It has been a "ricochet day" for the last two. I am the pinball flying around the pinball machine, sometimes fast, sometimes slow, sometimes high-speed between the bumpers of my own emotions.
It has been happening since I weathered what would have been our 17th Wedding Anniversary. Instead of celebrating "our summer" I brought two roses to his gravesite and had a cathartic cry while I told him about how much I missed him. I told him all the things he missed (our 11 year old at sleep-away scout camp for the first time, his first broken arm). I cried, I smiled and I raged. Early on in our marriage, due to the fact he was a profession and was in the reserves and made me promise two things if anything ever happened to him during his "active duty" sessions and "training missions": that I could grieve him, but that I was not allowed to crawl into the grave with him. The second promise was harder: that if something happened, I was to grieve him fully and completely, but that once that was done, if I met someone who was capable of loving me at least as well as he did and being the kind of father that Collin deserved, that I should consider marrying again. It seemed so hypothetical then (I think I threw a pillow at him at the time) and so impossible to contemplate now, 17 years later.
The cruel irony of his passing is that we had just come through a rough year, stronger and more loving than ever. He and I talked about how we both were so committed to our marriage and each other. We had been buffeted by a series of unfortunate events-a terrible storm took out the pumping station in our development, resulting in a flood that devastated our basement just a year ago. Then on our Thanksgiving cruise, I fell in some water on the deck, resulting in two knee surgeries-I had literally just gotten off my crutches in April. I literally got to my feet and he was killed on the head on collision April 28th, sweeping my feet out from under me and obliterating the foundation of our life. When life hits you with a series of shocks like that, necessary anger and frustration aside, at some point, you have to make a conscious choice to be a victim of your circumstances or pursue victory over them.
I think my grief is my unique journey because my husband inadvertently left so many things unfinished (he certainly didn't intend to leave me in this situation) but I have no choice. These tasks need to be done and I can't do them, so I am tackling these challenges one at a time with the help of others, hiring help when I need it. But I ache for the love and friendship I've lost, waking this morning to miss him all the more. By the end of breakfast, I was so angry at him for putting me in this position and leaving me to face it alone. Before I woke our son, I ached for a hug, for the comfort of touch. After I dropped Collin off at camp, I was back to a storm of overwhelming grief... And back again.
I wish I could say that the accident is settled, but it is not. The final police report has not been issued...yes, ten weeks after the accident. The investigating officer is doing a great job and is being thorough-he has gone out of his way to be kind, even ensuring my son's Nintendo DS was released from evidence for Collin. But I would be lying if I didn't say that I wanted to get this closure so I could deal with the insurance companies and focus on my grief journey. My husband was hit head-on and killed instantly-here one minute, gone the next but the aftermath has been long and drawn out.
It is an incredible irony of the situation that when you are at your most vulnerable, widows and widowers are faced with the task of "unwinding" everything we build in a marriage: removing spouses from joint accounts, declaring ourselves as "not married" on legal forms, changing everything over to our names only. We slowly erase the outward evidence of our "other half" while in the middle of our grief journey-is it any wonder I feel like a pinball, careening between emotions?
I don't know where this journey is going to take me, in this club I never wished to join. I only know that just for today, I am the pinball on my grief journey. I may get knocked to my knees, but I know how to love and have been truly loved, so I am drawing on that to make this journey and will get to my feet, literally and figuratively again. Someday I will unpack those memories and they will bring joy, not pain. Someday I will smile effortlessly. Someday, the grief will retreat to a memory.
I'm the meantime, for any who read this, I am sending you heartfelt hugs.