My husband has been gone four and a half years. At this stage, the pain is no longer raw. His absence from my life isn’t something that nags at me hourly or daily as it once did. I’m used to life after Rick now. In those early days of grief, I was hoping to be here – at this point – some day, but could never have believed it would happen… not waking up to look over at his side of the bed, not staring sadly at his empty place across from me in a restaurant, not looking over where his chair used to be to see his reaction to a TV show, not expecting to see him walking down the hall.
No, in the wake of his death, I couldn’t imagine my second chapter of life – the one where it seems normal to be alone. I’ve been through all the “firsts” and all the significant memory triggers. Now I just have the quiet sadness that drops in at odd times and on the anniversaries of significant events.
Last week was the anniversary of our first date. I remembered writing about that date a year after his death, so I looked up the blog. There it was, and as I read it, I remembered that stage of grief again, the rawness of another “first” without him. But something else happened while I read it…I started to smile. There on the screen was a play-by-play of that night from 25 years ago, the details captured in writing for me to access and recall anytime…
So we met and got a booth in the corner. You were so interesting and funny and intelligent. Always the consummate interviewer, you plied me with questions about me and my life and – as the night went on – you were more and more excited about how much we had in common and how much our interests gelled.
Finally, later in the evening, you asked what my favorite food was. I told you Mexican food, and you laughed and asked, “Will you marry me?”
It was a joke, and I laughed, but we both knew by then that we were hooked. I took a break to go to the ladies’ room and I remember smiling and rehashing that comment, that joke you made: Will you marry me? And I thought to myself, Yes, maybe I will.
The words brought it all back to me. How it all began. Things I assumed I’d never forget, but – now that I’m in my mid-60s – I’m not so sure. Every time I wrote about him, I knew I was doing it to remember. I was writing through my grief with one thought: I want to keep him alive. I hoped and prayed that by writing about him, he wouldn’t ever really die.
He was so important to me that it seemed crazy, but I was always afraid that I’d forget him. I know now that, of course, I never will. But, little by little, I lose the details of those little special moments embedded in a sea of so many.
So, now, years later, I’m grateful to myself for writing so many blogs and journal entries over the years as I grieved Rick’s death. What a pleasure it was on the anniversary of our first date to reread my memories of our first meeting. Nuances that I may forget over time are right there on the page, allowing me to rekindle the happiness and feelings I experienced that night.
When one reaches my age, the tiny details of even the most important memories become elusive. It’s hard for me to believe that I could ever forget those details, but I do. My writing brings many of them back to me. Photos trigger memories, too. So, to you newer widows, I offer this small piece of advice…
Write it down.
When you remember, write it down. When you’re sad and can’t go on, write down how you feel, and the memories that triggered that moment. Write down what you loved about him. Write down what you miss. Write down the special moments. But also, more importantly, write about the little things. The day-to-day habits and tiny idiosyncrasies that made him the man he was.
It doesn’t have to be anything formal. It can even be short lists of things about him or your life together that you never want to forget. The ones that make you cry the hardest will someday be the ones that make you smile the most.
- How about a list of his favorite catch-phrases? (Rick’s were “That’s why they call me the big fella'” or…”I’d rather poke hot needles in my eyes”… among a few.)
- If he loved to cook, you could be sure to gather his favorite recipes. I’m making his famous Zeb’s Beans dish for an upcoming party. Everyone there who knew him will remember him when they eat a bowl, so he’ll be there in spirit.
- You could list the small, insignificant things you’re surprised you miss so much. Who knew I’d miss our weekend trips to Home Depot so much – or those awful home repair projects that always got so complicated that he’d swear a blue streak? But now when I think of those times, I remember them fondly and smile.
- Of course a list of your favorite getaways is a must. My “hope to finish one day” project is to gather all our vacation photos into a scrapbook with dates and memories about the trips included.
I guess the point is that, as painful as thinking about all that can be soon after your husband’s death, some day, years from now, you’ll thank yourself. When nearly five years have passed, and you realize how long he’s been gone and how much your life has changed, you can look back and think of him. You can read and remember those tiny memories, the ones that seemed so insignificant when you were making them, and those thoughts will trigger even more memories. And, hopefully, you’ll smile, because you’ll realize how fortunate you are to have them.
** Mark your calendars! Hope For Widows Foundation’s annual virtual event has returned on Saturday, April 2, and Sunday, April 3, 2022! Anyone can join! Whether you are a widow, widower, or a friend/family member showing support or walking in the loss of another family member, everyone is welcome to participate. The proceeds will directly support widows through the annual financial Restoring Hope and Peace Grants, Sunshine Boxes program, and Bring Hope Holiday Assistance Program.
Do you have or know a business that would like to sponsor? That’s an option too! To register and see frequently asked questions – please go here: widowsofhope5k.racewire.com