The Hardest Grief Day

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My book had its worldwide debut yesterday. No, this isn’t a plug for the book. It’s just a fact. And on a day I should have been over-the-moon-and-back-again happy, I struggled and struggled hard. I struggled so hard, I have to rank it one of the toughest grief days I had to go through since Peter died. It was perhaps as much, maybe even slightly more difficult than my birthday or our anniversary.  See, I planned for those. Yesterday I didn’t see coming.

I should have known the night before was a glimpse into what was to come. I didn’t feel great and I couldn’t pinpoint why exactly. I canceled attending book club because, not only did I feel blah, I just didn’t feel like being around people. And then the yesterday morning hit.

I woke up to sweet, loving texts from my children. My son wished me a happy release day, and my daughter texted “Happy Book Birthday”. They were such kind texts and they hit me in the part of the heart that made my body warm all over. Peter and I raised such compassionate kids.

As I got up and headed to get my annual blood test, a foreboding drifted over me like a toxic smog. I knew what was coming. I felt this before in the past weeks since Peter’s death.  I normally kibitz with the Phlebotomist, laughing about my stubborn veins that seem to hide when they know a needle is coming. Yesterday though, I sat in the chair, void of any emotion and barely getting out a thank you when it was done. It was too painful to talk let alone acknowledge my name on some tubes of blood she drew from me. Normally, I worry about the results because I’ve had surprises in the past. Yesterday though, I could care less. Even when they came in fairly positive, I didn’t care. Grief took out of me any friendliness and any worry and put in me heavy despair that I carried around the entire day like a weighted box, a day I was supposed to be happy.

See, Peter was missing from this important part of my victory, my celebration, my achievement, my labor of love. He wasn’t there to toast with me. He couldn’t laugh at my squeals of delight. He wouldn’t put his arms around me in a celebratory hug. And I would never know how he felt about the release of my book.

Now, some of you will tell me he was with me in spirit. Some may even say, based on their knowledge of Peter, he would have been proud.  It wouldn’t matter to me. It doesn’t matter to me. What would, what did, what does, is he wasn’t there with me. And his absence caused one of the biggest holes in me since he died. The loss of him in my life, in my writer’s life which makes up such an important part of me, and during a moment I needed him the most, emptied out any pride, happiness, celebration from me.

I canceled a meeting I was supposed to go to and instead vegged the entire day. In the late morning, I received red flowers, like my book cover, and a congratulatory note from my children. Their arrival and the note dragged intense sobs from me, ones that would not stop for almost thirty minutes. It was something Peter would have done…or something near what he would have done.  The beauty of my children, of our children,  lit up in me. Peter and I parented well. Our children are good people, something we worked hard together and wish they would become. My daughter told me later, she thought of Peter when she arranged the flowers’ delivery.  I felt, if only for that moment, Peter’s presence, which caused my sobs to be a mix of warmth and longing.

Late afternoon, a friend had to cancel a celebratory toast with me. It wasn’t malicious, just a cancellation we all do because life gets in the way. I hold no anger or grudge toward her. She’s a friend I love dearly.  It did blanket me with a feeling of loneliness, a knowing I will be facing so much now on my own, by myself, good and bad. And THAT’S the difference between the death of a spouse and the death of any other person in your life. The partner you shared your life with and everything in it, is gone. Your pain, your accomplishments, your fears, your happiness, they’re all yours now, and yours alone. You didn’t ask for it. You didn’t want it. The union wasn’t broken because of your relationship was broken. It was taken from you. In my case, Peter was ripped from me with the unexpectancy of an explosion. We still wanted each other and our relationship was solid. Someone said grief is hard because I loved him hard. And I did. All of it still doesn’t make any sense. All of it still leaves me alone.

Two other friends continuously texted me yesterday, knowing my struggles for the day. Instinctively, they knew the day would be difficult, even though it was a day to celebrate. They offered to call me to talk, but I wasn’t in any conversational mood. They were persistent and I felt their pillars of love holding me up. I did. Yet, they aren’t, nor will ever be, Peter. They get that. They do. And I know they won’t stop giving me strength. It’s who they are, how they roll, why our friendship has lasted forty years. I hope one day, when I emerge from this, even as a different person, I can be there for them. I can be less selfish. I can be the strength they may need. I can be fun again. We can do fun again. I owe them that and so much more.

With the darkness of night, I started to cry some more. I questioned everything about my life without him. Is the apartment downtown the right decision? Is quitting my job right for me? Did I move too fast on X, Y, and Z? Did I move too slow? Should I sell my big, empty house? How do I embrace my aloneness? What would Peter want? What do I want? And they went on and on. Insecure questions. Future planning questions. The here and now questions. Some of them I batted away with obvious answers, while others I didn’t have the answers to…yet. But they kept coming, in the emptiness of my living room, TV blaring, on the day of my book release, they kept coming.

Finally, out of boredom and too much time alone, I went to bed early. I was ridding myself of the day. I needed to put the day to bed and start with a renewed tomorrow. I wanted to end the day full of despair, longing, questions, insecurities, hollow victories and grief. I wanted one of the saddest days of my grieving life without Peter to be gone.

And now, in the morning, with a cup of tea in me, my morning is starting better. I already made some plans for my future. Plans like buying a new vacuum cleaner, and creating a scene in my mind for my third book. I pep-talked myself into getting more exercise. I joined a writer’s and widow’s group downtown. I looked toward other things to occupy my future because I can’t change the past. I can and should grief it, but wanting to change it is futile. I sat with my grief for a day and now it’s time to move again. Besides, I have a newly released book to plan for…and maybe be excited about.