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It's Complicated-Outsiders, Platitudes and Good Intentions

As I leaned back into the sink, to have my hair washed by my longtime friend and hairdresser this last Saturday morning she asked me about Mark, the man I am dating.

“You love him, I can tell that, but are you allowing yourself to be all in with him?” She asked as her fingers rubbed my head, my temples, easing me into the conversation.

I replied, “I’m trying to. I want to, but I can’t help but have guilt and I often think, what about John?”

“Honey, John is dead.” Her comment came at me like a slap that made my eyes fly open and immediately brim with tears. “It’s okay to love Mark.” She continued gently, “John is not coming back. He’s gone.”

She meant this lovingly, she meant this reassuringly for me, but as the hot tears coursed down the sides of my face blending into the warm water rinsing my hair I couldn’t help but think-‘you don’t get it. It’s not that simple. It’s so very complicated. So much more complicated than I could ever explain to someone who hasn’t lost their beloved.’

So through tears and a runny nose I tried to pull myself together and then changed the subject to raising kids. A safe topic as she has two little ones that keep her busy and bring her endless joy.

And that’s the rub of it. John’s death made EVERYTHING so complicated. Emotions now run wild around mundane things, the grocery store, fresh tomatoes at the farmers market-his favorite, caring for his-now mine- beloved beagle. Everything is complicated. The scent of Neutrogena shampoo, the sight of recumbent bikes, even the sight of large fires burning bodies on The Game of Thrones that makes me think of him when he was cremated causes my throat to tighten and tears to fall silently as I watch. No place is safe from the onslaught of immediate and strong emotions-not the mall, not the theater and not the hairdresser’s place.

Sorrow over things and places that remind of John are complicated and hard for outsiders to understand. Even harder to understand for outsiders is that joy is now incredibly complicated as well. A beautiful day that smells like the north where we spent our vacations is really hard, but it also brings joy and peace as well as tears. The first time Mark reached out to hold my hand I felt joy at the kind and nervous touch of him. I wanted very much to hold his hand, but I felt an equal amount of guilt and sorrow that John’s hand wasn’t there to hold.  An ABBA song belted out at a random on the radio reminds me of John, ABBA being his first concert and favorite band. The sound of that music makes me happy and makes me want to sing along with the lyrics so light and carefree; and yet I also want to be quiet so I can remember and hear in my heart his voice singing along to it as well.

It’s damn complicated. It’s emotional. It’s impossibly hard. Even more impossible is trying to explain it to an outsider, no matter how kind, no matter well intentioned the advice is or that it’s given out of love. They cannot understand.

“What about John?” I asked.

But asking that question of an outsider and thinking they would be able to understand it, was at best misguided.  I might as well have never voiced the question.

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Comment by sweetpea(Paula) on July 29, 2014 at 8:25am

flannery, your words are my heart.  Everything in my life now is a extension of my husband Joe and myself.  I don't usually comment because words don't come easy for me, but it is, must be harder to lose your love, your partner, team mate, best friend, and stealing the words from another, cheering section.  My husband was everything to me.  Unlike most on widow's village, husband's and wife's went places together, a life outside the home, but my Joe and I have PTSD, we stayed home 99% of the time.  With him our home was my safe place.  I would just look up and there he was, always.  If I was depressed or feeling low he knew, he understood.  I would go in his music room where he spent many long hours and sit at his feet, rub his legs and cry, letting out all my hurts and insecurities.  I would lay my head in his lap and feel his hand on my head, or feel him rubbing my back, and my heart would go to him.  We would talk about the kid's, his music, his childhood, and his military career.  Back and forth, his needs, my needs. We have a very small house, not enough room for a mouse, but when he was a way for work or the military it seemed like a big empty box, not a home, just a building.  But now, my home is a constant reminder of him.  His music room, empty, his favorite chair, empty.  The kitchen where he spent hours cooking, empty, his utility room, with his 3rd stereo, empty, the living room where we slept for 10 years, empty.  I see his tool box and the emotions and loneliness envelope me with memories of him working on the vehicles, bringing the lawnmower back to life, or fixing the plumbing.  What do you do those thoughts that constantly creep into your mind, the sorrow and heaviness you feel because of your loss.  The wishing he would hurry and and come home, and then remembering he will never come home again, he is gone forever.  Never to walk through the door, or hug you just because he loves you.  Never see him spoil the kid's or the pet's again, or go on a long drive to the hospital, listening to the music, holding hands, and or just sitting next to one another.  Your husband is a part of you, you finish one another's thoughts, share your life's together like you will never do anyone else, ever, the good and the bad.  The unconditional bond, that is only comparable to a parent and child.  Yes, I understand, and I'm sure we all do.

Comment by flannery on July 29, 2014 at 6:45am
Oh IndiaKai I'm so sorry about the mortgage. It's so hard to change those plans and goals of the "team" and the banking oh my gosh it was awful early on and went on and on and yes everyone was kind but it was all so cut and dry and formal to remove John from stuff that it felt really wrong. I have to admit that I have changed the email on the amazon prime account but not the name- it still says John's amazon when I open it up. Sometimes it brings me heartache, sometimes peace but at least it was something that I didn't have to change. sending you lots of hugs
Comment by IndiaKai on July 29, 2014 at 6:37am

I felt like that yesterday. The "You just don't get it, it's really not that simple" feeling.  I finally got around to changing my mortgage to make the payments easier on myself.  I didn't want to do this because my husband and I had a very aggressive plan to pay off the house within 10 years. Well, it isn't a goal I can keep on my lonely salary. It broke my heart and has been hard for me to give up on another goal that was "ours".   So, I was talking with the mortgage guy, who was really nice and understanding with me.  He made a comment to me about my husband being removed from the loan. He said, "oh don't worry Mrs Looper it is really easy to remove him. Real simple."

I know he didn't mean anything by it, but my heart hurt so bad and I could hardly stay on the phone with him.  I thought exactly what you wrote above, ‘you don’t get it. It’s not that simple. It’s so very complicated. So much more complicated than I could ever explain to someone who hasn't lost their beloved.’

Comment by Choosing life on July 28, 2014 at 2:56pm
((((Flannery)))) you are right on target as always. You give voice to my sorrow. My favorite part of your post: not singing along so in my heart I can hear him singing along. Yes, I do that too. I start out singing with the radio and then my voice fades because I remember what he sounded like singing along. Thank you for putting your thoughts into words.

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