These two weeks, I’ve been starting to pack some of my stuff for the new apartment. I will be living in two places now – as I joke, I’ll have dual citizenship. I’m not packing everything, not even half of everything. I am packing some things. The apartment is not too large, and my house is very large, especially for just me. In the process of packing, I am getting rid of more and more of Peter’s things. I’m also using up the last of things bought when Peter was alive – the last of the tall kitchen bags, paper towels, shampoos, soap, garbage stickers, etc. I’ve cleaned the fridge and the cabinets, throwing out all the out-dated food items dated from before the nightmare of his death. Yeah, I am getting rid of, purging and cleaning all the remnants of life before Peter was killed. It’s painful and necessary…for me.
After Peter died, I could barely move, let alone deep clean or dispose of anything. Oh, I chipped away at it – a closet here, a drawer there, spoiled milk in between. When I hit the twelve-week mark, the mark I started to commit and plan for the apartment, something in me clicked. Maybe it was the shock of it all starting to wear off. Maybe it was the realization I have a life on my own now – no kids at home, and more devastating, no Peter. Maybe it was my commitment to spend more time outside the house prisoned with memories. Or maybe it was just my time, time for me.
Grief has its own timeline, and it’s individualized. My grief timeline differs from others because I am me. Maybe my grief has me moving slower than Widow Jones and faster than Widow Young, but always the pace for me. Everyone’s grief and timeline differs and, as I learned, no one has the right or wrong one. It just is.
I’ve also have learned, my timeline is very fickle. Sometimes, I’ll be going along on this timeline, feeling pretty darn okay, even confident, and boom. A burst of grief knocks me on my ass, sending me a whole lot of sideways. Eventually, I get back on it and keep on keeping on. It’s painful. It’s surprising. It’s sad. It’s grief, my fickle friend, a friend I have to live with for the rest of my life.
So, for me, my timeline told me I needed to start to remove the objects of Peter. I no longer needed to hold onto every physical reminder of Peter. I didn’t need to because I’ve never really had attachments to objects. Sure, I have a few heirlooms here and there, just like anyone else. And yes, I have attachments to a rosary from my grandmother, a crucifix brought over from Poland in the late 1800s by a grandfather, and even my parents’ wedding gift of stemware. There are certain physical and emotional bonds to them. And I have those with Peter as well.
I am attached to my wedding ring, and a ring he gave me a thank-you when he completed his Master’s. (He designed it – my birthstone surrounded by the kids’ stones. Very beautiful.) I will never remove these rings from my life. Most likely I will remove them from my hand one day, but never my life. And there are paintings (I already blogged about the sailing ship), knickknacks, Christmas ornaments, a plant I hope never dies in my lifetime, and special additions to my blue glass collection Peter gave to me. These are things I will hold onto and pass onto my children. But clothing, a chair, a book, his glasses, a tool, those things do not hold any special meaning to me. And yes, before I purge them, I always offer them to my kids and some they want for their own reasons. The rest, I donated hoping someone else could benefit. Like his 2001 Toyota Highlander, fixed up and given to an at-need single mom who was overwhelmed with receiving it. I am sure Peter approved.
Now, I could never and will never remove Peter from my life. There’s no way. I see him first and foremost, in our children. I know he’s there in my daughter’s determination, her independence, her need to take care of me, her kindness, and in the crinkled lines when she smiles. I know he’s present in my son’s brilliance, his subtle humor, his quietness, his interests, and his strong chin. Peter will never go away from me because our children are his constant reminders.
And I have memories I hope to always remain with me – silly ones, poignant ones, private ones and ones no else will ever be a part of. I know people use objects to jot those memories because of their own timeline and their own grief, it’s what helps them. For me, objects of his only serve as reminders of his death, his finality of not being with me. There is no happiness in them, no attachment to them, nor is there sadness in them. And so, I remove them as unnecessary obstacles cluttering up my own life’s movement, movement Peter would have wanted me to have.
This isn’t always easy. Like I said, Grief is fickle. Sometimes, I feel so much pain when I let go of something until I don’t anymore. Oh, I don’t miss the prophetic implications in this. And, really, everything about these past fourteen weeks has been painful. Since Peter died, there hasn’t been a single day without pain.
Do I act hastily? Am I impatient? No, and maybe yes, later on. But for now, this is what I know, what I feel, what I do. I can’t look back in regret because Peter’s death has taught me all I have is now. Besides, what others feel is wrong or right can’t be a concern of mine. It’s not my business what they feel. Here is what I do know. Whether or not objects remain doesn’t matter TO ME. What does are the meaningful relics I keep, what is kept in my heart, what I see in my children, and whatever I feel whenever I think about Peter. What does matter is holding onto the reminders of our time together, our life as one. All the rest, I need to release, and hopefully, to someone who will benefit. That’s how I feel anyway, during my grief process and on my timeline.