether a new song or an exciting news story. Well, last night I realized I wasn’t able to do that anymore. So much has changed. I do not even live in the same house or city anymore. I can’t say for certain what his opinion would be on the current state of anything. His favorite artist has new music and I think he would like the album but I honestly do not know. I can’t guess anymore– I can’t be in Raymond’s brain anymore. It’s harder because circumstances keep changing.  The world keeps changing, events keep happening, my life keeps moving. I have a new routine. Life went on without him. I will always know who he was and how he was. I know how he felt about the things that he thought about.  But I just can’t guess what he would think today on today’s things or issues. I know what we’ve talked about and I know what we’ve discussed. I know what his passions were but I can’t say anymore what Raymond would do. It is a surreal feeling really acknowledging that life has continued and he is not growing with us.

I am alarmed at my new revelation. But I recognize that it is a part of my new normal. I cannot live my life “what Raymond would do” without Raymond. I can, however, continue to lift his memory as they come to my mind. I like to write them down now, in a memory journal, for our son. I can talk about my husband without tears. I can smile at memories and intimate thoughts of him. I can celebrate the life he lived and share everything I know, all the people that knew him, and all the pictures and videos with our son.

I am living my life the best way I know how today and will continue to learn what that really means and look like for Melissa. I believe reflecting helps growth and it has opened my eyes toward next steps in learning myself. A lot that has happened over the last three years and some seemed to be more by chance. Year 3 plus, I plan on being intentional.