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I'm going to write a gloomy post for a change. Normally I try to be upbeat about the havoc death brought upon me and mine. Generally, I aim to be filled with perspective and humor: after all, everyone dies. Death isn't special; it's expected. You can learn lessons from it! It can make you appreciate simple things, like waking up in the morning with your heart still pumping and your brain synapses still firing!
Today I want to tell you that I hate that more than six years have gone by since Ken died. Some days now I can go all day without thinking about him. Is that a relief? I don't know. I think it's sad. Not thinking about Ken makes me feel as though he's lost to oblivion.
I've met so many people in these last six years who will never have known me as the married woman I once was, as a mother with a husband who was my partner in a life we chose to make together. I am meeting people, more and more of them, who will never know who Ken was. Maybe people who meet me think I'm divorced or that I decided to have children without ever having a spouse. Maybe nobody really cares why I'm a single mother at all.
This weekend I attended a benefit for Willow House, a wonderful, big-hearted organization in the Chicago area that offers free grief support services for families. If you've lost a spouse or a child, or if you're a child who has lost a parent or a sibling, you can participate in a support group with others who have had someone in their nuclear family die. These are people who understand that losing a spouse, or a child, or a father or mother or a sibling when you're young, is a loss that shapes your whole world and colors it a shade darker than the life you had before the loss.
The main speakers at the benefit were a husband and wife whose seven month old daughter died six years ago. The woman talked about how before you have a loss like that you walk on the surface of life and then after the loss, you enter a world below the surface and you come up once and a while to breath. I didn't lose a child, so I don't know what that feels like. I don't ever want to know what that feels like. But I will say something that our death-denying culture makes me feel a little ashamed to say:
Even though I can now go for a day, perhaps, without thinking about Ken, I don't know if I will ever make it through a day without thinking about the future I lost when he died. I know I will always feel bad that my son and daughter don't have Ken here with them to be their father. What they are missing by not having him here cannot be counted or measured; it is a vast emptiness where years and years of his amazing love, wisdom and patience could have been.
I am not the person I used to be and I don't believe there's any way to get her back, no matter how many years go by. Like the bereaved mother whose baby died, I live in a darker world, even when all the lights are on, even when I am loved, even when I am happy and grateful for the life I get to live. That's what the death of my husband did to me.