Michael died almost three years ago, but I still think about him every day. He invades my thoughts when I least expect him to—like when I’m studying my face in the bathroom mirror or putting a Russet in the oven.
I miss the things we used to do together. Not so much the big ticket items like our trips to Europe, but little things like catching one of our favorite episodes of I Love Lucy for the hundredth time.
Sometimes grieving him is about the things I can’t do. I still can’t watch Rupaul’s Drag Race because we viewed it with weekly, religious fervor whenever it was in season. I worry that when I finally have our things moved from Mexico, I won’t be able to open the boxes. I’m afraid the objects inside will recreate our life together too closely, and I won’t be able to stop crying.
Several years ago, over lunch, Mike’s sister Pam gave me a couple of manila envelopes of his letters, a childhood picture or two, and a few neatly-typed college term papers. I haven’t been able to open them even though I moved them from Portland to Omaha and ran across them again in my recent unpacking. Some things are just too painful, I guess.
These spikes of sadness surprise me because I’m happy. I’ve made a new life for myself, finding unexpected joy and even love. So, why am I still depressed over losing the man and the life I made with him?
Like everybody else, I grew up in a society of bootstrapping souls who think that mourning should end about a year in. Then those of us who are grieving should just get on with it so we don’t make the people around us uncomfortable any longer than we have to. I think most folks who are mourning discard their grief too soon because they figure it’s the price they have to pay to move on.
But grief isn’t finite. It’s a journey that never ends. Glimpses of those we’ve lost don’t suddenly disappear with a new existence but live within it. They and grief, never leave but are something we live around while they color our lives in their own bittersweet but vital way.