Do you think I am "over it", do you think because I smile and laugh that I am not dying inside some days? It is nearly three years since Ray died, and am I "over it"? Of course not. Am I able to play the amiable, funny, happy Sue people expect me to be? Most of the time. But I can only do it for a while and then it is a relief when I shut the door behind me and don't have to play "let's pretend I am okay" any more.
How do we heal ourselves? I remember once we had a cat that disappeared for six weeks, when she came back she had a healed gash on the side of her body, she had gone off to tend to her wound and now it was more settled she was back. My mother told us to leave her alone for a while, made her a comfortable bed in an old laundry basket and just kept the food and water there until she finally seemed to be able to walk outside to sit and blink in the sun. But from that time we NEVER picked her up. She had the pain of it until she died.
Sometimes I feel exactly like that, that if someone touched me I would wince and move away. Maybe that is why my enthusiasm to find a partner has waned. I really don't want the hassles of a relationship at the moment. There are enough people around me that I can be sociable with and so that need is satisfied but I am not sure I could cope with someone here 24 hours a day or even 12 hours a day. I want to think my own thoughts and do my own thing in my own time. I can see why if you survive the first three years of widowhood you start to feel more comfortable with your own space. It is a form of selfishness I guess but it is also about self-preservation, preserving the essential you that you are just back in contact with.
On the coach tour in England I met a nice American couple who seemed a most unlikely pair. She told me she had been a widow for fifteen years and finished raising her three girls and she met her husband at a friends party, they seemed to be able to have a long talk and a few weeks later he phoned her, then they dated a bit and in the end he decided he thought it was time to move in together but she said no, no way, bad example to her girls so he said "okay we will get married". He said he thought he was not the marrying kind but when he thought he would lose her he decided to take the risk and so they got married and it was the first anniversary when they were on the trip. Those kind of stories give me something to think about, about waiting, about trading something good for something better. Maybe I too will wait a few years and see what comes along.
Why do some of us take so long to get over a death? I guess for me 44 years of marriage is a lot to put aside, 22 years as a caregiver is a lot to recover from. I still occasionally hear Ray call out in the night. Those cries still echo in my head and so I still wake up and feel for the light. Old habits die hard and some habits are engraved on our subconscious and wake us up sweating or crying or just with that miserable feeling that life, real life, is somewhere back there, not where we are now. That the life we have now is like an empty cavern, filled with echoes from the past. That is exactly how I feel some days.
I left an England that was starting to warm up and came back to to the short, cold, windy days of August. The temperature is down as the winds are blowing off the snow falling in the Snowy Mountains, the forecasters say it will probably last at least a week. So out I go, doing the jobs I have to do, rugged up and hating it. I shut myself back in the house about 4.30pm and sit and wish for summer to come with it's long warm days. Okay, that is what everyone does I know but I find I have too much time to reflect on my life and that is not good. I haven't really found a life purpose that can fill this empty time, maybe that will come in the future and I will produce marvels of tatting or quilting or tapestry, or maybe i will find something else fascinating to do. I need to plan for next winter so I don't feel so lost and lonely when I shut the world out at night.
I know all I have to do is get through the next six weeks or so and the days will lengthen, the temperature will rise and I will feel so much better about life. Then it will be making plans for summer... but wait! I will still be on my own, so make that making plans for one. My kids don't seem to have a need for me any moe with the exception of my younger son who is having difficulties with access to his small daughter again and so uses me as a sounding board for all his problems and how he is going to try to fix them. The prospect is grim from what he says so I think the problems will be around in some form or other for a while to come. And that is destabalising for me too as I look to my children sometimes for support and knowing they have troubles of their own makes me reluctant to do so and where do you find that strong arm to support you and that shoulder to cry on when you are on your own?
Wow, this is one big whine for sure, poor, poor pitiful me. But it is not really like that is it fellow widows and widowers? Like most of the population we can go for days feeling reasonably happy and even for a short time right on the crest of the wave and then suddenly down in the trough we go again. Life is full of ups and downs whether we are married or single or whatever is in between. To some extent we are in charge of our own happiness so it is up to me to rescue myself, not easy but as it is a learned skill I need to do some self-talking and tell myself to "get over it". And hope some day I will truly be "over it". Indeed.